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Monthly Digest

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

January 2016
Volume VI Issue 1

Welcome to our first monthly digest of 2016, 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. For access to the full Digest archive click here.

With seven months to the start of the Rio Olympics, Mayor Eduardo Paes publicly re-affirmed his promise that 30 remaining Vila Autódromo families will not be evicted from their community at the edge of the Olympic Park. This promise remains unconvincing to residents, who are experiencing ongoing intimidation by Shock Troops and who, just one week before the Mayor's statement, woke up to find police constructing a wall that split the neighborhood. 

Meanwhile, support and visibliity for Vila Autódromo only grow. Marc Ohrem-Leclef's 'Olympic Favela' photo exhibit, which CatComm was thrilled to support, is now on display in Rio. Others demonstrated solidarity by participating in an inclusive football tournament which celebrated the community's resistance. 

An important report by the Rio de Janeiro Truth Commission shows that the forced removals of today should be understood in the context of mass evictions in the era of Brazil's military dictatorship. This point is further emphasized by an exhibit of anthropologist Anthony Leeds' photos of daily life in favelas in the 1960s. Several of the featured favelas were later removed.

A second conclusion of the Truth Commission report, the militarization of daily life in favelas today also draws stark parallels with the dictatorship's use of force in communities. 2015 was the most violent year in Complexo do Alemão since the occupation by military forces in 2010. City of God saw an uptick in murders in 2015 too, leading residents to protest and call for an end to violence.

While official government statistics show homicides in Rio State fell in 2015, this Vice article highlights the rising numbers of disappearances and people killed in confrontations with police. Amnesty International argues the abolition of the term auto de resistência, a label for deaths when suspects resist arrest, will have little real impact on improving police accountability.

In the Port region, social movement participants began an innovative new urban occupation in an abandoned hotel, demanding the building be converted into affordable housing. The New Blacks Research Institute celebrated 20 years since the historic New Blacks slave cemetery was discovered, strengthening calls for preservation of the area's Afro-Brazilian heritage.

In the context of increased interest in tourism in favelas, a councilman has proposed a law to combat exploitative tourism, and to promote community-led tourism instead. This policy should support the work of local tour guides and entrepreneurs like Gilmar Lopes, who talked with RioOnWatch about why he prefers his favela to living in the formal city.

Finally this month, don't miss our annual look at the best and worst international reporting on favelas, now for 2015 when we saw a dramatic improvement in nuanced and quality coverage. And, just out: our first-ever roundup of favelas' creative use of social media and its massive potential for favela residents' visibility over the coming the year.

Beyond RioOnWatch, don't miss CatComm Executive Director Theresa Williamson's insights into pre-Olympic Rio on two radio programs this month, as she discusses favela qualities and evictions on WORT FM, and corruption, police brutality and evictions on Radio New Zealand. She was also quoted in this month's print issue of TIME magazine on the subject of Vila Autódromo.
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.

