Brazil: The ‘Land of the Drizzle’ mourns victims

Are you a random tourist, a businessperson or a sports fan? Have your local travel agencies ever mentioned that Brazil has it all? And has anyone suggested that you ought to check out Brazilian attractions? Should you pick eco tours in the Amazon rainforest of missing tribes, or street parades in the annual Carnival of sexual consumption? How about visiting its largest city São Paulo or ‘Terra da Garoa’, one of the host cities for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, or Rio de Janeiro, the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics —could there be more? But did they also warn you that favelas, ‘shanty-towns’, exist in all major cities and are ‘dominated by poverty and violent crime’? Whose violence and crime, after all? The following news, that outlines the generalized eviction tactics in the Brazilian territory, urges you to rethink now your direct or indirect participation in any murderous enterprise of one more State that serves as crutch of the global Capital. It’s not going to be a ‘joke’ anymore.
On December 22nd, 2011, in São Paulo an entire shanty-town was burned down under ‘mysterious’ circumstances. At least two people were killed from the massive fire in the Favela do Moinho neighbourhood, which is located in the district of Barra Funda. Those who suffered the tragedy know it was in fact a forced removal.

The community known as the Favela do Moinho was established by 576 families in 2006. It is estimated that more than one thousand families joined this community after expulsions, evictions, arsons that occurred as ‘accidents’ or for sanitation reasons in various areas of São Paulo. The residents were engaged in a self-organized recycling project, but also built bonds with cultural projects aimed at expanding opportunities for their youth.

On December 27th, 2011, the Favela do Moinho released an open letter (the original here) to tell a story that the particular residents and so many people living in the suburbs know all too well. For years, poor people of Moinho resist eviction and intimidations. Of course, arsons makes the lives of families even more difficult, while the fire and subsequent damages serve as an excuse to displace them and prevent the reoccupation of the area, as is customary in these situations —for example, in the case of Jaguaré, where an estimated 1,000 people were left homeless after an incendiary attack on the favela Diogo Pires in November 2011, or in Morumbi, where about 1,300 people were dumped on the street after an arson against the Favela do Real Parque in September 2010.

In this case the details are still unverified, but in several similar incidents arsons occurred during the exact same period in which large companies were contracted to carry out construction works in the same areas —works that require the expulsion of residents. In addition, several of these arsons are blatantly criminal, due to great delays in the arrival of firefighters, and there is no investigation whatsoever into the real causes. Therefore, arson is a very efficient way to destroy poor communities, which are true ‘bumps along the way’ of real estate Capital and its minions who populate the state bureaucracy.

In the case of Moinho, once again the Prefecture presented an alternative, that is the rent allowance of 300 reais, but the residents made it clear in their aforementioned letter that they will not swallow this as if it were a ‘solution’ to their housing claims.

Amid insecurity, humiliation and a series of evictions, threats, lies, fierce attacks launched by social workers, civil defense officers, all kinds of cops and other members of the State mechanism against the poor population, the alternative of ‘bolsa-aluguel’ (rent allowance) is presented to people in exchange for their homes in the framework of a ‘social housing’ program and the wider ‘housing policy’ in São Paulo. ‘Take it or leave it,’ say those vultures.

The amount of the rent allowance is low, usually 300 or 400 reais, delivered every 6 months in the form of a check of 1,800 or 2,400 reais. Eventually, the news that the ‘benefit’ will be distributed causes two things, apart from other serious implications: an increase of thefts inside communities; a local process of speculation, so that the prices of rental homes hit high levels and no one else can afford to rent a place. And those who have children suffer even more because it is almost impossible to find a landlord who accepts a family with more than two children.

The majority of bureaucrats working for the Secretariat of Housing are lackeys of the big real estate and construction companies, rather than honest and well-intentioned workers… The current ‘normal’ state procedure is to provide a contract for periodic renewal of this rent subsidy and a promise of including the family in a housing program. But generally, this contract does not speak of where and when the new houses will be built. In São Paulo alone, there are millions of people on waiting lists for housing programs, thousands of families are being evicted every year and only a handful of houses being built. And even if a family is fortunate to be one of the few chosen to live in such houses, this is won with a huge debt, and years and years will be spent struggling to pay it off, just to have a roof of their own. Desperate (or homeless in these cases), many people end up accepting this agreement, thus leaving their roofs. They lose many social ties, turn away from friends, no longer count on the support of neighbours, and face all kinds of problems (trying to transfer their children to their closest school, who often end up losing the school year, and so on).

‘Beyond its immediate effect, repression has an “exemplary” character. Its purpose is to discourage anyone who attempts to resist and to seek radical–realistic solutions for his/her life. For these reasons, class and social solidarity among the oppressed is necessary. There are no individual solutions to collective problems; collective action is the answer,’ our comrades in the UK have written, facing numerous evictions in the context of the criminalization of squatting ahead of London 2012 Olympic Games.

No market, no bargain, no state intervention in our lives!
Fuck the ‘Games’ and the ‘Cups’!

10… 100… 1,000 SQUATS

Read also ‘Genocide and Spectacle’ —also in Portuguese, Greek, Spanish