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Monthly Digest

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

June 2016
Volume VI Issue 6

Welcome to our June digest with the latest news from RioOnWatch (Rio Olympics Neighborhood Watch), Catalytic Communities' project to bring visibility to favela perspectives on the rapid transformations 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.

As the countdown to the Olympic Games continues, Amnesty International has documented a spike in police killings, favelas like City of God undergo constant police operations, and some favela journalists call fervently for an end to the Pacifying Police Units in favelas. The economic crisis means social rent for communities that still await promised housing has dried up and public school teacher wages have not increased since 2014. A new book highlights how Guanabara Bay pollution impacts local communities, while a steel plant is causing environmental and health risks in the West Zone. The Popular Committee for the World Cup and Olympics is in the midst of a campaign to highlight the pervasiveness of human rights abuses like these in pre-Olympics Rio. 

One key theme that emerges is the municipal government's effort to cleanse the city of the poor in time for the Games. Vox produced a must-see video examining this trend with a focus on Vila Autódromo, where the Evictions Museum and a traditional Festa Junina celebration kept the community's world-renowned spirit of resistance strong this month. Zacarias, a fishing community facing eviction, also celebrated its resistance with a Festa Junina party.

'Cleansing the city' in pre-Olympic Rio has also been reflected in a hightening criminalization of sex workers, neglect of Afro-Brazilian history in Little Africa in the Port area, and continued threats to uplifting community museums like the Museu da Maré.

Olympics-boosted gentrification is further displacing the poor, as The Guardian highlighted this month. In Vidigal, which just held its second election for the Residents' Association since the UPP arrived, popular local artist Wilson Alexandre was recently evicted due to real estate speculation. 

Further exacerbating the city's spatial inequality is the growth of gated communities, compounds that provide high security to those who can afford them. In turn, the favela Asa Branca, near the Olympic Park, is installing its own cameras amid growing perceptions of insecurity.

Housing expert Raquel Rolnik predicts Brazil's interim government will continue the kind of development trends seen in Olympic preparations, and the political transition raises concerns about the fate of favela investment programs like PAC in Rocinha. Meanwhile, communities evicted from favelas to public housing for the Olympics are increasingly going public with stories of the failure and unmet promises of the public housing system.

Alemão resident Cleber Araújo argues the impeachment process has revealed traditional Brazilian media's weaknesses, now that alternative and international media are more accessible. Just this month, favela journalists lectured at a university and spoke with Rocinha residents about the importance of community communication. 

In the meantime favelas continue organizing creatively. A new YouTube channel and blog counters stereotypes by documenting favela residents traveling to different countries. One of Rio's most violent favelas, Chapadão, hosted its first literary festival. And ecotourism is gaining ground in Vila Laboriaux. Finally, Vale Encantado's biodigester was among several innovative urban health solutions presented at a Design Challenge that could benefit Rio favelas.

We also published the first in a series of stories exploring how favela residents build their homes. The ingenuity and resourcefulness that accompanies informality in communities is an asset that must be valued in any urban planning project, as CatComm director Theresa Williamson describes in an exclusive in-depth interview with Guernica Magazine. Williamson was also interviewed for a podcast in Americas Quarterly this month, as well as featured in videos on Vox and USA Today.

We were thrilled to be a part of so much important reporting on Rio and its favelas this month. Please take a moment to read the asterisked articles to the right, all of which we supported in some way, and to encourage your media contacts to use our Olympics Resources for Journalists and favela wire service RioONWire in these final weeks of Olympics reporting. We hope you enjoy this month's carefully compiled digest and video recommendations below. Please share and don't forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