City of God was the second community in Rio de Janeiro to receive a Pacifying Police Unit, in 2009, and today counts 343 permanent police that attend to its more than 2km extension and 47,000 residents, across 18 territories. As in other parts of the city, the UPP project is problematic.
  A new art exhibition in Rio de Janeiro explores the effects of forced evictions in preparation for the upcoming Olympics. The project “Olympic Favela” by photographer Marc Ohrem-Leclef includes a collection of photographs and a new documentary film.
  Between 1962 and 1974, more than 140,000 people were forcibly removed from their homes, especially in areas that were becoming more attractive to the housing market like Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas and Leblon. The body set up to investigate human rights violations of the military regime says the militarization of daily life and forced removals of residents are practices of the past that are being repeated today.
  When foreign journalists visit Rio de Janeiro wishing to report on favela community news, they quickly come to find themselves relying on social media. The mobile phone is, argues Thamyra Thâmara of the GatoMÍDIA collective, an essential tool for addressing inequalities and especially for favela youth: “No event occurs that is not passed through the lens of their android phone.” Rio’s Port Region has received a lot of attention in the years leading up to the Olympics with massive infrastructure projects. Less visible, however, are the Port Region’s deep, historic roots. On January 16, the New Blacks Research Institute, also located in the Port Region, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the important discovery of a slave cemetery in the area.
  On Tuesday, January 19, Mayor Eduardo Paes took questions from an audience of around 80 people at OsteRio. The discussion covered topics from Vila Autódromo and the Olympic legacy for Rio’s favelas, to urban violence, the City’s investment in museums and the mayor’s chosen candidate to succeed him, Pedro Paulo, who denies accusations of domestic violence against his wife.
  A survey carried out by Voz das Comunidades showed that in 2015, 44 people were hit in shootouts in Complexo do Alemão. Of these, 22 died. This exceeds the numbers from 2014, when 27 people were hit, with 14 deaths. The year 2015 was the most violent since the occupation in 2010 by military forces.
  The atmosphere was tense on the evening of Monday January 18 as nearly 30 people gathered in a circle in an abandoned hotel in the neighborhood of Santo Cristo in Rio’s Port Region. This group calls itself the Vito Gianotti Occupation after the famous social movement leader in Rio who fought for populist causes and rights for workers.
  Many favelas in Rio have the most privileged views of the natural landscape and other beautiful spots–and this significantly influenced the increase of tourist visits to these areas. To regulate the situation, Councilman Célio Luparelli proposed a bill which aims to make some favelas Areas of Special Tourist Interest, meaning that, in practice, these locations would be subject to a specific urbanization regime and tourism regulations.
  This Wednesday, January 13, Vila Autódromo woke up around 7 o’clock to find a large number of Rio’s Shock Troops, a police unit specifically used for controlling large public manifestations and events of civil unrest, around the neighborhood of a few dozen families. Residents had had no warning police would be there or what was to take place. 
  As we wade into summer, such extremely high temperatures are becoming more and more common. Cariocas from different backgrounds experience this heat in a variety of ways. Some simply feel an increased discomfort on hot days, while others experience severe medical issues such as those linked to low blood pressure and dehydration.
  Despite the negative stereotypes associated with life in the favelas, the reality is that the majority of residents are happy and are proud to reside in their communities. We had the opportunity to interview Gilmar Lopes on his roof terrace to better understand why, after moving to London, he chose to return to his life in Morro dos Cabritos and why the reality of life in the favela is so different from the stigmatized view from outside.
by Felipe Pontes | January 11
On January 5 Amnesty International criticized the new nomenclature established by the Federal and Civil Police to substitute terms such as “autos de resistência” and “resistência seguida de morte” in police records of cases involving bodily injury or death provoked by police in Brazil.
Decemberdigestcollage2-620x264 (1)Favelas In the News: December 2015 Digest by Cerianne Robertson | January 10
The final month of 2015 offered a moment to take stock of the state of affairs in Rio and Brazil before 2016, the Olympic year, began. With summaries of human rights violations and analyses of international media coverage, alongside ongoing coverage of key issues like Vila Autódromo and continuing violence against black favela residents, we’re ready to enter the most critical year ever for amplifying favela perspectives.
  On December 26, Vila Autódromo hosted the Liberators’ Cup, a football tournament to celebrate the community’s continued existence and resistance, despite recent intensification of pressure from the City. The event continues the #OcupaVilaAutódromo campaign, a series of events, including the recent cultural festival, to bring people to the community in support of residents.
  With the increasing global media attention ahead of the Games has come rare and insightful in-depth reporting on key issues like race, state violence, the real motivations behind evictions, and active challenges to stigma, as well as exciting platforms for favela residents to speak directly to international readers. Still present in 2015, however, were dangerous stereotypes, lazy language, and the misrepresentation of favelas as ‘slums’ and ‘shantytowns.’
  An exhibit now in its final days at Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of the Republic presents a small taste of the photographic archive of Anthony Leeds, a prominent American anthropologist celebrated for introducing urban anthropology to Brazilian academics during the 1960s. The collection includes a carefully selected subset of his 770 images. 

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in the Media

Reuters January 29
Cost of Rio's 2016 Olympics rises by almost $100 million

The Rio Times January 29
Favela Brass Provides Free Music Lessons for Kids in Rio by Georgia Grimond

New Boston Post January 29
Irlan Silva: From Favela to Boston Ballet First Soloist by Mary Hierholzer

Vice* January 28
The Murder Rate Is Down in Rio — But Its Cops Continue to Kill by James Armour Young

AFP January 28
Activists and Rio residents rally against hosting 2016 Olympics [VIDEO]

openDemocracy January 28
Brazil's digital protests spell trouble on the street by Nathan Thompson

The New York Times January 28
Researchers Weigh Risks of Zika Spreading at Rio Olympics by Simon Romero, Rebecca Ruiz

Around the Rings January 28
Rio favela inhabitants install solar panels in response to soaring electricity prices in Olympic city

USA Today January 27
The gangster warlords of Latin America by Ioan Grillo

The Nation January 27
Brazil in Peril: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Zika Virus by Dave Zirin

Rio 2016 January 27
Rio 2016 receives top global sustainability certificate for organisation of major events

