Caught a show of street theatre courtesy of Ta na Rua this evening in the recently demolished, soon to be rebuilt, Lapa.  Their piece was a social commentary on the rapid changes taking place in the city at the moment, and the confusion residents feel about what will happen next, and where they will fit into this new Rio that seems to be taking shape.
Everywhere I’ve been to date in under construction.  Lapa looks like a bomb was dropped, Gloria is all dug up; as is Praca Maua, where commuters are going crazy trying to circumvent the mayhem that has landed there. In addition, all of the favela communities that I have visited to date are under construction, well the pacified ones, I should say.
No-one knows what is happening here, and what happens next.  Private sector heads are footing some of the bill.  Why?  What will they expect in return?  There has been no public consultation at all.
Ta na Rua addressed these issues in their show this evening.  What kind of a city is this going to become with all of this “make-up” being applied in advance of the games?  They portrayed the poor and new migrants to Rio being beaten down by security guards, while borgeouis groups moved in killing samba with new music, and ridiculous habits.  Rio is under fire, according to them, and risks losing here very identity to the elites of society.  Rio will become another Sao Paulo, they said.
Things are already changing rapidly here.  Rent prices are doubling and tripling, and workers are being forced out of the city as they cannot afford to live centrally any longer.  There is a surge in jazz music as popular culture drifts away from the traditional samba enjoyed by workers, favelados, etc.
The streets do feel safer than they did a year ago, and people walk around freely with iPhones and the like in hand – something that until very recently would have been an open invite to thieve outside of certain plush neighbourhoods.  But, the petty crime has still not gone away.  A friends had her phone snatched from her hand only the other day.  She’s lived here for years, and it was not a smart-phone, just a commoner garden one.  Guy on a bike cycled by, grabbed it while she chatted unsuspectingly.  It happens.
This blog posted in January 2012, is transcribed from notes taken in November 2011
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Met Marcia Honoraro, from the Network against violence.  She was keen to point out that there are many problems, including corruption and violence, within the ranks of the UPP, and within so-called pacified favelas.  They are hassling residents of favelas that are supposedly pacified.  She showed me lots of clips on Youtube, of people who feel that they are being mistreated by the police, irrelevent of whether they are UPP or not.

Marcia has herself been the victim of police violence on several occasions.  She is an outspoken critic of the policing system in Rio, and fights to get the truth of what really happens in some favelas out into the open.  Many police officers would like to quieten that voice, and continue to attempt this.

Blog posted January 2012, refers to interview conducted November 2011

Went to visit the community of Cidade de Deus, made famous the world over by the film of that same name, or in English, City of God. The community is much more impoverished than any of the other favelas which I have visited.  There are piles of rubbish strewn everywhere, with a lot of construction work going on too.  Looks like some footpaths, and sewerage systems are being put in.
Interviewed a UPP officer about the social projects that are being put in place for residents of the community under the auspices of UPP.
I also met an Anglican priest from the UK, who came to work in the community after seeing the film.  He said he could not understand how a community named City of God, could be so deprived and depraved, and decided to go there to see what he could do to help.
I went on to interview a resident of the community, Rosineide, who was born and raised in CDD.  She has two daughters, one with special needs.  Rosineide described how the community was before UPP arrived.  Kids as young as nine were enticed into trafficking groups and the young would die young.  They would maybe last until they were eleven or twelve, before being killed.  She remembers teenagers dying every day in the community, and mothers screaming and crying in the street because they did not know where to find the bodies of their sons so that they could bury them.
Often, the traffickers would arrive to a house, and abuse the daughters there before kicking the family out onto the street.  Residents had no eyes, and no ears, she said, and were not permitted to complain or show emotion.  People could be summarily executed for saying the tiniest thing.
All businesses in the community would be forced to pay out on the traffickers birthday, for example, so he could throw himself a party.  When a trafficker was killed, the schools and businesses would all close as all hell broke loose while members within the same faction engaged to shootouts to establish a new top dog.
This was couple with ongoing battles between CDD and neighbouring Gardenia Azul, a community subject to the control of a militia group.
Now, peace has entered CDD, Rosineide says, for the first time ever.  But, everyone is still afraid, because they have no idea what will transpire with a change of governance in the city, or indeed after the games.
Blog posted January 2012, refers to interview conducted November 2011