After four months of striking, a majority of the teachers’ union for Rio de Janeiro State overwhelmingly voted to continue the strike at a general assembly meeting on June 29. The union claims that the government has yet to satisfactorily meet their demands.
  Museu da Maré has existed and fought to remain for 10 years. Today the resistance is against the threat of eviction by Grupo Libra, the company that owns the space where the museum is located.
  Since the beginning of June, frightened residents of City of God have been living in a state of fear due to constant police operations, gunfire and the presence of the caveirão (big skull)–the name given to the armored tanks used by the Special Police Operations Battalion of the Rio de Janeiro Military Police.
  On Saturday evening, June 25, in a small church in the Rocinha favela in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro, a group of around 25 people debated the role of community media with journalists from Jornal Fala Roça, Viva Rocinha, TV Tagalera, and
  Like many other favelas in Rio, Vila Autódromo hosted its own Arraiá–a traditional celebratory cultural event in June. In contrast to typical festivals, Vila Autódromo’s celebration featured, above all else, a message of hope, memory and resistance.
TKCSA-moradora-de-Santa-Cruz-620x264 (1)Public Hearing Discusses Legal Standing of TKCSA in Santa Cruz
by Claire Lepercq, Sabrina Norris | June 27
The Companhia Siderúrgica do Atlântico's steel plant occupies an area of 80km² in Santa Cruz, on the shores of the Sepetiba Bay in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro. The largest steel processing facility in Latin America, it has been facing a long and controversial environmental licensing process.
The real estate trend of gated communities further marginalizes the poor by blocking physical and social mobility, but those who can afford it will continue to desire these communities as long as the government fails to guarantee quality public services including security.
  On Thursday, June 23, environmental journalist Emanuel Alencar released his book Guanabara Bay–Neglect and Resistance at a public launch event at the Brazilian Institute of Architects in Flamengo in the South Zone of Rio de Janeiro. 
“It expanded like this: I made my house for my whole family to live in. Following that, we built my daughter’s house on the side. Hers was here on the bottom. When my son married his wife, I had to start building on top. So, on top of my house, I made his house. It was a ‘mini-house,’ a kitchenette.”
  Community members of the Zacarias fishing community gathered in Zacarias on June 18 for an Arraial de Resistência. The resistance-themed traditional June party was held in response to the human rights violations related to the upcoming development of a luxury resort in the area.
  For the past few months, Caminhos do Lagarto has been leading Sunday morning hikes that pass through the residential community into the Tijuca Forest. These ecotours are led by residents and seek to incorporate the history of the community into an outdoor adventure experience.
14386_10152856946538393_4080724239613339305_n-620x264 (1)First Things First: Out with the UPP!
by Gizele Martins | June 22
Ironically, we currently have a country shouting “Get out, Temer,” “Stay Dilma,” but here in the favelas we continue to shout “Get out BOPE,” “Get out UPP,” “Get out Army,” “Down with the criminalization of poverty,” “Down with the Olympics.” In other words, we are still calling for the right to life.
The Popular Committee for the World Cup and Olympics and the Marcha Das Vadias came together on June 16 to discuss mega-events, sexual tourism and the regulation of prostitution in Rio de Janeiro.

