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Monthly Digest

Latest News and Opinion on and from
Rio de Janeiro's Favelas

March 2016
Volume VI Issue 3

Welcome to our March Digest with the latest news from RioOnWatch (Rio Olympics Neighborhood Watch), Catalytic Communities' project to bring visibility to favela perspectives on the rapid transformations underway in Rio through August's Olympic Games. For this month's RioOnWatch articles see below and for an exhaustive list of news reports and features on favelas from the full range of English-language media sources, see the right-hand column. Should this email appear clipped, you can click at the bottom to view the entire message in your browser.

A major highlight of the month was International Women's Day on March 8. We featured an interview with Mônica Cunha, a leading activist for penal reform and an outspoken critic of the systemic violence that killed her son in 2006; we profiled a video on a women's baking and skill-share collective based in Baixada Fluminense; and we celebrated the inspiring warrior women of Vila Autódromo.

On International Women's Day itself the home of Vila Autódromo activist Maria da Penha was demolished in the morning, just hours before the Rio State Assembly honored her with a Woman Citizen award for her fight for housing rights. On the same day, Mayor Eduardo Paes finally presented a plan for upgrades to Vila Autódromo, a top-down proposal in stark contrast to the community-developed People's Plan.

Residents wrote publicly about the emotional and psychological exhaustion they experienced through the drawn-out process of demolitions. Candomblé practitioner and activist Heloisa Helena published a letter calling on the United Nations to recognize Vila Autódromo's story as a case of human rights abuse. The community continued to organize creative resistance events, hosting the launch of Raquel Rolnik's new book and later a race and ceremony with the Olympics Poverty Torch, which has been passed between activists at Olympic host cities. 

Evictions in Vila Autódromo and other communities were highlighted in an open letter produced by street children from around the world who participated in the Street Child Games and General Assembly in Rio. Eviction threats have intensified in favelas including Babilônia and Horto, where residents organized a march to fight the removal of their homes from the edge of the Botanical Garden.

In other housing news, the Vito Giannotti occupation in the Port continues to renovate and negotiate to transform the site into public housing. Urban occupations and housing social movements were the focus of recent events at Studio X to celebrate the space's five years in Rio.

Community media was an important topic this month as local platforms continue to democratize communication. The GatoMÍDIA media collective hosted a media and technology residency in Complexo do Alemão to empower favela youth to develop their natural creativity. Photography collective Imagens do Povo uses 
art to engage in a political struggle over portrayals of favelas, while in Complexo da Penha resident Cláudia Sacramento Mathias runs a community Facebook page with daily information about security and local news. Meanwhile, The Guardian continued its series of articles written by favela journalists from Rocinha, Complexo do Alemão, and Complexo da Maré.

The newly launched Nós Por Nós (Us for Us) app, designed to help individual citizens document police brutality, exemplifies the potential of local media and technology. Local, real-time documentation of violence is revolutionary given the long history of outside actors producing, portraying, and commodifying violence in Rio's favelas, as highlighted in the book Spectacular Favela.

Community media also creates new spaces to recognize community memory, and a new documentary about City of God's 50 years offers a view of the favela that differs from the famous City of God film. Favela memory was the subject of an exhibit in two of Rio's metro stations in early March. In the Port Zone, the Museum of Tomorrow remains controversial as an installation that disregards the area's Afro-Brazilian memory.

Finally, in a month dominated in the mainstream media by news of Brazil's political scandals and protests, many favela residents did not take to the streets for or against the current government. More local-level organizing, however, is thriving in places like Madureira Park, which has emerged as a center for mobilization in the North Zone.

