Rio favela dwellers resist eviction for 2016 Olympics - Pakistan Today

Rio favela dwellers resist eviction for 2016 Olympics

For its residents, Rio’s Vila Autodromo shantytown is a quiet corner of drug-free paradise. For authorities, it is land where a highway leading to the 2016 Summer Games Olympic village will be built. City officials want the entire community moved to a nearby housing complex — but the 3,000 inhabitants of the slum, which lacks running water and schools, refuse to abandon their homes.
Rio de Janeiro is going through growing pains as it prepares for the 2014 World Cup, and especially the Summer Olympics in four years. Authorities are cracking down on crime, upgrading boulevards, and cleaning up notorious shanty towns, known in Brazil as favelas.
Officials’ eyes have long been focused on the Vila Autodromo favela, located on the Jacarepagua lagoon in the western Barra de Tijuca district. Pedro Paulo Franklin, a retired firefighter who lives with his wife, daughters and grand-daughters in Vila Autodromo, has no intention of moving.
“The eviction is totally absurd. God gave us this little corner of paradise,” the 71-year-old retiree said as he proudly showed his fig, coconut, acerola and papaya trees.
“We built it with our own hands, with much sweat, effort, dedication and love,” he told AFP. Vila Autodromo residents say they have a so-called “right of possession,” which entitles them to occupy the land on which they live. But for the past 20 years city authorities have tried to evict them under various pretexts. “Our government wants to act like Robin Hood, but the other way around: take from the poor to give to the rich,” said Altair Guimaraes, president of the Vila Autodromo residents’ association. “I have no intention of leaving. I intend to resist in every possible way, because, by right, this land is ours and I have been living here for the past 17 years,” he said. “I don’t understand much because I can’t read nor write,” said 70-year-old Antonia Henrique Macena. “But we have been here for so many years. Why don’t they leave us alone in our little corner? Where are they going to put us, for Christ’s sake?” he asked. — The alternative proposal — The Olympic village project being developed by the British firm AECOM would leave the community intact, but authorities say residents need to be evicted to make way for the new highway.
In an attempt to avoid eviction, Vila Autodromo residents last year asked urban planners from two Rio universities to come up with an alternative. Guimaraes and other residents delivered the plan, which included paved streets, sanitation, a school and a nursery, to Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes on August 16.

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