By Andrew Willis, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Complexo da Penha in Rio de Janeiro’s Zona Norte (North Zone) is set to receive investments worth R$580 million (US$290 million) under the Brazilian government’s second Accelerated Growth Program (PAC 2). The infrastructure projects will include housing, a sports center, a library, school and daycare center according to the state press agency.
The Empresa de Obras Públicas do Rio de Janeiro (Emop) launched the bidding process last week, within which companies will compete for the urbanization and housing contracts in the pacified communities that make up the complex of favelas.
Building is scheduled to start in the second half of 2013, although Rio’s state government stressed in a press release that preparatory works for the infrastructure projects had started as early as 2010.
Roughly 80,000 inhabitants live in the area whose central focus point is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Penha de França, a church perched on a large rock. Formerly under the control of drug gangs, Complexo da Penha received its first Police Pacification Unit (UPP) in June as part of the government’s pacification program.
According to the coordinator of PAC 2, Ruth Jurberg, projects will be developed in accordance with an analysis of social needs, carried out by the Rio state government in 2010. The analysis she says, included discussions with local residents.
The complexes of Lins and Jacarezinho are also set to receive major investments Jurberg said. Jacarezinho will receive 2,240 housing units, as well as the revitalization of squares and roads. The works are set to cost R$380 million and will take place in 2013.
“We are going to build apartments, and the proposal also aims to bring public lighting and a revitalization of leisure facilities to the community,” Jurberg said.
The government’s PAC and PAC 2 programs have not been without their critics. Launched in 2007 under the second term of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the programs are designed to tackle long-overdue infrastructure issues in Brazil, as well as prepare for the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics.
However the programs have been dogged by slow progress and accusations of corruption. Commenting on the results of the first PAC program, a 2010 report by Contas Avertas, a non-governmental organization that monitors the transparency of governmental programs, said only five percent of the projected housing projects had been completed.
Since then the NGO has noted that the half-dozen construction companies that tend to dominate PAC bidding are also major donors to Brazil’s political parties. More recently, civil police launched an investigation this September after residents of PAC-funded apartments in Rio’s Complexo do Alemão illegally sold the dwellings.
However the Accelerated Growth Programs have accounted for a number of hefty infrastructure developments, including a new cable car network in Rio’s Complexo Alemao. Inaugurated last year, the cable car has greatly facilitated movement in and out of the large complex, says Rosângela Maria dos Santos, an NGO worker with Community in Action.