We're celebrating the first birthday 
of RioONWire with a push to double its reach in April, so follow it if you're not already! RioONWire is just part of our compilation of Olympics Resources for Journalists, now in soft launch, designed to facilitate productive reporting ahead of Rio 2016. The increased number of articles we supported in March (see asterisked articles on the right) reflects the growing role we can play in improving media coverage on favelas in the coming months. Support us now.
We hope you enjoy this month's carefully compiled digest. Please share and don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

The perspective of those who have lived and experienced the changes in the neighborhood over time is the basis for the narrative of City of God 50 Years. Threading together statements by residents, the documentary seeks to retell the local history and focus on the daily routine beyond the scenario of violence that was highlighted in the film City of God by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund released in 2002.
  On Sunday, March 27, the community of Horto, located within the boundaries of Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden in Rio’s South Zone, once again took to the streets to protest against the eviction of its approximately 600 families. Residents carried banners with the words, “Horto Lives,” “Horto Will Remain,” and “There will be no removal of the residents of Horto!”
  The first Run for Vila was held in Vila Autódromo on Saturday March 26. Vila Autódromo was presented with the Olympic Poverty Torch, which has been passed down by community organizers in Olympic host cities since it was created in 2010 in Vancouver, representing a range of Olympic-related issues including evictions due to real estate speculation. 
  The General Assembly for Street Children was part of a week-long campaign launch by international NGOs Street Child United and Terre des Hommes between March 14 and 20. The campaign, led by former street children and grassroots NGOs in nine countries, asserts the human rights of street children and advocates the need for special protection in the lead-up to mega-sporting events.
  On Monday, March 21, the Rio de Janeiro Youth Forum launched a new app, Nós por Nós (Us for Us), specifically designed for favela residents to denounce police abuses in real time. After social mapping ten different favelas in 2014, the Youth Forum concluded that an application may help combat police brutality and provide justice to those that have fallen victim of abuse. 
  I appeal to the UN since my country has international agreements that should ensure my protection, and that of many others who unfortunately go through the same situation in Vila Autódromo. The evictions and displacements that have occurred and are occurring today in the city of Rio de Janeiro are serious human rights violations. To celebrate five years in Rio, Studio-X hosted two exhibitions including “Fight, Occupy, Resist: The Housing Alternatives of Social Movements,” which addresses the past, present, and future of public housing in cities across Brazil, including innovative grassroots practices such as urban occupations. The five year celebration also included a lecture series, featuring an overview lecture on social housing in Brazil and a roundtable on urban occupations.
  Resident of the Santa Marta favela in Rio’s South Zone for more than 30 years, Maria Helena Barbosa da Silva doubts she will be able to maintain her home on the Beco de Argeu, where she raised her four children who today are between 9 and 25 years old. The main reason for her concern is the rise in her electricity bill which absorbs much of her income.
019116571_30300-620x264The View from the Favelas on Recent Protests
by Fernando Caulyt, Renata Malkes | March 19
Residents of a favela in Copacabana in Rio’s South Zone don’t hide the extent of their disappointment with the government and fears surrounding the current crisis. But there are still very few of them who see a reason to come down from the hilltop and join the protests against President Dilma Rousseff.
2502014_1456261710794-620x264 (1)Accessibility is a Challenge for Older People in Favelas
by Saulo Pereira Guimarães | March 18
About 100,000 people aged 60 or over live in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, according to the latest census in 2010 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. Those in this age group are in the category provided for by the Statute for the Elderly which recognizes their right to leisure and health care assistance among other policies. Services that, because of where they live, are almost inaccessible.
Peoples-Plan-and-City-Plan-for-Vila-Autodromo-upgrades-620x264 (1)A Tale of Two Plans: A Critique of Mayor Paes’ Plan for Vila Autódromo
by Cerianne Robertson, Stephanie Reist | March 17
On Tuesday, March 8, Mayor Eduardo Paes finally released his plan for the community of Vila Autódromo. Designed and delivered in a top-down exclusive process, the City’s plan calls for the near-total erasure of existing structures, ignores the needs identified by residents, and seeks to hide the experience of forced removals. It is a case study in poor quality urban planning, its failings all the more stark when compared to the People’s Plan Plan developed by residents and supporters.
  From March 1 to 12, Complexo do Alemão media collective GatoMÍDIA hosted an intensive media and technology residency. According to GatoMÍDIA, “the idea is to increasingly empower the collaborative culture of the favela, stimulating each person to share knowledge with another, strengthening a local network culture of connected favela residents building their own future.”
