On the morning of the June 20th Global Day of Action, GGJ members joined La Vía Campesina and other social movements in a solidarity march through the Autódromo community of Rio de Janeiro to Rio Centro, the site of the Rio+20 UN conference. The Autódromo community is fighting the construction of Belo Monte hydroelectric plant, and is part of a coalition of communities fighting displacement by megaprojects related to the World Cup, the Olympic Games, and other large international events. “We just want the World Cup and the Olympic Games with benefits for all and respect for our rights!” say the organizers.
Autódromo is just next door to Rio Centro, divided by a small canal, which runs along the road that all delegates going to the UN conference had to travel. Community members hung signs saying “Sustainability for Whom?” and “Sustainability! The community suffers threats of being removed. Olympic Games 2016: A Nightmare for Us!”
Below is the English version of a statement that was circulated at the protest by the People’s Council of Rio de Janeiro [transcribed verbatim, please excuse grammatical errors due to translation]:
SUSTAINABILITY DOES NOT MEAN THE REMOVAL OF FAVELAS
In the month that occurs the global meeting called Rio+20, supposedly to discuss the course of the “Sustainable Economy” in the world, who sits on the table to make decisions ARE NOT THE PEOPLE, but their supposed representatives: the national and international authorities. These authorities have gathered here 20 years ago (during Eco-92), took several decisions, but since then things only got worse, socially and environmentally.
“Authorities” discourses about environmental preservation actually is a big LIE, because what we see is the total devastation of nature by the actions of large construction companies and property market, which in Rio de Janeiro have the omission and complicity of the Judges, Legislators, Governor and the Mayor. The result is the disappearance of wildlife and native vegetation, pollution and extinction of rivers and lakes, for the construction of luxury condominiums, corporate buildings and highways.
The same discourse of environmental preservation used by government officials has served as an excuse for the removal of traditional “favelas” (shantytowns), thus bypassing the laws dealing with the right to dignified and healthy housing for poor workers. Families who live in the favelas are removed and/or violently evicted against their will to distant places, destroying our social life and local culture, and the land are criminally negotiated by governmental power with the speculation: why do resettle favelas’ workers [live] in miserable residences of 40 square meters?
The program “Minha Casa Minha Vida” (My House My Life), the Federal Government’s proposal as an alternative to solve the housing problem of the working poor, has been used to inject public money into the pockets of private civil construction companies, and the municipal and state departments of housing have acted as mediators of these interests, thus oppressing the favelas’ residents and pressing them [to] turn in their homes.
With the realization of mega-events in Rio de Janeiro—from Rio+20 itself until the 2016 Olympics games—this tragic reality to the favelas have worsened. Only on account of projects related to these international events, more than 150,000 people will be threatened with forced removal in the next four years. Hegemonic forces still want to remove another 100 thousand people through arguments in which encompass environmental risk and environmental preservation that does not meet the technical criteria and legal requirements. Many communities are already extinct or disfigured.
We, workers, are entitled to a healthy environment and the place where we always lived. We do not want this “Sustainable Economy” which sustains removal of people under urban and environmental pretexts. We want respect and the expansion of our rights. We want to sanitation, environmental restoration, improvements in housing, quality in public services, social justice and equality!
CONSELHO POPULAR DO RIO DE JANEIRO
(PEOPLE’S COUNCIL OF RIO DE JANEIRO)
Rio de Janeiro, June 20th, 2012.