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Monthly Digest

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

February 2016
Volume VI Issue 2

Welcome to our "Six Months To Go" February Digest Special focused on Vila Autódromo, 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. To access our Digest archives click here.

February 5 marked six months to the start of the Rio 2016 Games and with that milestone has come an unprecedented intensification of pressure on Vila Autódromo's 50 remaining families. On February 11 busloads of Shock Troops entered Vila Autódromo at 6am to illegally demolish three homes. On February 22 Shock Troops returned, this time to reposition part of the wooden wall dividing the community. This wall isolated the house and religious site of Candomblé practitioner Heloisa Helena in the Olympic Park, preventing her free access to her own home. 

Two days later, over 100 troops returned to demolish two buildings of symbolic importance to the resistance: the Neighborhood Association and Heloisa Helena's house. Heloisa Helena's second letter published on 
RioOnWatch recounts death threats she experienced since negotiations with the City began.

With activist Maria da Penha's house still at risk of imminent demolition, solidarity with Vila Autódromo has never been more visible, from the 24-hour week-long presence of supporters in the community, to the presentation on February 27 of the thoroughly researched and updated People's Plan for the community's co-existence with the Olympic Park. 

Last week, a social media video campaign called on Mayor Eduardo Paes to attend the People's Plan event. Now, a second social media video campaign asking Eduardo Paes when he will deliver promised upgrades to Vila Autódromo is gathering momentum. International supporters are asked to record an #UrbanizaJá (Upgrades Now!) video, stating your name, where you're from and asking for Upgrades to Vila Autódromo, then inviting three friends to do the same. Since Penha's house is the last the city can claim for demolition under the eminent domain order, now leaving only families that intend to stay, this is the crucial moment to ensure the Mayor heeds his public promise that "whoever wants to stay, can stay."

As a result of its compelling story, unrelenting resistance and commitment, Vila Autódromo has received unprecedented coverage from national and international mainstream media over the course of the month, including articles by AAP and CBC supported by RioOnWatch. A rare Globo article concludes Vila Autódromo has been the "target of the ravenous appetite of Olympic construction" and that the cost of resettlement compensations alone for Vila Autódromo ran sixteen times the cost of implementing the People's Plan, and when compared to Olympics infrastructure, is exceeded only by that of the Aquatic Sports Center.

The Popular Committee's dossiers documenting human rights violations there and elsewhere--and supported by RioOnWatch--have been called "fraudulent" by the Mayor, sparking a video in defense of the extensive research involved. For those interested in diving deeper into the numbers and context of evictions, the book SMH 2016: Removals and the Olympic City is now available in English and free through March 4.

Also this month, a police operation in Complexo da Maré left 19-year-old Igor Silva dead, with residents criticizing both police and media responses to the incident. Igor joins countless other victims of Rio's 'war on drugs.' A new Amnesty International report denounces the increasing levels of police violence against civilians.

Complexo do Alemão activist Thainã de Medeiros has documented examples of what the mainstream media gets wrong when covering favelas. Fortunately, a growing number of resident-led initiatives support the development of young favela communicators.

Local experts and activists gathered to discuss the context behind the water and sewerage crisis facing Rio residents. Some favela residents are uniting against water privatization, which they fear will exacerbate gentrification. Gentrification in Rio follows a well-documented trend of rapidly rising property and service prices in Olympic host cities.

Gender and sexuality were also in the news this month, with women organizing a feminist Carnival bloco against sexism and harassment. RioOnWatch translated an article featuring transexual activist Gilmara Cunha, who describes the particular difficulties LGBTQ individuals face in favelas.

Also not to miss on RioOnWatch in February, we published articles on the daily life of Complexo do Alemão mototaxi drivers, a neighborhood's collective action to fix a road, and a long-standing community-based cultural organization seeking to put West Zone culture on the map.
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.