  When talking about Zika, dengue, chikungunya and their complications, very little is discussed with regards to the models employed to combat and prevent these diseases and the vector mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Are they effective? Are they safe? 
  Favela Tem Memória (Favelas Have Memory) is an exhibition by the NGO Viva Rio that explores the history of 12 favelas situated along Rio’s metro lines. The exhibition opened on February 29, at the Pavuna metro station in the far North Zone and has now moved to General Osório station in Ipanema in the South Zone where it will run until March 18.
  On Sunday March 6, residents and social movement leaders at the Vito Giannotti Occupation in Santo Cristo in Rio’s Port Region held the third mutirão event to renovate the occupation space. Residents and social movement leaders have been working hard to initiate the transformation of the site into public housing.
  “We are talking about a process of occupation of space and construction of space that has nothing to do with people’s needs. It has nothing to do with what people need to live individually or collectively, the necessity of housing, the necessity of using public spaces or the necessity of using space for economic activities. It is exclusively about the opportunity to capture more places where financial capital can find ways to invest to generate more profit for itself.”
  It affects my memory to know that the museum was built on a macabre piece of land: the port of entry for the largest contingent of black slaves in the history of humankind. Traded like merchandise, they were either sold, or became human garbage, or they died. The Valongo area in the Port Region contains the remains of more slaves than any other place in the Americas.
  Photography that deals with identity and representation impacts Maré residents’ understanding of themselves, as well as their relationship to favelas and the city at large. The fact that favela residents themselves are taking control of the means and meanings of production and reproduction of images and imaginaries is revolutionary, albeit not new.
  Since 2004, the Commission for the Defense of Women’s Rights of the Rio de Janeiro State Assembly has honored women from the State who fight for the advancement of human and women’s rights. Upon receiving her award, Penha dedicated it to her supporters and the residents of Vila Autódromo who give her the strength and love she needs to continue in the fight for Vila Autódromo.
  Ten years ago, Mônica Cunha lost her son, Rafael da Silva Cunha, to police violence when he was 20 years old. From the moment Rafael entered the criminal justice system at 15, Mônica became active in the pursuit of reform and in support of other mothers with children in the system.
  As the women in the film look after their children, prepare their baked goods to sell, and sing their joys and sorrows, it becomes apparent that their Rio is one where you can never be sure if the water will run, where your children go to school for only four hours a day, where you have to show up to the prison early in order to get on the visitors’ list so you can see your son. To adapt to such a city, women come together to share ideas and skills to help them earn money for their families.
  Today, March 8, in celebration of International Women´s Day, we celebrate some of the many warrior women of Vila Autódromo who have been battling against the City for more than five years to save their land, their community, their homes and their families from eviction due to the construction works for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
  The idea seemed simple: to create a Facebook page to share information among residents of the community where she lives. The desire to help others led Cláudia Sacramento Mathias to create the Vila Cruzeiro RJ Facebook page, which now has over 23,000 Likes. 
  For more than six years Dr. Raquel Rolnik toured the world as Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing for the UN Human Rights Council, obtaining testimonials and observing the striking shift in the concept of housing from a social good to a financial asset. Her latest book, War of Places: The Colonization of Land and Housing in the Financial Era, addresses this shift through a collection of case studies.
  As they have for the last few weeks, residents and supporters of Vila Autódromo awoke this Wednesday, March 2, to the threat of yet another house demolition. This prompt daily ritual doesn’t just lead to physical exhaustion, but also emotional exhaustion for everyone. With judicial decisions being made in the silence of night and with the direct threats of agents who act in the community, the City tries to weaken the community’s resistance.
  With access to technology, any citizen with a certain level of technology does not only receive information, but produces and shares it. Community communicator from the Viva Rocinha portal Michel Silva, 20, is an example of a resident who feels the need to learn through community journalism and to solve problems through writing.
  Since its opening in 2012, Parque Madureira has hosted a variety of projects, including Black Cultural Movement–My Curls and My Afro, Youth Marked to Live; and Against the Genocide of Black Youth. Built to provide opportunities for leisure, it has emerged as a place of powerful mobilization in the city’s North Zone.
  For decades, media coverage of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas characterized these neighborhoods as peripheral and violent, documenting organized crime, armed robberies and homicides as somehow inherent to the informal city. The latest example of this work is The Spectacular Favela: Violence in Modern Brazil by Erika Robb Larkins.