flicc4-620x264 (1)Known for Violence, Chapadão Favela Inspires with Its First Literary Festival
by Renan Schuindt | June 19
The Paulo Freire Community Library has been operating for 10 years in an area completely ignored by the government. In celebration of the library’s 10 year anniversary, Jocemir created the first FLICC, the Complexo do Chapadão Literary Festival, which took place June 3-5.
  One month ago, residents and supporters of Vila Autódromo chose May 18–International Museum Day–to launch their Evictions Museum. The Evictions Museum has come about as another tool in this struggle, disrupting the narrative surrounding mega-events in the city.
  The community’s second democratic election after the arrival of the Pacifying Police Unit in 2012 comes at critical moment as the favela deals with increasing pressures due to real estate speculation and gentrification. 
  In February 2016 Magano, a resident of City of God in the West Zone of Rio de Janeiro, launched the YouTube series ‘Favelados Around the World.’ The series consists of 5-minute episodes of Magano and blog posts from his friends exploring cities abroad, providing comedy-infused travel advice “by favelados for favelados.”
  Rio de Janeiro’s Popular Committee on the World Cup and Olympics has been marking the final 100 days before the Rio 2016 Olympics with a social media campaign to highlight 100 rights violations related to the Games. The campaign’s name, #CemDiasSemDireitos, translates to “100 days without rights.”
  With the Olympic Park at less than one kilometer distance, Asa Branca has been impacted by the infrastructure preparations for the event and a resulting growing insecurity in the area. In response, Asa Branca has begun installing 23 security cameras around the community.
  Almost exactly one year after the Favela da Skol in Complexo de Alemão voiced their concerns to Rio de Janeiro’s public defenders and state government about their precarious situation following evictions, the community is rallying again to bring attention to their situation after state government budget crises have left dwindling funds for their social rent.
rsz_1ev20976-620x264What’s Happened to the Brazilian Press? by Cleber Araújo | June 10
The decline of the nauseating, filthy Brazilian press is obvious to all. The international press has exposed how the Brazilian media manipulate politics, and how they want desperately to continue to do so in order to reap the massive rewards.
13308197_1089031797801617_18552286736620676_o-620x264 (1)Favela Journalists On Local Media
by Mikayla Ribeiro | June 9
Journalist Gizele Martins explained how instead of going in to a community and deciding what is appropriate communication, “you have to accept how favelados already communicate.” She provided the example of funk as a revolutionary form of music that acts as a living cultural museum as well as a means to communicate in spite of literacy barriers.  
  Nearly eight years after the PAC was brought to Rocinha to inject billions of reais into upgrading projects, the program now sits paralyzed. Completed projects from the first phase of PAC do not include urgently needed sanitation projects which were expected in the next phase.
  The Design Challenge aimed to “engage students in proposing innovative solutions to the multi-faceted urban problems in a way that can inform policy changes." The challenge was divided into two design categories—“Urban Water” and “Sensing the City”—and included projects that have significant potential impact for Rio’s favelas.
Jogos-da-Exclusao-e1464897217815-620x264 (1)A New Olympic Sport: City Cleansing by Adam Talbot | June 5
Unfortunately, claims that Rio's Olympic preparations have improved the lives of many favela residents do not reflect the reality on the ground. Instead of solving many of the existing complex urban and social issues, the City has instead swept them under the carpet, to stay out of sight during the 17-day Olympic party.
  Little Africa is an area in the Port Region of Rio de Janeiro that has historically been home to a strong Afro-Brazilian community. Between 1850 and 1920 freed slaves remained working in the area, and blacks and freed Africans from Bahia or the interior traveled to Little Africa in search of work and a sense of community.
  Last month the process to impeach President Dilma Rousseff was confirmed by the Senate and, on the same day, ministers from Michel Temer’s interim government were instated. Regardless of the discussion on the legitimacy of this government, what can we expect from the new Minister of Cities?
  On Saturday, May 28, residents of Vidigal gathered to bid farewell to local artist Wilson Alexandre. After ten years of transforming a 600 square meter overgrown abandoned site into a vibrant space full of recycled art, Wilson and his partner are scheduled to leave at the end of June as the landowner of their studio-gallery home has sold the land and is evicting them.

Recommended Videos


in the Media

The Huffington Post June 30
These Families Lost Their Homes Because Of The Rio Olympics by Rafael Nardini

WTMJ June 30
The Olympics Are Forcing Rio's Poorest Citizens From Their Homes by Lindsay Gloor

Fox News Latino June 30
Vidigal, the other "Olympic Village" in Rio de Janeiro by EFE

CBS June 30
Severe water pollution clouds the Olympic games in Rio by Ben Tracy

news. com. au June 30
Being a tourist in one of the world’s most dangerous cities by Alexis Carey

USA Today* June 29
Residents lose homes to make way for Rio Olympics by Martin Rogers

Politheor June 29
Janice Perlman: “There are so many things in Rio that are never talked about and that are absolutely heroic.” by Janice Perlman

plus55 June 29
A girl from a favela will represent Brazil at Brain Bee by plus55

The Rio Times June 29
Mega-Operation Underway to Capture Fugitive in Rio by Lise Alves

BBC June 28
Rio 2016: 'Welcome to Hell' warn police

Boston. com June 28
Amid budget cuts, Rio police ask for handouts ahead of Olympics by Jenny Barchfield

Children Win June 28
Highlights from the UN Human Rights Council side event

Museums Association June 28
Favela rising by Sharon Heal

Vox* June 27
2016 Olympics: what Rio doesn’t want the world to see by Johnny Harris

USA Today June 27
Rio violence leaves little confidence in public security by Taylor Barnes

Politheor June 27
Rio2016: Perspectives beyond the mega-event

RioReal Blog June 27
What’s happening? Shell-shocked in Rio de Janeiro by Julia Michaels

The Sydney Morning Herald June 27
Enough of the Brazil bashing – these Olympic Games will be something special by Andrew Webster

