‘The Red Line, the principal access to the
"The cases of violence are concentrated in the points of access. Bandits can attack motorists and flee by car or on foot. It's clear that for the police, it's much easier to put up a wall and try to catch bandits that are in a car on a flowing highway rather than if they were on foot, hiding in some alley [in a favela]."
The short article concludes by noting that "all of the walls will be painted by artists from the communities as part of the social projects that will be brought to the neighboring favelas."
The walls along Rio's principal highways will accomplish a couple of things and will not accomplish some others:
1) the barriers will block the favelas from plain view along the major routes of access between the International Airport and the Olympic Zone in Barra de Tijuca as well as to the Center and Zona Sul.
2) the barriers will further separate communites that are already divided by the highway. There are no pedestrian over or under passes.
3) once installed, the walls will generate temporary employment for a few atrists who can decorate the cage within which their community has been contained.
4) the symbolic economy of the wall will serve as a futher reminder that people living in favelas are better unseen and unheard, augmenting the stigma of living in a favela.
5) will probably reduce the chances of motorists being hit by stray bullets, but will also reduce the escape routes for motorists in the case of a arrrastão, which is a generalized mob assault on gridlocked cars.
6) eliminate or reduce the access to the highways for community residents whose primary employment is selling food and water to motorists stuck in traffic.
7) will make it less likely that bandidos who rob a car can escape into a favela, but because the walls are so low, stopping the car next to the wall will make for a very effective ladder.
These walls will not:1) significantly reduce noise levels because they are too low (bottom at right). Similar walls in the United States (top photo at right), specifically designed to reduce noise from interstate traffic are typically 7-10 meters high.
3) generate long-term employment or contribute to solving the problems of Rio de Janeiro.
The Problem with Walls
The International Court of Justice condemned the Israeli wall as a violation of international and humanitarian law, and Mexico has considered taking the United States to the IOJ over the Border Wall (though the USA does not belong to the organization, thanks Obama). Belfast was, until recently, a torrid war zone. India and Pakistan have undefined and contested frontiers. Saudi Arabia built a wall following the deteriorating security conditions in Paul Bremer's Iraq. Morocco built the "Wall of Shame" to control the mineral resources of Western Sahara. Cyprus is in a perpetual civil war. Rio de Janeiro is building walls to hide poverty from plain view. Soon, the highways of Rio de Janeiro will resemble the final scene in Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" in which an endless series of billboards isolates the road.
The idea that "good fences make good neighbors" does not apply in a geo-political context nor within the complex political and residential economy of a city as sharply divided along class and geographic lines as Rio de Janeiro.
To return to the article that brought me to this discussion it is sufficient to note that in some parts of Rio de Janeiro, walls are coming down in order to enhance the quality of life. In other parts of the city, walls are going up for very different reasons. The generalized rationale and effects of Rio's walls are the same as those in every other society that erects physical barriers in order to accent and re-enforce difference. The government's claim that these walls are meant to protect the environment or reduce noise pollution is an absurdity matched only by the lack of irony in the Brazilian media.