Sat, Jan 11, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Fresh protests in Rio over expulsions, demolitions

AFP, RIO DE JANEIRO

Children play around a man dressed as Batman at the Favela do Metro slum near the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday. Some families living in the area have refused to have their homes demolished as part of a project to renovate the district before the FIFA World Cup.

Photo: AFP

Residents clashed with Brazilian police in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday in fresh protests at forced expulsions and demolitions in a slum near the Maracana stadium ahead of this year’s soccer World Cup.

Rio authorities stepped up security after the demolition of houses in the area on Tuesday sparked protests on Wednesday at the Metro slum that overlooks the stadium.

The area is being cleared as Brazil looks to spruce up the district in time for the World Cup in June. The Maracana will host the July 13 final.

About 50 people — including several members of the Black Blocs anarchist group, who fronted last year’s violent protests in Brazil against corruption and the cost of the World Cup — clashed with police.

Several threw stones and chunks of wood onto nearby railway tracks, delaying local overground metro trains.

In unrest overnight on Wednesday and into Thursday, police responded by firing rubber bullets.

On Wednesday, local people had blocked access to traffic along the Radial Oeste thoroughfare which runs parallel to the Maracana.

Refurbished of the stadium came at a cost of more than US$450 million.

An NGO based in the district for 14 years demanded that Brazilian judicial authorities intervene, with one lawyer saying on Wednesday that 637 families had been forcibly moved since 2010.

With several dozen houses still standing, but empty with most of their former owners rehoused by town hall authorities, some squatters have moved in.

About 15 families are still in about 40 houses left standing, but city authorities say the buildings will be torn down by the end of this month.

Lawyer and activist Eloisa Samy told reporters earlier this week: “It’s property speculation — they want to build a shopping mall here.”

“The Brazilian people, the poor, have to make sacrifices so everything can be spick and span for the World Cup,” Samy said.

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