By Matthew Elliott, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rocinha has benefited from government investments in recent years but the latest PAC 2 plan including a cable car for the massive favela has met opposition by some community members. President Rousseff visited the neighborhood on June 14th to announce the plan, just before national protests erupted questioning how money was being spent, among other issues.
An investment of R$2.66 billion was declared to assist developments in Rocinha, in addition to Complexo do Lins and Jacarézinho in Zona Norte (North Zone). Rocinha is to receive the bulk of the expenditure with R$1.6 billion being allocated for drainage works, sewage, waste collection, a kindergarten and housing units.
State secretary Hudson Braga outlined the priorities to Agencia Brasil on July 1st, “We will serve over 20,000 households with basic sanitation. There will be one hundred percent treatment of sewage that goes down today in the open in the Rua do Valão. We will separate all the rain water, sewage and garbage, and besides, we do daycare, schools and urbanization.”
A contentious issue, however, is the planned construction of a six-stop cable car, such as in Complexo Alemão, to transport people over Rocinha’s long steep hillside.
There are doubts that the cable car is the real motivation behind the investments, which are part of the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC 2), and will appropriate the majority of funding and focus away from the more pressing problems of health and education.
Suspicions are further engendered by the perceived forcing of the issue by the state government and the stalling of PAC 1 progress which left many residents lamenting broken promises and the further complications of uncompleted works.
Melissa Silva, a Rocinha resident and community organizer, was critical of the motivations behind PAC 2, stating, “the government wants to hide the poverty of the favela behind the beauty of technology, Rocinha has a lot of tourism and this is known as safari tourism…the cable car will also destroy local commerce as less people walk through…no one asked for the cable car, no one asked the people what they wanted.”
On Tuesday June 25th, thousands of residents of Rocinha and Vidigal marched on the house of Governor Sergio Cabral in Leblon. Although occurring in tandem with the nationwide outbreak of protests, this was a demonstration specifically against PAC 2. A peaceful protest was followed by sit down talks between community leaders and the Governor and positive developments may be on the horizon.
A concession was made by the government to include Laborieux, an area at the top of Rocinha previously neglected by the growth program, within the scope of PAC 2.
Community work in Rocinha is also being galvanized by a desire to have a real impact on the decisions which affect the favela. Melissa Silva was keen to point out that, “today any young person in Rocinha will know how to mobilize themselves politically…if things don’t change soon people will go back out onto the streets.”
Complexo Alemão was the first Rio favela community that received a cable car in 2011, and currently transports 12,000 people a day and was also paid for through the PAC program. The second gondola project in Morro da Providência proved to be more controversial as around 670 local families faced eviction. The system is currently in the final test phase.