Met Theresa Williamson, founder and president of Catalytic Communities, an organisation that works to destigmatise favelas and their residents.  She says the problem in violence currently seen in the favelas is as much a problem with so-called militia groups, as it is with traditional drugs trafficking factions.  Both provide supoosed security in favela communities.  Militias dole out severe punishment, including decapitation, for those who disobey their particular rules.
According to Theresa, 41% of favelas are currently under the control of militia groups, while another 41% are under the control of drugs gangs.
Theresa defined a favela as a community that is exempt from state services, not to be confused with a squat, a shanty, or a slum, she says.
She says favelas are the safest places in Rio de Janeiro.  Petty crime does not exist at all within the favela community, and residents leave their doors open all of the time.  Those living in the community know better than to go thieving, etc. as that may call in the attention of police, which is completely unacceptable to whoever is ruling the roost.
Blog posted December 2011, refers to interview conducted November 2011
Met Ignacio Cano, expert on Urban Violence at the University of Rio de Janeiro.  He has consistently reported on police violence and there have been several attempts to deport him on the back of this.  He says he doesn’t fear for his safety however, as he does not mention the names of individual police officers in his reports, and therefore is not directly hampering anyone’s career.
The implementation of UPPs has had a definite effect, and a very positive one, he says.  There are fewer shoot-outs, which is a great result.  But, crime rates may be  rising in other favelas as traffickers relocate.  However, traffickers are easier to apprehend as they are forced to flee to other favelas.  The drugs trade is still booming as before, he says, just in a more discrete manner, and without guns.  And, implementing UPP’s in just 17 of Rio’s favelas is a mere drop in the ocean.
Cano said successive governments in Rio have been concentrating their efforts on one particular drugs trafficking faction, Commando Vermelho – the strongest in Rio.  He said this was proving dangerous, as other factions slid in to fill the vacuum, opening territorial warfare once again.
Met Mauricio Hora, a photographer who was born and raised in Morro do Providencia, Brasil’s first favela.  He is the son of one of the first traffickers in Rio de Janeiro.  The system of banditry endemic in Rio was normal to him when he was growing up; that was just the way things were.  According to him, the greatest scenes of violence he ever saw growing up in the community was always when the police entered the favela.
Mauricio said that all of the favelas in which the UPP have been implanted to date are the territory of Comando Vermelho, one of Rio’s three main drug trafficking factions.  He says the current Mayor of Rio, Sergio Cabral, has always had a particular distaste for this faction.  All the guns in the favelas come courtesy of the police in the first place, he claimed.
He says the police have close ties with Terceiro Comando, another of the factions.  Hora’s worry is that once the international spotlight is removed after the Olympic Games and World Cup, that the occupied favelas will be devolved to the control of this drug faction.  He fears that things will go right back to the way they were before UPPs were implemented.
We spoke of Parada de Lucas, the favela I visited on Sunday, and a mutual friend we have there. Mauricio says he cannot risk going to visit her there, or to any other favela controlled by rival factions, even though he has no links with drugs trafficking gangs personally.  He face is too well known, he says, and he would fear for his safety in many parts of the city. While he lives in Rio de Janeiro, he will continue to be linked to the legacy of this father, and the community he grew up in.
Mauricio explained how the traffickers effectively police the favela communities.  There are no courts of law, so if someone needs to be punished, and a lesson sent out to others in the community, killing them is often seen as the easiest solution.
Mauricio spoke of the high number of young people who are being summarily executed by the police.  He complained of a loophole that allows this practice to continue unabated.  If a police officer says there was resistance, and that shots were fired in a confrontation, then they are effectively exempt from prosecution.  He mentioned a specific incident last year, where police killed three youngsters, and carried their bodies elsewhere, so it wouldn’t be on their beat.

Went to visit Morro do Providencia today, and to an English course being provided by the US embassy there, and in other pacified favela communities.  There were kids roaming the corridors of the UPP headquarters, which felt more like a community centre, with different courses on offer.  There were five kids in attendance at the English class, one of them who was so tired, he was bearly there at all.  The kids say UPP is good, and they are no longer scared of being killed by a stray bullet, a fairly common cause of accidental death in favela communities.

There is work going on everywhere I go around the city.  Every part of the city looks like a construction site at the moment, causing traffic chaos for commuters.   Also, everyone’s rent is shooting up as landlords get ready to cash in on the Olympic windfall, pushing many residents out of the city.
Providencia was Rio’s first favela, indeed Brasil’s first favela. Emancipated slaves began to settle on this steep hillside overlooking the port where they were previously traded.  Now, as part of Rio de Janeiro’s enormous pre-Olympic facelift, Providencia is being sliced up, which means booting out any residents who get in the way of this “progress”.  Recently, residents doors have been daubed with paint, the city’s classy way of indicating that a residence, a family, are to be removed.  Without dialogue, someone comes along and dabs paint on the door.  For whoever lives inside that door, it means trouble on the horizon.
In Providencia, no-one has been told if they will be re-housed, and if so, where.  Cidade de Deus is a prime example of ill-thought-out re-housing, to make way for “progress” for city folk.  Will familes compensated, and if so how?  What would any money be worth to people who have lived in a community for decades, with jobs held locally, and kids attending local schools.   Residents have been refusing to sign agreements to leave their homes, and according to one source, city officials have tried getting young kids to sign on behalf of their parents.
The fact that they are even bothering with paperwork is surprising – the arrival of a bulldozer is a more typical tactic.  But, the paperwork must mean the city knows it cannot just push the people out.  However, they will go to any lengths to get some familial mark on the forms, it seems.