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Monthly Digest

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

April 2016
Volume VI Issue 4

Welcome to our April 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, please click to view the entire message in your browser.

The Brazilian Congress' theatrical vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff on April 17 offered eye-opening insight into Brazilian governance. RioOnWatch published a series of five opinion pieces by favela residents in response, touching on threats to democracy, the biases of mass mediabroken promises for investment, the risk of politicizing basic services, and the need to reinvent the political system.

On April 27 we marked 100-days-to-go to the Olympic Games by publishing a critique of the international awards and recognitions the city of Rio has received in recent years. One of those awards was for Morar Carioca favela upgrades, but residents of Pica-Pau wait in precarious conditions for the investments promised through the program years ago. Some Pica-Pau homes are at risk of landslides resulting from heavy rain, which also causes floods across the city due to outdated stormwater systems. In Babilônia, residents of high-risk areas were promised relocation in the community under Morar Carioca years ago, but the City now threatens them with removal to the distant West Zone.

Also facing eviction threats are fishing community Praia do Sossego and Horto, the community at the edge of the Botanical Gardens where residents held a series of protests on Sundays. The Zacarias traditional fishing community, which has resisted eviction threats since the 1940s, is facing land development that threatens to block locals' access to the ocean coast.

Several community museums around the city are also at risk of removal. These museums document local memory and history, the value of which was highlighted in an excellent article on Providência's history in The Guardian. An article by MC Calazans argues that funk music itself is a museum, affirming living memory and reclaiming life. The final article in our Language of the Favela series looks at funk, along with samba, hip-hip, and literature, as a cultural expression of local issues and knowledge.

Vila Autódromo residents are in the process of developing a museum to document evictions and their memory of the community. They have invited all supporters to join the creative endeavor. This project follows the news that some 20 families have reached an agreement with the City on the plan for community upgrades.

Meanwhile, the ongoing economic crisis has meant severe cuts to State spending in areas like education and security. High school students began occupying schools in March in protest of budget cuts; by April 15 the number of occupied schools had grown to 45. These students are part of a broader youth movement demanding greater attention to the needs of young people, particularly in peripheral areas of the city.

As for security, the State-funded pacification program is in crisis as violence is returning or spiking across favelas with UPPs. Amnesty International has condemned the current surge in killings by police. R
ecently-launched app Nós Por Nós recorded 40 reported incidents of police violence in its first two weeks, while a Maré resident argued Military Police in that community view residents as "trash." At the start of April Complexo do Alemão paid tribute to Eduardo de Jesus, a boy who was killed by police at age 10 on April 2, 2015, and the ongoing struggle of his mother Terezinha to fight for justice.

In spite of clear current tensions, we believe blanket bans on visiting favelas, such as the one set by the Australian Olympic Committee for its athletes, fundamentally misrepresent the diversity of Rio's favelas. Our rare editorial on this topic argues the ban only contributes to further stigmatizing these communities and justifying damaging policies.