in the Media

The Atlantic* March 31
What Happens When There’s Sewage in the Water? by Olga Khazan

The Guardian March 30
Rio Olympics: view from the favelas – 'The closer the gunshots, the stronger my heart beats' by Daiene Mendes

The Guardian March 30
Rio Olympics: view from the favelas – 'I've seen six people infected with Zika. I am one of them' by Thaís Cavalcante

The Guardian March 30
Rio Olympics: view from the favelas – 'Tour operators treat favelas like zoos' by Michel Silva

The Georgia Straight March 30
Companhia Urbana de Dança's street moves rise up out of Brazilian favelas by Janet Smith

The Guardian March 30
How the arms race has become the Rio 2016 Olympics’ biggest event by Marina Hyde

Getty Images March 29
Funeral Held For Child Killed By Gunfire In Rio Favela by Mario Tama

Reuters March 29
Brazil court blocks Olympic funds on fraud suspicion: source by Rodrigo Viga Gaier, Pedro Fonseca 

NPR March 28
Brazil Has Nearly 60,000 Murders, And It May Relax Gun Laws by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

Humanosphere* March 28
Rio’s street children raise grave concerns over rights abuses in run up to Olympics by Ciara Long

Left Foot Forward* March 25
International press coverage of Rio 2016 could change the course of Brazilian politics by Adam Talbot

CCTV America March 25
Rio develops solar resources to meet energy demand by Lucrecia Franco

Politheor March 24
Who pacifies the market? Community policing and gentrification in Rio de Janeiro by Simon Marijsse

Rio Gringa March 24
What's Dividing Brazilians During the Crisis? by Rachel Glickhouse

Yahoo! News March 24
With Brazil in crisis, who has time for the Olympics? by AFP

International Business Times March 24
Road To Rio: Brazil Olympics Sees Low Ticket Sales Amid Economic Downturn And Political Scandals by Lydia Tomkiw

HOOKED UP* March 23
Do you really know Rio? by Kylie Flavell

Vice March 22
The Rio Olympics Just Got $500 Million Less Secure by James Armour Young

Yahoo! News March 22
Brazil trims anti-violence program due to budget woes by AP

The Rio Times March 22
Both of Rio’s New Metro Stations in Leblon in Finishing Stages by Jay Forte

RioReal Blog March 22
Right-wing coup scenario off the mark: Rio information is wrong by Julia Michaels

Brasil Wire March 21
Rio Olympics: A City within a City by Brian Mier

The Nation* March 21
How the Rio Olympics Could Cement a Brazilian Coup by Dave Zirin

Fusion March 19
There’s a major diversity divide in Brazil’s two protest camps by Kiratiana Freelon

Newshub March 19
NZ Olympic team reach out to Rio locals by Laura McQuillan

The Guardian March 18
What price an Olympics that protects the rights of children and their families? by Andrea Florence

stuff . co . nz March 18
New Zealand's Olympic athletes to help train Rio de Janeiro's favela residents by Laura McQuillan

The Intercept March 18
Brazil Is Engulfed by Ruling Class Corruption — and a Dangerous Subversion of Democracy by Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Fishman, David Miranda

RioReal Blog March 17
National crisis: the view from Rio by Julia Michaels

Rio 2016 March 17
Rugby meets capoeira as New Zealand Olympic team begins partnership with favela community in Rio de Janeiro by Sam Green