Around 250 people gathered in Vila Autódromo on Saturday, February 27, for the official launch of the updated award-winning Vila Autódromo People’s Plan, designed by Vila Autódromo residents with technical assistance from researchers at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Fluminense Federal University. 
  At the National Park Library, social media and human rights activist Raull Santiago of Coletivo Papo Reto sat down with researcher Ana Paula Pellegrino of the violence research institute Instituto Igarapé for online magazine Vozerio’s “Library Conversations” series to discuss “A War Without Winners: The War on Drugs in the Favela and on the Asphalt."
  An annual report from Amnesty International on the global state of human rights released this week pointed to increasing levels of police brutality against civilians. Amnesty reports that “serious human rights violations continued to be reported” and emphasized Brazil’s continuing impunity and rising levels of police violence overall, particularly in Rio de Janeiro state.
  “There have been unnecessary demolitions in the heart of Vila Autódromo. We have shown that it would be possible to widen the access roads to the Olympic Park while affecting many fewer than have been affected. There is no technical or economic rationale that justifies so many evictions–just social prejudice." On Monday February 22, police killed 19 year-old Igor Silva during an operation in the Parque União favela in Complexo da Maré. A video and subsequent press reports alleging pharmacy worker Silva was involved in the drug traffic have caused disgust amongst residents and community organizations who have denounced the police and media’s actions.
  Early in the morning on Wednesday, February 24, the Vila Autódromo Neighborhood Association building was demolished after a pending legal challenge to the demolition order was dismissed. On the same day, in the evening, the home of Candomblé practitioner Heloisa Helena Costa Berto was also demolished.
  Around 100 people met at the base of Vidigal on Wednesday, February 17 to voice their discontent with the state’s impending decision to privatize the water and sewage management utility, CEDAE, in the favela. Convened by the Vila Vidigal Neighborhood Association, the meeting not only brought together leaders from Vidigal, but also united leaders from a number of South Zone favelas.
  Shock troops and the Municipal Guard were once again deployed in Vila Autódromo on Monday February 22, this time to reposition the wooden wall they had erected on January 13. Residents sent out SOS messages on social media to alert supporters of the likelihood of further demolitions and intimidation in coming days.
  I preside over a spiritual center, the House of Nanã, and have been fighting for two years over the negotiation and relocation of my house. I fight so that the rights of the residents of Vila Autódromo who wish to stay are respected. This fight of mine has resulted in many confrontations with the Rio de Janeiro Sub-Mayor’s office. I have been humiliated, mistreated, and suffered religious prejudices many times. 
  On Wednesday February 10, the last official day of Carnival, a diverse group of around 2,500 people gathered in the Largo do Machado square in South Zone for a different kind of Carnival party. The street parade, or bloco, was Mulheres Rodadas, or ‘women who get around,’ and it is now on its second year.
  Rio de Janeiro is the city with the most favela residents in Brazil. These communities have always had their own identities; they are given value by those who live there and are full of creative people. Favela residents can create their own routines, whatever their living situations are like.
  Heloísa Helena Costa Berto, Luizinha of Nanã, is an Afro-Brazilian who has devoted herself tocandomblé for over 40 years. For decades, she has served in her spiritual center in Vila Autódromo, on the edge of the Jacarepaguá Lagoon, directly behind the ‘white elephant’ buildings that make up Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Park. Now, nobody is able to access the site without signing in and scheduling an appointment in advance through the sub-mayor’s office of Barra da Tijuca and Jacarepaguá.
by Debora Pio | February 16
Maker culture (do-it-yourself) has always had a presence in the favelas, whether through a lack of resources which ends up enabling creativity, or through the great need of residents to reinvent their day-to-day life. The talent for improvisation can be seen in the gambiarras, or hacks, made for water, electricity and Internet access, as well as the constructions which are genuine feats of architecture. 
Demolition-from-VA-FB-620x264 (2)“What Can We Do Against Armed Troops?” Illegal Demolitions in Vila Autódromo by Adam Talbot, Claire Lepercq, David Robertson | February 11
Today, February 11, the pressure on Vila Autódromo increased again with the shock demolition of three houses behind the Residents’ Association building. No prior warning was given to residents, who were terrified to wake up at 6am and find that numerous busloads of shock troops, firefighters and City officials had entered the community with demolition equipment. 
  A community organization in the West Zone neighborhood of Bangu is working with young people, children and families to combine cultural events, classes and activities and citizenship discussions and put West Zone culture on the map. Caixa de Surpresa was initiated in 1982 by a group of musicians in the Vila Aliança favela and officially registered as an NGO in 2004.
  “In the favela you can’t kiss or walk holding hands. Gays, lesbians and transexuals living in favelas have not benefited from the advances that LGBT people have been seeing across the country. We’re not fighting to be able to adopt children. We are still fighting to survive.”
  The Popular Committee on the World Cup and Olympics has released a video responding to Mayor Eduardo Paes‘ claim that their dossiers are prone to “exaggerated dramatization” and are “fraudulent.” Paes’ comments were made during a closed-door OsteRio two weeks ago after being asked about the future of Vila Autódromo.
  On Tuesday February 2, experts, activists, and community members gathered for the Encontro das Águas to discuss the water crisis in Rio de Janeiro. The afternoon event began with a workshop on collecting rainwater led by the group Águas de Março, followed by a roundtable discussion between technical experts and citizens about the condition of Rio's water.
  Every time someone interviews me about Coletivo Papo Reto, they ask why it’s important for the favela to have its own media outlets. There are many answers to that question, but this is the first that comes to mind: when the mainstream media tries to write about us, they always screw it up.
  The first sight of one of the streets of Morro do Adeus in Complexo do Alemão is of a steep rise with a rift in the middle. In this rift there are a lot of debris, but less than before. It’s already possible to see improvements to the pavement residents decided to build, as they could no longer stand not being able to climb to their homes safely.
  Many Cariocas have been forced from their homes in the build-up to the Olympics. This article asks whether this is a special case in Rio, world-famous as a divided city where the fabulously wealthy live in close proximity to those in poverty, or whether it is a more systemic problem related to the Olympic Games and other mega-events. 

