By Patricia Maresch, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – It’s one of Rio’s biggest challenges before the start of the World Cup of 2014 and the Olympic Games of 2016: the transformation and urbanization of the city’s favelas (slums) while simultaneously pacifying them with the special UPP police force unit.

Urbanisation plan for Penha photo: Divulgação
Urbanization plan for Penha, photo Divulgação.

The government plans to invest US$600 million remodeling the favelas at the Complexo do Alemão and Complexo da Penha’s Vila Cruzeiro. Last month these two hillsides in Rio’s Zona Norte (North zone) were the scene of some of the worst violent episodes Rio has seen in recent memory.

The army and police now claim to have restored order, and now it’s time for the new phase of remodeling and development. In the wake of the city-wide violence and global media attention, Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes announced the construction of 600 houses, 19 creches, five health clinics, a library, a garden, a cinema and a completely renewed infrastructure for this are of Zona Norte.

It’s all part of a bigger program named PAC 2, Brazil’s Growth Acceleration Program 2. A plan initiated by federal government to build US$800 billion worth of infrastructure between now and 2016 as the second phase of an economic stimulus program whose first phase has yet to be completed.

PAC 2  presentation photo  by ministerio de educação/creative commons
PAC 2 presentation photo by Ministerio de Educação/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

Apart from remodeling Alemão and Penha, PAC 2 also entails a six kilometer long monorail linking the heart of Tijuca, the Praça Saens Peña, to the favelas Salgueiro, Formiga and Borel. However, overhauling the favelas won’t be exclusive to Zona Norte, Rio plans to have all, almost 600, inner-city favelas redesigned and improved.

Rio’s largest favela, Rocinha in the Zona Sul (South zone) which already benefited from PAC 1, will get a 2.5 km high cable-car which will eventually hook up the favela with the future metro line Barra – Zona Sul. Other favelas that will benefit from the billion dollar project are Mangueira, Cidade de Deus, Batam, Juramento, Rio das Pedras and Favela Kelsons.

Some community leaders wonder if installing cable cars, monorails and swimming pools will be effective, and critics warn that it could all end up in a superficial makeover. The fear is that all plans will result in failure without major investment in education and job creation for residents of the favelas.

During the presentation of PAC 2 earlier this year, President Lula recognized the bureaucratic shackles that are delaying PAC 1 projects. After more than three years, just a little over 50 percent of the scheduled projects have been completed. Last week however, Lula said 82 percent will be finished by the end of this year.


  1. PAC is an excellent project founded by Lula – who, it seems, has genuine and sincere intentions in helping the lower-classes.

    Cabral / Paes by contrast, are only serving their own political interests – trying to make Rio look pretty for the World Cup / Olympics – hence the pant job on the houses in front of Rocinha (it’s not like they would bother investing money in Madeuira or Vila Kennedy or anywhere off the tourist-radar).

  2. man can somebody explain to this guy (Diego) who writes about every single article that comes out in this e-news about how sincere president lula is and blablablablabla, that he is just another politician as all the others with his agenda and lies as well……. In the middle of december a president says that 82% of his projects will be done by the end of the year which means, 1 week, since nothing in the country works between christmas and new year ( as a matter of fact from christmas till carnival) even though he had 8 year to get them out of the drawing board…… LIE!!!!!! He is sincere about helping the poor? Let’s see….. the poorest regions in the country are undoubtedly north and northeast. Since the northeastern region is much more densely populated let’s agree it should have been the main target of the government’s development battle. what was the main projectfor the region under PAC again? The billion dollar transposition of the Saint Francis River which by the way was the basis of his reelection campaign…. Is it done? By no means!!!!! Not even close!!!!!!!! and then again who will it benefit, the small family agriculture farmer? Nops sorry, primarily the agro-business investitor (foreign capital more and more often). Says who? me? no says asa brasil ( an ngo which works with the semi arid population to create the necessary infrastructure for the people not to abandon their comunities and end up in slums in the metropolitan areas of the country. By the way the only PAC project for these share of the population is called 1PMC – one million cisterns (water for drinking and cooking) e 1P+2 (which after 1PMC covers the need of water for agricultural production once people should already have water for drinking and cooking). This programs has been going on since his first mandate and by january 2010 there were only 300,000 built. This is ridiculous since the man power is local and all the government has to cover is building material. This project has the power to enable the farmer to avoid fleeing to slums in metropolitan areas and to get his means of survival off his own land. The cost is incredibly lower than most in PAC and the government in 8 years was not competent enough to reach even half of its proposed goal. SURE PRESIDENT LULA JUST WANT TO HELP THE POOR. As long as they are in slums in metropolitan areas under his political wings, as he once said himself: he would rather have poor people in slums in metropolitan areas because there even though was not goos it was better than in the semi-arid regions of the northeast. He just forgot to ask them where they would rather be, given minimal infrastructure. But then again what can you expect from a president whose understanding of what the State represents can encompass statements such as his recent: Rich people don’t need the State, who needs the State are the poor. I wish one day our people won’t be as ignorant to elect a president whose notion of State can be this limited. By the way just out of curiosity where do you live in Rio?

  3. What are you talking about..? This is the first time i’ve ever mentioned anything about Lula. The majority of my comments are in relation to local Rio politics and Cabral / Paes…

    Of course Lula and his party is corrupt on some level – is there a politician in Brazil who isn’t..? However, my comparison was against Cabral / Paes – who i think are much worse… and who are completely phony.

    Where do i live..? In Zona Sul. You don’t need to know the exact bairro. But i’ve seen PAC projects in various parts of Rio – i’ve seen the favela of Manguinhos, where i know people – and the streets have been vastly improved because of PAC… with concrete… proper drainage systems… basic infrastructure (while Zona Sul flooded two Sundays ago, Manguinhos did not!). And i recently saw the work being done in Rocinha… a PAC project to create apartments for poor people. They were working at 3am on a Saturday night / Sunday morning..!

    I’m probably more cynical than anyone else on this website – but i can give credit where it’s due. And despite Lula’s other flaws, i think the PAC project has been (at somewhat of) a success.

  4. I’d just like to say that I enjoy reading not only these excellent Rio Times articles but also the comments of people like Diego who offer an interesting and informed view from a Brazilian perspective.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

three × 1 =