Thu, May 12, 2011 - Page 19 News List

FEATURE: Brazil under fire for World Cup slum evictions

Reuters, RIO DE JANEIRO

Another example Gaffney cites is the more than US$600 million overhaul of Rio’s iconic Maracana Soccer Stadium for the World Cup, which forced it to close last year through 2013. The stadium will be bid out to the private sector, a move that local fans fear will result in higher ticket prices.

“When you look at what the projects are actually doing, they are fragmenting and dividing the city,” Gaffney said.

Forests of newly built condominiums for Brazil’s emerging middle class and billboards advertising real-estate opportunities line the route from downtown Rio to the western beach area where most Olympic events will be held.

Work has been underway for months here on the bus routes that officials say should ease congestion for the events and beyond, but which pass directly through poor communities.

“I didn’t have much choice. My four children would have been on the street,” said 43-year-old Tania Maria Alves, who accepted 40,000 reais (US$24,700) in compensation for her three-bedroom house and used it to buy a home nearby.

Amnesty head Salil Shetty, who visited affected communities on a visit to Brazil last month, told reporters some residents have been offered new homes up to 60km away and the compensation offers were often a “pittance.”

“There’s a sense that these issues of human rights are coming in the way of development,” he said.

Like most Brazilians, Sueli Afonso da Costa is passionate about soccer and swelled with pride when her country won the right to host the World Cup. Now, though, the event will always be tainted by the loss of her home in the Vila Harmonia slum, which was also in the way of the new bus route.

“The city never came in here to help us, to check on our health, our sanitation. But when it was time to destroy, they came in and robbed us,” the smartly dressed nurse said. “We are all for progress and the culture of sports, but in this case they came and destroyed our lives.”

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