Corruption and violence continue in the pacified favelas….
Started off this morning by meeting Daniella Guedes Rocha of Viva Favela, a website which acts nationally as a portal for all things occurring within the favela communities. On the go for ten years, Viva Favela gives favela residents a place to announce events, to denounce happenings, and to voice concerns within the communities.
According to Daniella, the official count of favela communities has diminished from 1,200 to around 600. The communities have not disappeared, of course. Rather, they are being bunched together into “complexes” for and by the number crunchers. Stats read better that way.
Replacing the traficantes with UPP amounts to replacing one type of dictatorship with another, she says. There are still uzis being brandished in people’s faces, only this time in the arms of police rather than drugs traffickers. What is the difference for a resident? A bar owner playing music after 10pm had seven heavily armed cops rock up to his door. Why couldn’t they put away the guns, and just explain that the music needs to be turned off? They don’t need to bully residents like this.
Went to the state sponsored Parada Funk yesterday. An interesting experience. All of the usual factors were there, well most lets say. Ambalantes selling beers, caipirinhas, sausages and whiskey. Several walls of sound with heavy baselines competing for the grinding hips of those assembled. There were, of course, some differences between this daytime Baile Funk, and the ones normally hosted at night by the drug gangs.
The conventional (word used lightly) baile funk is hosted by the gang who controls the favela, and one cannot avoid seeing large guns at every turn. Anyone who is carrying a gun is doing so over his head, waving it around as he dances – a daft and comedic looking sight, if not so tragic. Teenagers who can bearly support the weight of their weapons of war, shake them around above their heads. They want to leave no doubt in anyone’s mind just who is in charge, who’s the sexiest one of all, etc, etc.
At yesterday’s Baile Funk in Centro, the same amount of artillery could be seen, only this time it was in the hands of the cops instead. There was a huge police presence at the event, and a great sense of tension at their standpoints. You see, the Baile Funk, by its very essence is a subversive affair. The lyrics promote and flaunt criminality ad anti-police sentiment. In the minds of (many) police officers, anyone who lives in a favela (ie one-third of the population of the city) is a bandido.
It goes against everything the cops believe in to allow this bandit dancing to continue. They are acting counter intuitive to allow this. But, they have no choice. The powers that be have made their decision, and they in turn, have no choice. While the community police have been occupying favelas, one of the things banned has been funk music, and the infamous baile funks – to the relief of many, and to the consternation of many others. Rather than face a cultural revolt, the authorities have been forced to compromise and yesterday’s daylight baile was an example of this.
How often these will be allowed, and how they will develop is, as yet, unclear. The location of yesterday’s baile had to be changed three times; frist it was scheduled to be held at Cinelandia, then Candelaria, and eventually changed to Carioca. The location changes were apparently at the behest of conservation people. now, during Carnaval, all of these locations are crammed sardine-style with drunken frolickers, made up of the middle classes, tourists, and the favelados. It shows the level of paranoia and ignorance. The authorities were afraid, afraid of what these poor people would do. Would they join forces and wreak anarchy on the city? Would the bandidos arrive with their arms in the air, as they are accustomed to doing at Baile Funks?
Not a bit of it. Yesterday was a beach day, sun splitting the stones. Cariocas were at the beach. The beach is every Carioca’s priority, especially of a Sunday, and as the summer starts to flirt with the city, most city-folk were on the sand yesterday afternoon.
There were a few thousand at the Baile in Carioca yesterday, young people dancing is all. Dancing with their toddler son their shoulders – same as the night-time bailes so. (Interestingly, the aspect of yesterday’s event that huge media company OGlobo decided to cover, was that people were urinating in the street – was that really the biggest news of the day? Or, does it suit a certain stereotype?)
I interviewed some people on the street for the radio documentary, which seemed to make some people very uncomfortable. “Move away from her with that,” one plain clothed security guy told me. “Clear away. We don’t want the PM (police) coming around here.”
In the evening, I went to visit a favela called Parada de Lucas, in the north zone of the city. There is no UPP here, nor will there ever be, most likely. The community is simply not of strategic interest to those who decide where to place UPPs. In other words, tourists don’t go there.
Teenagers clad in black swat gear man various corners of the community and walk the streets with their machine guns strapped across their chests, fingers on the trigger, ready for action. They are children, children with nothing better to do. Children playing a deadly war game. Children who have taken the law into their own hands, in the absence of state services, and who are rewarded with power and rpestige in return. They patrol the meandering laneways of the community, stopping anyone they choose in their tracks. They are the almighty ones, and egos are super-inflated – as too are neuroses.
I am there as a foreign volunteer, as I have worked in a project CIACAC, for the past few years, helping to provide alternatives for children and youngsters who want to make other choices for their times, and for their lives. My presence is noted by the bandidos, and as a volunteer, it is ok for me to be there. I have been forewarned that to use my camera, even to snap seemingly harmless subjects, could be dodgy.
In London now. Flying tomorrow. Have sent emails to lots of contacts in Rio. No way of knowing who will get back to me, as Brasilians don’t always functions through the medium of email.
Just got word from Julia Michaels, author of the excellent bilingual blog RioReal , that there will be a Baile Funk party in Centro on Sunday. Traditionally, Baile Funks are the work of the bandidos – all night parties thrown for the favela residents by the drug gangs that control the community. One of the upshots of the UPP movement is that they no longer allow funk parties, based on the explicit sexual nature of the lyrics, and the promotion of criminal activity enshrined there too.
Sunday’s party will be a daytime affair, and state sponsored too. Will many favela residents show up? Or, will it be a little rich kid “getting down and dirty”, pretending to be favelados affair. Lets see. Making contact now in a few UPP controlled favelas.
Would like to go see Cidade de Deus, where the film of the same name was based. The UPP were brought in there fllowing the international attention brought about by the film of the same name. Last year, the local drug gang burnt a commuter van full of people. They said they wanted to send a message that UPP was not cool, not welcome, not working.
What’s the situation like there now? Would be great to sneak a peek. Lets see how time runs.
On the flight now. Just two hours to landing. Have had a response from Viva Favela, so will try to organise something with them early in the week. They are an NGO working in the area of youth and violence within the favela network.
Also, have had word back from Manuel, who has been conducting a study of residents reactions to the UPP movement for a Industry Federation. Unfortunately, he is in Paris right now, but hoping there may be someone on the ground in Rio that can chat on this. Or, maybe he can at least make some of his, as yet unpublished, findings known to me.
Excited now at the prospect of landing and getting cracking at this project.
Still don’t have a contact within the police themselves, but will be in a UPP HQ in Providencia on Tuesday visiting English language project, so hopefully can speak to some officers there then.
Awaiting more community contacts to get back to me. Hopefully, it will all come together ok within such a short timeframe.
This blog will follow my production of a radio documentary regarding the implantation of UPP police force in some favelas in Rio de Janeiro.
Have listen to this report for RTE Radio One’s World Report, broadcast on November 20th 2011, for some backdrop to the story. .. You’ll need RealPlayer to listen to the link…