Co-authored with Elizabeth Miller

When the World Cup kicks off in June, all eyes will be on Brazil and the numbers on the scoreboards. But just beyond the new stadiums in Rio de Janeiro and across the country, thousands of spray-painted numbers mark homes for destruction, leaving the residents with nowhere to live.

As dozens of first-hand videos reveal, the past five years have witnessed an attack on Brazilians’ rights to their homes, as well as to their livelihoods, education, and health care. As there is no official census of evictees, it is nearly impossible to get an exact number of people affected by the unlawful evictions, but activists estimate that more than 250,000 Brazilians either have been or will be evicted by the 2016 Olympics. In Rio alone, upwards of 20,000 families have already been forced from their homes.

Human Rights Issues

As footage and video testimony convey, the impact on the victims goes beyond the immediate loss of their home. They are offered insufficient compensation or none at all. Some receive rent subsidies, but many residents say the subsidies are not enough to allow them to remain in the neighborhoods where they built their lives. Others are offered resettlement in areas so remote they are unable to access transit, schools, hospitals, and other basic services.

A grievance voiced in testimony after testimony is that authorities failed to consult with local residents about the development projects their neighborhoods are being removed to make way for, thus violating local laws and international human rights standards. In the above video from 2011, for example, members of the Morro de Providência neighborhood explain to human rights monitors that they never received a blueprint and were never consulted on the changes. “These projects aren’t for the community, they’re for foreigners to come see,” says one man who raised his family there. Otherwise, he asks, “why don’t they build a health clinic?”

In addition, many residents say they were given no choice when authorities came to mark their homes for removal. As one Favela do Metrô resident explains above, police entered her community saying, “If you don’t accept this offer, a tractor will come and destroy your home.”

More Videos

The videos featured above and in this Human Rights Channel playlist are only a small selection of videos documenting forced evictions in Brazil. In 2012, WITNESS partnered with Comitê Popular Rio on a massive curation project to compile videos taken by residents, activists, NGOs, and the news documenting the issue. For background and findings of the project, which resulted in a collection of 114 videos, see this two-part blog series. While on their own, the videos document individual cases of families and communities affected by unlawful eviction, collectively they refute an argument the Rio de Janeiro government has tried to make, that forced evictions are not taking place, or that they are isolated incidents.

Elizabeth is an intern at WITNESS working on the Human Rights Channel. She is a student at Lafayette College currently studying International Relations in New York City. Connect with her on Twitter @lizziemills.

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