WORT FM* January 26

Favela Autonomy And The Rio Olympics by Brian Standing

Quartz January 25
Officials in Rio confront a growing conundrum for its shantytowns: slum tourism by Ana Campoy

The Sunday Times January 24
Cash-strapped Rio carnival wings it with recycled feathers by Bruce Douglas

The Rio Times January 23
Social Action for Music Reaches 1,000 Youths in Rio Favelas by Georgie Hay

Vice January 22
Rio de Janeiro Is in the Middle of a Major Public Health Crisis by James Armour Young

The Guardian January 22
Headbanging in the house of God: Rio congregation worships with heavy metal by Jonathan Watts

Inside the Games January 22
Public access threatened during Rio 2016 after plans to limit peak travel to those with Olympic Transport Card by Nick Butler

The Rio Times January 22
Exploring Rio’s Babilônia and Chapéu Mangueira Communities 
by Georgia Grimond

TIME January 20
Brazilian Lawmakers Threaten to Crack Down on Internet Freedom 
by Matt Sandy

Black Women of Brazil January 19
With countdown to Rio’s Olympics, Brazil’s top TV network continues fear mongering of black population; is there a new policy of ‘disappearing’ “undesirables”? by Douglas Belchior

Latin Post January 19
Rio de Janeiro's 'Pacification' in the Eyes of a Tourist Photographer by Mel Abad

Radio New Zealand* January 18
Rio Olympics: corruption, police brutality and forced evictions by Lynn Freeman

sportanddev January 18
Listen to them: The children of Rio 2016 
by Terre des Hommes

Inside the Games January 18
"Brazil is prepared" says Rio 2016 security chief by Daniel Etchells

La Prensa January 16
1,202 Murders in Rio de Janeiro in 2015, its least violent year since 1991 by EFE

Medium January 15
State statistics show decline in Rio murders by Bruce Douglas

AP January 15
Rio de Janeiro Olympics facing deep cuts unseen in decades by Stephen Wade

Baker Institute Blog January 14
The empty homes of Rio’s 2016 Olympics 
by James A. Baker III

Huck Magazine January 14
Meet Rio’s favela surfers, fighting to save their home break from pollution 
by Kevin Damasio

NPR January 14
Amid Recession, Brazil Struggles With The Huge Costs Of The Olympics 
by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro

Rio Gringa January 14
Ten Issues to Watch in Brazil in 2016 by Rachel Glickhouse

Metro January 13
Rio's environmental hurdles remain ahead of Olympic Games
by Pablo Cavada

The Conversation* January 12
Vila Autódromo: the favela fighting back against Rio’s Olympic development by Adam Talbot

Global Post January 12
Police took it over, but gangs still run Rio's biggest slum
by Will Carless

The New York Times January 12
Brazil’s Digital Backlash
by Robert Muggah, Nathan B. Thompson

The Straits Times January 11
Judo champ aims to mine Olympic gold from Rio's slums

The Wall Street Journal January 11
Rio 2016 Faces a Carnival of Unusual Problems by Will Connors

Winnipeg Free Press January 9
Story of Brazilian drug kingpin not so cut and dried by Doug Smith

Inside the Games January 9
Fears grow ahead of Rio 2016 after protests against rising transport prices turn violent by Nick Butler

Black Women of Brazil January 8
Youth accuse Rio’s Military Police of torture and sexual abuse by Alexandre Brum

Nieman Reports January 8
Revitalizing Journalism in Brazil by Fabiano Maisonnave

ABC January 7
Rio Olympics: Vila Autodromo slum families refuse to move to make way for vital Games infrastructure by Adriana Brasileiro

The New York Times January 7
From Rio’s Slums, a Judo Champion Is Mining Olympic Gold by John Branch

The Washington Post January 6
Rio planned Olympic-scale sewerage project. But citizens say no thanks by Dom Phillips

The Guardian January 5
75% of staff fired from Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã stadium ahead of Olympics

Global Post* January 2
Rio’s approach to invading and policing favelas holds some lessons for the world by Will Carless

The Economist January 2
Brazil’s fall
*CatComm supported/quoted

RioOnWatch is a project of Catalytic Communities


Highlights from



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 honored to lead students and professors from American University and the University of Delaware on Educational Community Visits to Vila Autódromo, Indiana, and Santa Marta this month. Local community leaders informed the groups about evictions, real estate speculation and rising prices ahead of the Olympics, land rights, the role of Residents' Associations, activism, local history, and local economies.  




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Here Is My Place / Aqui É Meu Lugar

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Activists and Rio residents rally against hosting 2016 Olympics

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Metanóia church: where heavy metal is a form of worship

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