in the Media

The Globe and Mail February 29
Ground Zero by Stephanie Nolen

Global Post February 28
Not many fish are left to bite in Rio's trash-lined bay by Will Carless

CBBC February 27
Rio shanty town cleared for Olympics [VIDEO]

PRI February 27
The bigger problems behind Brazil's recent disease outbreaks by Catherine Osborn

The New York Times February 26
Film Club | ‘Kite Fight’ by Michael Gonchar

Brasil Wire February 25
Rio de Janeiro and the Olympics: What is at stake? by Brian Mier

Yahoo! Sports February 25
Last residents of Rio slum fighting eviction for Olympics by Bruce Douglas

Reuters February 25
Olympic construction amplifies Zika threat after clearing of favela [VIDEO] by Katie Sargent

Sky News Australia* February 25
Officials bulldoze Rio favela for Olympic road by AAP

Bloomberg Business February 24
Rio Rebuffs Concern on Olympic Metro Advance, Needs More Funds by David Biller, Tariq Panja

Huffington Post February 24
Australian Athletes Banned From Favelas During Rio Olympics by Anthony Sharwood

The Guardian February 24
Rio mayor brands Australia 'aggressive' after Olympic team's favela ban by Reuters

plus55 February 24
Street art in Brazil: A risky business

ESPN February 23

Rio mayor on Aussie ban: 'A lot of ignorance about Rio and Brazil' by AP

Journalism in the Americas Blog* February 22
Community journalists deliver stories from their favelas in advance of Olympics by Alessandra Monnerat

BBC February 21
Rio Olympic park built around man's house [VIDEO] 

Metro February 21
This man’s house is inside the Olympic Park – and he’s refusing to leave by Dave Burke

The Seattle Times February 21
Misha Glenny’s ‘Nemesis’: on top of the heap in Rio by Tyrone Beason

Herald Sun February 21
Australian Olympians banned from Rio favelas over security concerns by Jon Ralph