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 traditional fishing community of Zacarias has lived on the sandbanks of Maricá’s nature reserve for more than 200 years, and is dependent on pathways connecting the houses near the lagoon to the ocean, where they fish using traditional canoes. These pathways would become inaccessible with the proposed real estate developments.
rsz_imageedit_2_9868966527-620x264Impeachment: Brazil Shows Its Face (Oops!) [OPINION]
by Thamyra Thamara de Araújo | April 29
So what’s left for us to do? Break everything down and start again? Reinvent a new left wing, a new political system, a new form of representation, new forms of fighting back, new leaders, new faces, new ideas. A new “other” that can rise up out of this chaos.
  The problem is no longer to choose political sides. Now we have to fight for rights. The right to vote and for the constitution to be respected (even if it is outdated). There is no justice in a case where the accused accuse each other. We do not need promises. We need action.
  With less than 100 days to the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio’s Pacifying Police Unit program and public security in Rio is in crisis. In the context of Brazil’s current economic crisis and the subsequent budget cuts facing Rio de Janeiro’s security programs, many of Rio’s favelas have experienced a noticeable increase in or return of violence.
  The idea of the museum is “to think about what Vila Autódromo was like before the evictions. We think it is very important to document the community life that [residents] had here, not in a defeatist or negative sense, but in the sense of giving value to something they have had to rebuild and reconstruct ever since the start of the demolitions.’
  It’s clear to see that Rio de Janeiro is home to two different realities: the Favela and the “Asphalt," the Rich Zone and the Poor Zone. The impression given is that this is a totally natural state. And it was precisely the possibility that this could change that must have made some people uncomfortable. With this possibility, people began to study how to change the scenario. Much of the recognition given to Rio policies and projects seemed to take the government’s narrative at face value, demonstrating poor understanding of realities on the ground. For many residents, the popular local expression, “it’s for the English to see”–which has its origins in Brazil’s slave trade history–seem an apt descriptor for this moment of global attention on Rio.
Juliana-Portella-620x264 (1)Impeachment: A Coup by the Press [OPINION]
by Juliana Portella | April 26
The current political scene is delicate. Of what we know, one thing is certain: nothing would have reached the dimension it has without the structural role of the means of mass communications. Those who think the press only covers the facts are deceiving themselves.
  As much as [supporting the impeachment] may seem as satisfying as giving food to the hungry, the popular appeal, especially from the low-income population, is akin to shooting oneself in the foot because there is a high chance that those who claim to be the saviors of the nation will leave the poor to rot and govern for the rich.
  Amongst commentary on social media about the vote, the word “disgrace” was one of the most commonly mentioned–used more than 270,000 times to describe what was happening. Sunday afternoon was the time to find out what 511 of 513 parliamentarians felt and it revealed a few things about them that no one really knew.
  Carina dos Santos Domingos lives with her daughter and two-year-old granddaughter on one of Pica-Pau’s main roads. Their humble home was built on the top of a small hill right by the road. Her family is one of several in Pica-Pau currently living in precarious homes at risk of collapse should a large storm result in a landslide.
  I learned that being a woman was about much more than just being a housewife, being submissive to a husband, demanding that I respect them. I have the right to say no. This body is mine. My fight in Maré started with me because it wasn’t worth fighting for anyone else if I’m not cared for. At this moment in time, my fight is against government dictatorship. We are in a democracy but they don’t know this.
  The number of public schools occupied by students more than doubled in just four days, with 45 schools occupied by Friday April 15. Rio’s state Education Secretary recognized the legal legitimacy of the occupations and resolved to begin fresh negotiations with the students, after Judge Sérgio Seabra Varella ruled on April 11 that the occupation of Mendes do Moraes school was lawful.
vivaavila-620x264 (1)Vila Autódromo to Launch Evictions Memory Museum by Vila Autódromo | April 21
Given all this history of resistance over the last 20 years, we cannot allow our struggle to gain rights to the city and to stay on the lands where our lives were built to be forgotten. The museum's purpose is to expose the rights violations which have occurred in different favelas across the city that also suffered forced evictions and whose lives have been irrevocably changed.
  These museums are often hugely important to their communities. Created by residents and local collaborators, often without much support from the state, the museums based in favelas are some of the most innovative and imaginative because they have to think up original solutions to the inherent challenges that arise, instead of relying on large investments.
  In its first two weeks, the application was downloaded by 500 people and 40 incidents of police violence had been reported, indicating a popular demand and need for the app. The reports so far include homicide, home invasion, violence against women, torture and abuse of power. The Youth Forum identified the Military Police, Municipal Guard, and the army as perpetrators of these violations.
  Samba, funk, hip-hop and literature use and manipulate the language of the favela to spread awareness of local issues, knowledge and culture both within the community and to the wider population. The final part of this series shows how engagement with–and the popularization of–these art forms can break down social boundaries by promoting favela language as culture.
IMG_0442-620x264 (1)Horto Continues Sunday Protests Against Eviction by Clare Huggins, Mariah Barber, Meg Healy | April 14
For generations following the establishment of Horto, residents have both worked for and respected the Botanical Garden. Emilia Maria de Souza, president of the Horto Residents’ Commission, explained the strong connection Horto residents have to the garden: “Our ancestors were workers of the Botanical Garden, we are not invaders.”
  Six years ago, the City promised residents of high-risk areas would be relocated within the side-by-side favelas of Babilônia and Chapéu-Mangueira in new apartments built through Morar Carioca investments. Now in 2016, one of the three promised apartment blocks has still not been built and funding for the project has run dry.
  Around 75 teenagers and young adults from Rio de Janeiro met on April 6 at the Casa da Juventude in Central Rio to discuss youth interactions with public policy in the city. “The city isn’t made for young people," said David Miranda. “It’s a city that is divided in various ways, and we need to talk about the different privileges that some people have in our society so that we can create a city that is for everyone.”
  The Australian Olympic Committee plans to ban its athletes and team members from visiting favelas while in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics. The team at RioOnWatch implores the AOC to reconsider its ban and comments, recognizing the role that Australian media have played in misrepresenting favelas as inherently dangerous places.
  After going to City Hall on March 15 to formally request a meeting with the Mayor to discuss the City’s upgrading plan for the community, residents of Vila Autódromo have had several rounds of meetings with Mayor Eduardo Paes on March 28 and Sub-Mayor of Barra de Tijuca Alex Costa on March 29 and April 1 to discuss its future.
  One year ago on April 2, an officer from the Pacifying Police Unit shot and killed 10 year old Eduardo de Jesus Ferreira in Complexo do Alemão. The police officer has yet to be held accountable for his actions and Eduardo’s mother, Terezinha de Jesus has dedicated herself to finding justice for her son and other victims of police brutality.
  Two public high schools have been occupied by students, protesting against spending cuts to public education that were proposed to curb the state education department’s R$166 million debt. On March 21, after several protests in Complexo do Alemão, Penha and Tijuca, students began occupations at public schools Mendes do Moraes in Ilha do Governador and Gomes Freire in Complexo da Penha.
DigestMarch16-620x264Favelas In the News: March 2016 Digest by Cerianne Robertson | April 6
In addition to the country’s political scandals, protests, and economic crisis, March in Rio also featured the single most intense day in Vila Autódromo’s struggle to date, escalating eviction threats across the city, a spike in tension with police in a number of favelas, and innovative community media.
teleferico-MC-Calazans-620x264Living Memory: Funk is the Museum by Raphael Calazans | April 5
Life’s rhythm is temporary, intense and happy, seen in the streets of Joaquim de Queiroz in Alemão or Via Ápia in Rocinha: full of people, full of life, full of loud cries, but also sometimes empty, sad, terribly calm and silent. In a place like this, is there the possibility of building and affirming memory?
FF_Chuva_Rio_Foto_Fernando_Frazao_-9-2-620x264 (1)Rio’s Stormwater Systems: A Primer by Hammond Sale, Sabrina Norris | April 1
Traffic-stopping and life-threatening floods due to recent heavy summer rains have highlighted the inability of the city’s stormwater systems to cope with the amount of precipitation. As Rio stands to be the South American city most affected by climate change over the coming years, the intensity and frequency of storms are only likely to increase, exacerbating the existing dangers associated with floods.