Americas Quarterly* March 16
Brazilians Vent Rio Olympics Frustration in Graffiti – Photo Essay by Adam Talbot

Black Women of Brazil March 16
Protest features nearly all-white upper-middle class displays of racism, desire to protect status and putting ‘have nots’ back in their place by Maria Carolina Trevisan

Around the Rings March 15
Terre des Hommes Concerned for Child Rights in Rio [RADIO] by Melissa Gray

Condé Nast Traveler March 15
Inside the Very Real World of 'Slum Tourism' by Mark Ellwood

Reuters March 15
Infrastructure inequality is catalyst for Brazil's Zika epidemic by Brad Brooks

Fox Sports March 15
Ronaldo to sue businessman over Rio favela purchase claims by Sky Sports

IOL March 15
A real taste of the Marvellous City by Yazeed Kamaldien

NPR March 14
As The Olympics Loom, Brazil Lurches From One Crisis To The Next by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

The Globe and Mail March 14
The photo that’s become the emblem of Brazil’s political turmoil by Stephanie Nolen

stuff . co. nz* March 13
Road to Rio: Changing perceptions of the favelas in the face of stigma, and now, the Olympics by Laura McQuillan

Daily Mail March 13
4 dead in Rio de Janeiro flooding by AP

stuff . co . nz March 13

Road to Rio: Meet the Kiwi who opened a hostel in a Rio de Janeiro favela by Laura McQuillan

The Globe and Mail March 11
Mothers in Rio de Janeiro slums fight against police impunity for crimes by Stephanie Nolen

WOLA March 11
What can be learned from Brazil's "pacification" police model? by Elizabeth Leeds

CNN March 10
Rio 2016: Neighborhood demolished to clear path for the Olympics [VIDEO] by Flora Charner

Latin American Herald Tribune March 10
Teen Bystander Dies in Shootout in Brazil

The Rio Times March 10
Rio de Janeiro Inaugurates New Golf Course for Olympics by Lise Alves

DW March 10
Sightseeing in the notorious slums of Rio [VIDEO]

The Guardian* March 9
Brazil: home of favela resident fighting eviction over Olympics razed by Jonathan Watts

Bloomberg March 9
Demolishing a Favela to Make Way for the Olympics [IMAGES] 
by Christian Loeffler

Folha de S.Paulo March 9
Rio Government Unveils Reurbanisation Plan After Demolishing Most of Favela by Lucas Vettorazzo

RioReal Blog March 9
Mayor at last presents urban upgrade plan for Vila Autódromo by Julia Michaels

Around the Rings March 9
Vila Autodromo Activist Appeals to Olympic Movement by Aaron Bauer

AP March 8
Home of slum resident fighting Olympic eviction demolished by Bruce Douglas

PRI March 8
Iconic activist in Rio watches as her home is bulldozed to make way for the Olympics by Will Carless

Medium March 8
Clashes in Maria da Penha’s workshop of dreams by Thiago Mendes / Pacs

The State of Exception(al) Sports March 8
The contradictions of the State on International Women’s Day by Ray Pineda

SVT TV [Swedish]* March 8
Her House Demolished for Sake of the Olympics by Bjorn Nordling

RioReal Blog March 7
Rio is no Barcelona by Julia Michaels

The Rio Times March 7
Rio’s Metro Line 4 to Open in Time for Olympics Games 
by Lise Alves

Independent March 5
Rio de Janeiro citizens to receive new app to record police violence in city's favelas 
by Janet Tappin Coelho

The Economist March 5
An Olympic oasis

AP March 4
Rio Water wins story of the year; Krupa takes photo award

CNN Money March 3
Brazil recession: 'I've never seen anything like this' [VIDEO] by Flora Charner, Patrick Gillespie 

The Guardian March 2
Brazil: loss of ‘dirty list’ sparks fears of worker exploitation as Olympics near by Bruce Douglas

Al Jazeera March 1
*CatComm supported/quoted

RioOnWatch is a project of Catalytic Communities


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