Worldcrunch June 26
Favela Tragedy, One More Mother With A Broken Heart by Alfredo Mergulhão

The New York Times June 25
An Olympic Village for Athletes, Not Mosquitoes, That’s Spartan but Secure by AP

The New York Times June 24
As the Olympics Near, Brazil and Rio Let the Bad Times Roll by Joe Noceroa

CityMetric June 24
"In 2014, over one million tourists visited a township, a favela, a barrio or a slum”: on the rise of slum tourism by Fabian Frenze

Positive News* June 23
Keeping pace: the Rio residents fighting to keep their communities by Ben Whitford

The Rio TImes June 23
Rio Institutes Holidays and Traffic Bans During 2016 Olympics by Nelson Belen

The Observers June 22
Fighting police violence in Brazil, one amateur video at a time by Guilherme Pimentel

The Guardian June 21
Australia urges Brazil to increase security after Olympic athlete robbed by Jonathan Watts 

Daily Mail June 21
Rio's 'highway of terror': Shooter takes aim at cars on 'Red Line' road that ALL Olympic athletes and fans must travel to get to games in Brazil by Matt Roper

Newsroom June 21
From Rio to Manhattan – radio drama brings global success for graduate by Rachael Briggs

Le Monde* (French) June 20
L'Etat de Rio au bord de la faillite avant le JO

Reuters June 19
Fight for peace by Nacho Doce, Daniel Flynn

BBC June 18
Brazil 'mass rape' video: Seven suspects to be charged

Reuters June 18
Rio state declares financial emergency, requests funding for Olympics by Paulo Prada, Stephen Eisenhammer and Brad Brooks

The Guardian June 17
Rio de Janeiro governor declares state of financial emergency ahead of Olympics by Jonathan Watts

The Washington Post June 17
Financial calamity declared in Rio weeks before Olympics, but Games will go on by Dom Phillips

Americas Quarterly June 16
Rio’s Forgotten Health Crisis by Anne Vigna

NPR June 16
Is The Risk Of Catching Zika Greater In Poor Neighborhoods? by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

PRI June 16
Before the Olympics, gang violence surges in Rio's slums by Will Carless

The Guardian June 15
Olympic exclusion zone: the gentrification of a Rio favela by Jo Griffin

Guernica* June 15
Opportunity for the Unknown: An Interview with Theresa Williamson by Ann Deslandes

Children Win* June 15

Billions spent on Rio Olympics as city's schools suffer by Beth McLoughlin

Channel News Asia June 15
Room prices rocket in Rio as landlords dig for Olympic gold by Juliana Schincariol, Stephan Eisenhammer

Bloomberg June 15
Rio de Janeiro State Slammed With Two-Notch Downgrade by Fitch by David Biller

PRI June 14
Residents in Brazil's notorious City of God are 'scared to death' of US shootings by Will Carless

Tech Insider June 14
Rio's largest slum is so big it has its own WiFi provider by Ariel Schwartz

AP June 13
Rio mayor's star rose, and now is falling, with Olympics by Mauricio Savarese

Vice June 13
The Olympics Are Turning Rio into a Military State by Dia Kayyali

Bloomberg June 13
Welcome, Olympic Tourists, to Brazil. Please Don’t Mind the Mess by David Biller

Thomas Reuters Foundation June 13
In Rio's favelas lack of property rights can be lethal for young men by Chris Arsenault

Independent June 12
Never mind Zika, superbugs and sewage, Rio Olympics on track to eclipse London 2012 says defiant mayor by David Usborne

Vice* June 10
Brazilians Are Unmasking Police Killings in Favelas With Videos and WhatsApp by Anne Sophie Gross

DW June 10
A lush green garden in a concrete jungle by Jennifer Collins

The Washington Post* June 9
Facing crime wave, Brazil to deploy 85,000 soldiers and police to guard Olympics by Dom Phillips

Play the Game June 9
Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Gamble by Juliana Barbassa

Don't Kill For Me June 9
Testimony before the Human Rights Commission of US Congress by Elizabeth Martin

The Progressive* June 8
Life and Death at Brazil’s Olympic Games by Lawrence Reichard

USA Today June 8
Going for Gold podcast: Author Juliana Barbassa puts Rio under a microscope

