By Sarah de Sainte Croix, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A report released on Monday by the Comitês Populares da Copa (the People’s World Cup Committees) lists a series of alleged human rights abuses surrounding the preparations for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, ranging from housing and information rights violations to employment infractions.
The 138-page report, entitled Mega-Events and Human Rights Abuses in Brazil (Megaeventos e Violações de Direitos Humanos no Brasil), was written collectively by the People’s Committees – a national network of local committees which bring together academics, communities, social movements and charities to monitor corruption associated with the upcoming mega-events.
“This report is incredibly important,” says Theresa Williamson, executive director of Catalytic Communities, an NGO which works with favela communities to provide them with strategic visibility and support on an international level.
She explains, “[The report] includes everything from the mismanagement of funds and forced evictions, to unwanted changes to a historic stadium like Maracanã, to the corporatization of Brazilian soccer which will ultimately force the exclusion of the very fans who make Brazilian soccer what it is, due to exceptionally high ticket prices.”
Brazil and Rio certainly recognize the opportunity the mega events provide, to the extent of the PAC (Plan for Accelerating Growth) providing $18 billion for urban infrastructure in host cities for the World Cup and Olympics. However there are concerns being voiced on how the progress is unfolding.
On the issue of housing, the document estimates that between 150,000 and 170,000 people have had their housing rights violated in what it describes as “forced removal, on mass,” in order to, “Clear the ground to make way for big, money-making real estate projects.”
The issues are complex and illustrated in the recent announcement of the Parque Madureira, in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone). The construction of the park will cost R$67 million and will last 18 months, but also included the removal of the Vila das Torres favela.
Some also speculate that the recent condemnation of a number of favela homes under the threat of landslides also serves the purpose of freeing up the land for development.
The report points out the lack of public consultation in the decision making process for many of the major infrastructure works that are in progress, suggesting that many of them are designed to serve the interests of small groups of businessmen rather than the population as a whole.
Williamson concludes, “The mega events are essentially the excuse that was needed for a small minority of Brazilian society to impose its brand of development in a democratic landscape.”
Also highlighted in the report was that ten work stoppages had taken place at six of the twelve stadiums to be used for the World Cup (in Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Cuiabá, Fortaleza, Recife and Rio de Janeiro). According to the survey, the strikers were calling for salary increases, benefits and an end to excessive working hours.
The report was delivered on Monday to governing bodies at federal, state and municipal levels, as well as to agencies including the Federal Public Ministry, the BNDES, the Comptroller General’s Office and the Brazilian Court of Audit.