in the Media

Edge of Sports April 29
Glenn Greenwald, the Rio Olympics & Our Tribute to Prince [RADIO] by Dave Zirin

DN April 29
The airport of Rio a cloud on the horizon of the Olympic Games by Henrik Brandão Jönsson

plus55 April 29
Hotel prices in Rio cause tourists to stay in favelas

USA Today April 28
Only UN peacekeepers can stop Rio Olympics bloodbath: Column by Jules Boykoff, Christopher Gaffney

The Guardian April 27
100 days until Rio 2016: 'It will be a great party, with a garbage legacy' by Jonathan Watts

Newsweek April 27
Rio seeing 'surge' in police killings ahead of Olympics: Amnesty by Lucy Westcott

Amnesty International UK April 27
Trigger-happy: Rio’s security forces show their true colours ahead of Olympics by Naomi Westland

Medium April 27
“In the favela this happens every day” by Felipe Araujo

Marie Claire April 27
How a Ballet School in the Slums of Brazil Is Changing Girls' Lives by Taylor Barnes

BBC April 27
Olympic torch handed over to Brazilians

stuff .co .nz April 27
Rio de Janeiro in upheaval with 100 days until the Olympic opening ceremony by Laura McQuillan

Reuters April 27
Venues ready, but many challenges remain for Rio Games by Andrew Downie

Today April 27
Rio 2016: Bob Costas previews the games with 100 days to go

Amnesty International April 26
Rio 2016: Surge in killings by police sparks fear in favelas 100 days before Olympics

BBC* April 26
The World Tonight [Rio coverage begins 31:58] by Paul Moss

The Guardian* April 26
Change beckons for Vila Autódromo, the favela that got in the Rio Olympics' way by Jo Griffin

British Journal of Photography April 26
Photographers from Rio's Favela on show for the first time by Tom Seymour

The Guardian April 26
100 days to the Rio Olympics: why the feelgood message feels like a tough sell by Owen Gibson

The Conversation April 26
Rio 2016 Olympics will be a success – but just who will benefit? by Adam Talbot

GED Project April 26
Brazil at the Crossroads Pt. 3 [VIDEO]

Daily Mail April 26
Refugee fights way into Olympics and new life by AFP

AP April 26
Best and worst of times: Rio Olympic countdown hits 100 days by Stephen Wade

Yahoo! Sports April 26
Treeless $656 million Olympic Park in Rio a concrete jungle by Andrew Downie

The Globe and Mail April 26
With the Rio Olympics looming, Brazilians are in no mood to celebrate by Stephanie Nolen

NPR April 26
Ahead Of Rio Games, Olympic Historian Says Terror Attacks Are A Concern by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

RioReal Blog April 24
Nothing is gold, silver or bronze, in run-up to Olympics by Julia Michaels

Los Angeles Times April 22
Brazil's fatal bike-path collapse raises questions about Olympic readiness by Claire Rigby

Bloomberg View April 22
An Ominous Collapse Casts a Shadow Over Rio de Janeiro by Mac Margolis

The Intercept April 22
To See the Real Story in Brazil, Look at Who Is Being Installed as President — and Finance Chiefs by Glenn Greenwald