Americas Quarterly* June 8
In Occupying Schools, Rio’s Students Get a Political Education by Stephen Kurczy

Paste June 8
Interview: Juliana Barbassa on Rio's Missed Olympic Opportunities by Kate

AJ+ June 7
Olympics 2016 will still go on despite Rio being surrounded by ... poop? [VIDEO]

COHA June 7
Criminalization of Social Movements in Brazil by Aline Piva

Vice June 7
How Rio 2016 Will Be Secured in the Cloud by Donna Bowater

telesurTV June 7
Brazil Beach Covered with Panties in Anti-Rape

Bloomberg June 7
Police Raid Rio de Janeiro Olympic Venue on Fraud Suspicion by David Biller

The Border Mail June 7
A tale of Rio’s favelas by Derrick Krusche

Folha de S. Paulo June 6
Pacification in Complexo do Alemão Slum Fails After R$ 700 Million Invested in 10 Years by Sérgio Rangel

The Globe and Mail June 6
New video of pleading victim emerges in Rio gang rape case by Stephanie Nolen

AP June 6
When Rio fails, sister city shows sewage cleanup possible by Jenny Barchfield

The New York Times June 6
Brazil’s Gold Medal for Corruption by the Editorial Board

CNN June 6
Olympics: Rio 2016's 'perfect storm'
by Tom McGowan, Laura Said-Moorhouse, Shasta Darlington, Ivan Watson, Vasco Cotovio

Boston Globe June 6
Along the bumpy road to Rio 2016
by Shira Springer

Global Post June 5
Police in Rio state killed 78 people in April. Activists worry it's the sign of a trend by Will Carless

AP June 4
Activist asks Brazil's interim president to pay for cleanup by Jenny Barchfield

The Globe and Mail June 3
Gang rape reveals Brazil’s shocking attitudes toward women
by Stephanie Nolen

Americas Quarterly* June 3
Podcast: Inside Rio’s Favelas: The Fallout from an Alleged Gang Rape - Interview with Theresa Williamson

CNN June 3
Wave of deadly gunbattles hit Rio as the Olympics get closer by Ivan Watson, Paxton Winters, Vasco Cotovio, and Jeffrey Kehl

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting* June 3
Jules Boykoff on Rio Games by CounterSpin

The Courier June 3
Olympics could have “worrying implications” for Rio’s poorest people by Paul Malik

Londonist June 3
A Model Favela From Rio De Janeiro Is Coming To London by Laura Reynolds

Amnesty International June 2
Violence Has No Place in these Games! Risk of Human Rights Violations at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

The Telegraph June 2
Rio de Janeiro at high risk of deadly human rights violations in run-up to Olympics, Amnesty report says by Donna Bowater

Amnesty International June 2
Patricia Parinejad’s favela project on show at the Venice Architecture Biennale by Ellie Stathaki

Communities Digital News* June 1
Interview with Theresa Williamson, Brazilian activist

Democracy Now! June 2
In Wake of Coup, Should Brazil's Olympics Be Moved or Become a Site of Protest?
*CatComm supported/quoted

RioOnWatch is a project of Catalytic Communities


Highlights from


CatComm Logo

Record Number of Infeluential Publications & Excellent Reporting

Following launching our Olympics Resources for Journalists in May, Catalytic Communities supported a record number of news outlets during the month of June, including pieces in VoxUSA TodayLe MondeChildren WinThe Washington PostThe Progressive, Positive News, Americas QuarterlyCommunities Digital Newsmonth and others--including The New York Times and HBO--to come out in July.

  Guernica Interviews Theresa Williamson

The most in-depth interview yet with Catalytic Communities' Executive Director Theresa Williamson was published in Guernica Magazine on June 15. Entitled, "Opportunity for the Unknown," the piece delves into Williamson's background, the history of Catalytic Communities, and engages her on the historical formation of Rio's favelas, urban planning, affordable housing, informality, the favela chic trend and lessons cities around the world can learn from Rio's favelas.
Record Number of Interns

During the month of June we received a record number of new interns. Our core team of 5 is now complemented by 30 international observer-interns from all over the world, reporting from Rio's favelas through the August Olympic Games. Countries include Australia, France, Germany, The Netherlands, UK, USA, and Yemen.

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