BBC February 20
Rafael Braga: Scapegoat or dangerous protester? by Donna Bowater

The Rio Times February 20
Rio Suggests Plan for Incomplete Metro During Olympics 
by Jay Forte

ESPN February 18
The Promise Rio Couldn't Keep 
by Bonnie Ford

NPR February 18
Moms And Infants Are Abandoned In Brazil Amid Surge In Microcephaly by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

USA Today February 18
Rio Olympics: Protesting workers warn venues won't be ready if conditions don't improve by Martin Rogers

Poynter February 17
A new website in Brazil wants to fact-check the Olympics by Alexios Mantzarlis

The Guardian February 17
Zika hysteria is way ahead of research into virus, says expert 
by Jonathan Watts

WNYC February 17
How One Man Rose to Power in Rio's Largest Slum [RADIO]

The Root February 16
Fighting a Black ‘Genocide’ in Brazil by Kiratiana Freelon

The Guardian February 16
The Zika virus mosquito is unmasking Brazil’s inequality and indifference
 by Eliane Brum

The New York Times February 12
A Terrible, Happy Accident in Rio by Alice Watson

RioReal Blog February 10
Carnival 2016: more tolerance, more reflection 
by Julia Michaels

The Guardian February 9
The Brazilian carnival queen deemed 'too black' [VIDEO] 
by Barney Lankester-Owen, Bruce Douglas, Charlie Phillips, Juliet Riddell

Americas Quarterly February 9
Rio's Big Moment: A Photo Essay 
by Carlos Coutinho, Thainã Medeiros, Stephen Kurczy

USA Today February 9
Rio's Olympic legacy largely falls short of bid promises by Taylor Barnes

InSight Crime* February 9
Rio Olympics: Prospects for Next Round of Favela Occupations
by Lloyd Belton

CBC* February 8
Rio's Mood [VIDEO]

The New York Times February 8
The Zika Virus and Brazilian Women’s Right to Choose
by Debora Diniz

The Guardian February 7
Brazil’s sprawling favelas bear the brunt of the Zika epidemic
by Jonathan Watts

RioReal Blog February 7
A troublesome mayor in Rio de Janeiro by Julia Michaels

The Guardian February 5
Zika crisis and economic woes bring gloom to Brazil's Olympic buildup by Jonathan Watts

CBC February 5
Rio Olympics: 5 controversies looming over the Games by Joseph Quigley

The Times of Israel February 5
Brazil’s anti-terror chiefs ready for ‘worst’ at Rio Olympics by Pierre Ausseill

Folha de S.Paulo* February 4
Six months out from Olympics, rich, not poor, are the big winners by Jules Boykoff

The Washington Post February 4
Six months out, Rio organizers are still a long way from the finish line by Rick Maese, Dom Phillips

Folha de S.Paulo February 3
Rio's Museu do Amanhã Already Showing First Signs of Damage by Chico Felitti

EPIC* February 1
Urban Mobility and “Emerging Consumers” by Laura Scheiber
*CatComm supported/quoted

RioOnWatch is a project of Catalytic Communities


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Enter the 2016 Rio Raffle Any Time This Year

Donations at any point in 2016 will count towards this year's Raffle which will be held in December. $10 early this year gets you a ticket, whereas by December the raffle tickets will be going for $20 each. So get your Raffle tickets now and support our work when it's more critical than ever.

Educational Community Visits

CatComm was thrilled to lead students and professors from Lakeland College in Alberta, Canada on an Educational Community Visit to Vidigal this month. The visit was held in partnership with the Vidigal Residents' Association whose cultural director led the group from the quickly gentrifying peak to the community's eco-park, through alleys, streets and to the Residents' Association, while providing local context and insight into community responses to rapid change. 



The Brazilian carnival queen deemed 'too black'
Convite para a apresentação do Plano Popular de Urbanização da Vila Autódromo (PT)

O Dossiê do Comitê não esconde nada

Altair Guimarães na Vila Autódromo - 11 de fevereiro de 2016 (PT)

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