Thu, Jun 11, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Slum resists eviction for Olympics

AP, RIO DE JANEIRO

Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, lauded by the International Olympic Committee for organizing the Rio Olympics, has been driving the evictions.

In a statement to reporters, city hall said it has awarded 96 million reals (US$31.1 million) in compensation and that many residents have moved to nearby Parque Carioca, a development for families resettled from Vila Autodromo.

“The negotiation process conducted between city hall and the residents of Vila Autodromo has always been transparent,” the statement said.

Mentioned as a candidate for Rio state governor, Paes has spoken out angrily at being forced to pay rising compensation to get people to move.

“At one given moment, a bunch of NGOs [non-governmental organizations], international organizations, political parties and public defenders came in,” Paes told Rio’s O Globo newspaper. “This is the result: people who don’t need it are getting fortunes to vacate a public area. This is demagoguery.”

One of Rio’s best organized and safest favelas, Vila Autodromo grew out of a fishing village in the 1960s. Many of its residents got lawyers or volunteers to help oppose the city’s plans — which has driven up the cost of eviction. Estimates suggest that some residents running small businesses received as much as 3 million reals, with the low-end figure about 100,000 reals.

Residents argue that they have legal titles to their properties, having been granted 99-year leases in 1994 to help guarantee against eviction. They also question why their relatively small parcel is needed for the Olympics.

A study by two major Rio universities said Vila Autodromo could have been upgraded with new roads, a medical clinic, a day care center, a new sewer system and other amenities for about 14 million reals.

City authorities have spent about seven times that on evictions, suggesting the potential value of Rio’s most prized real estate in the western suburb of Barra da Tijuca.

Luiz Dos Santos, a 52-year-old man, said he has taken compensation and is leaving.

“For us, what is over there doesn’t mean anything,” he said, gesturing toward the Olympic Park. “That’s for them, not for us.”

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