The Guardian April 21
Deaths on collapsed Rio de Janeiro bike path deal safety blow to Olympic host by Jonathan Watts

The Washington Post April 21
Bike lane falls in Brazil Olympic city, killing at least 2 by Felipe Dana, Renato Brito

The Guardian April 21
The real reason Dilma Rousseff’s enemies want her impeached by David Miranda

Reporters Without Borders April 20
Brazil falls in Press Freedom Index, now 104th

The New York Times April 19
Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment Isn’t a Coup, It’s a Cover-Up by Celso Rocha de Barros

The Root* April 18
How Rio’s Olympics Destroyed a Favela, but Not the Spirit of a Candomblé Priestess by Kiratiana Freelon

The Guardian April 18
Dilma Rousseff: Brazilian congress votes to impeach president by Jonathan Watts

Fortune April 18
Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment Could Spell More Corruption in Brazil by Bryan McCann

The Guardian April 18
The Guardian view on Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment: a tragedy and a scandal

Medium April 16
Barriers to public transportation flout right to the city by Julia Michaels

Children Win April 15
Rio Olympics 2016: a new plan for Vila Autodromo

LA Times April 15
Rio Olympics must face reality of Brazil's political turmoil and economic chaos by Jules Boykoff

Inside the Games April 15
"Soft opening" planned for subway extension during Rio 2016 in which only Olympic cardholders can travel by Nick Butler

The Rio Times April 14
Hostels in Favelas with UPP Expect to be Full for Olympics by Jay Forte

Global Post* April 14
Inside Rio's high school 'Occupy' movement by Will Carless

New York Times April 14
Dilma Rousseff Targeted in Brazil by Lawmakers Facing Scandals of Their Own by Simon Romero, Vinod Sreeharsha

AP April 13
Olympic officials: Rio won’t be scarred by politics, graft by Stephan Wade

The News Hub April 13
Organised fun? PlayFinders in Brazil by Paul Drury-Bradey

Vice Sports April 12
"No teachers, no doctors," and more police violence: How the Rio Olympics may victimize street children by Donna Bowater

The Rio Times April 12
Street Child United Brings English Footballers to Rio Favela by Jay Forte

The Rio Times April 11
Rio Favela Communities Gain App to Report Police Abuse by Jay Forte

NPR April 11
Brazil's Latest Headache: Ticket Sales Lag For Rio Olympics by Catherine Osborn

Manutd .com April 10
Former United Stars Coach Rio Kids by James Turner

RioReal Blog April 9
Transportation chaos in Rio: can any good come of it? by Julia Michaels

Nottingham Post April 9
Nottingham boxing coaches heading to Brazilian favelas to tackle gang culture 
by Ben Ireland

Citiscope* April 8
Addressing the informal city in the new urban agenda by Greg Scruggs

Vancouver Observer April 8
Brio from Rio boosts Dance House street cred by Lincoln Kaye

Huffington Post April 8
50 Countries and Counting: A Naturalista’s Travel Adventures in Brazil! by Patti R. Rose

Gizmodo India April 7
Rio's Slums Might Be Left in Even Worse Shape After the Olympics by Alissa Walker

OXPOL April 7
Have the mass media fuelled Brazil's turmoil? by João Carlos Magalhães

Bloomberg April 7
Brazil Probing Fraud at Olympic Sailing Bay Sewage Plants by David Biller

Huffington Post April 6
What Has Violence Got to Do With the Olympic Games? by Beth McLoughlin

The Guardian April 5
The story of cities #15: the rise and ruin of Rio de Janeiro's first favela by Bruce Douglas

notes of a Local Outsider April 5
Citizen’s Video Indicates Police Misconduct after Child’s Death in Metropolitan Rio by Leonardo Custódio

Witness April 5
One year later: Brazilian partners, Papo Reto, on importance of video following murder of young boy [VIDEO]

BBC April 4
Brazil's haircare queen: From shantytown to millionaire by Luana Ferreira

Rio 2016 April 4
Rio 2016 sports festival takes Olympic and Paralympic spirit to favela children

Medium April 4
Why Brazil's Internet Freedoms Are Under Threat 
by Rachel Glickhouse

Brasil Wire April 3
Rio Olympics: A Case Study In PMDB Governance by Brian Mier

ITV April 1
*CatComm supported/quoted

RioOnWatch is a project of Catalytic Communities


Highlights from


Olympics Resources for Journalists Launched

This month we launched ‘Olympics Resources for Journalists,’ a collection of materials about Rio’s favelas and the city’s pre-Olympic transformations, designed to facilitate productive reporting ahead of and during the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It includes must-know background information, overviews and insights on policies and projects implemented in the Olympic City, access to contacts for community leaders who want their stories covered, and social media recommendations for staying on top of Rio news, among other resources. Check it out here and pass it on to your journalist friends!




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