Yesterday marked two years since government bulldozers arrived at the Restinga community in Rio de Janeiro to demolish the homes and small shops belonging to 153 families.
Francisca is a longtime Restinga resident who raised her children in the community and operated a successful small woodworking shop. When the bulldozers arrived, she became so desperate that she tried to chain herself to her home to stand in the way of the machines. In this video produced by a Commission of Affected Residents with WITNESS’ support, Francisca tells us what happened next:
At least 20 other families who had their homes and businesses destroyed that day have still not received a single penny in compensation. This includes residents like Michel, whose story we first heard in this Voices of the Mission video. After having lost his auto shop that day, he too is still fighting to rebuild his life. Many other families, like Francisca’s, have not been provided with adequate resettlement options or compensated for their losses.
Many of the families emphasize that they’re not against the construction projects in principle. Rather, they’re against against the manner in which these projects are being pushed forth by local authorities, without respect to affected communities’ rights to due process, consultation, fair compensation or adequate resettlement.
Not surprisingly, poor communities have been bearing the brunt of the boom of construction in Rio since the city was announced as host of the 2016 Olympics and of some of the games of the 2014 World Cup.
When constructions happens in richer neighborhoods, the government behaves much differently. We saw this clearly last year in Ipanema, when local officials provided 24-hour attendants and valet service to residents inconvenienced by subway construction on one of the glitziest streets in town.
This is often the rule of thumb in forced evictions cases internationally, as well, as we saw in this video with testimonies from affected citizens in 11 countries.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes likes to dismiss these stories, say they’re being fabricated by political operatives who oppose his administration or by groups with external funding. But if you take a moment to actually listen to the stories of Francisca, Elisângela, Antonieta, Jorge, Iraci or Francicleide, it becomes harder and harder to deny.
On December 10th, International Human Rights Day, our partners from the Rio Committee for a Peoples’ World Cup released a statement noting that it had been one full year sinceer their report on human rights violations tied to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics–and yet thousands of families “continue to be threatened by forced evictions because of construction projects not based on public interest but rather determined by billionaire real estate investments tied to the elitization of public space.” Noting that the most negatively affected groups are those the government is claiming to help with these very development projects, our partners ask “World Cup for Whom?”
If you’re a fan of sports but not of human rights violations, raise your voice with us. Spread these videos. Support the local coalition of activists fighting theses abuses. Tweet the IOC. And demand an end to forced evictions committed in the name of the World Cup and Olympics.