29 December 2010

Laws, Evictions,and Demolitions, oh my!

This is the link to Law 12.350/2010 that will "abrir as pernas" (open the legs) of Brazil for FIFA.

FIFA will not pay taxes of any kind. Nothing imported for "use" during the World Cup, including trophies, banners, commemorative materials, print materials, etc. will be subject to import taxes. Oh, and neither will anything else, like comupters, structural engineering equipment, durable goods, pharmaceuticals (?), etc. FIFA will also not have to pay and tax on industrial products (IPI). Do you get the idea? FIFA is going to make a killing in Brazil! This will be the best World Cup ever!

But first the Brazilian Government has to kill some people. Don't worry, they're all guilty. Except when they are teenage girls surfing the web in their homes.

Or forcefully evict them from their homes. This new "Forced Eviction Count" will be tracking the total number of evictions in Rio as the city delivers xmas presents with a bulldozer. As of this writing the count is 2092. I predict that we will reach 10,000 by mid-2011.

Or restructure parts of the city (or cities) without thinking twice about the ironies and contradictions. I particularly like this recent bit, where Paes and Lula symbolically detonate the Perimetral (elevated highway) in Rio's Zona Portuaria. The mayor called the perimetral a "monstrengo" (monster) that had to be demolished. The Little Prince of Rio also confirmed the idea that mega-events are a great chance to unleash projects that have been waiting in the wings for decades. In this case, Paes suggests that the Zona Portuaria project has been 40 years in the making.

The planned demolition of the perimetral is not only rediculous but stupid. Even the brown-nosing Oglobo published alternative plans from architects to turn the highway into a park or to use alternative transportation lines on an infrastructure that was admittedly ill-conceived, but that is also very far from the end of its life-span. So while the city, state and federal governments are dipping into guaranteed social funds (FGTS) to demolish a bad idea to replace it with a worse one, they are also spending billions to build new types of perimetrals thoughout the city. These are called BRTs and if you look at the contador de depejas, you will see that all of the evictions are due to the installation of these really, really bad modes of transpotation (as I talked about a few posts ago).

The good news: there is significant mobilization working towards building a better city. Individuals, groups, and institutions are organizing, and quickly, to meet the immense challenges presented by the onslaught of mega-events. More good news comes from the fact that many of these projects have yet to leave paper, so there is time, but that time is running out.

The bad news: basically everything else. When I talk to people about what is happening in Rio in regard to the upcoming mega-events, it is very hard to find anything positive to say. The city is more expensive than ever. The city government is taking every possible step to homogenize culture and create neutered spaces of entertainment for a fickle global elite. The streets are becoming increasingly militarized.  The mayor himself is in debt to huge real-estate and civil engineering firms who funded his campaigns, thousands of people, normal, hard-working, law-abiding people, are being evicted from their homes to make way for transportation lines and stadiums that will leave no short or long term benefits for the city. The federal government is giving away the shop to FIFA  The Zona Portuaria is being turned into a privately managed realm of isolated spaces of consumption that will have no connection with the tens of thousands of people living there, mostly because they won't be able to live there anymore. IBM is arriving to give Big Brother a bigger, more mobile eye. Who knows, perhaps this is all inevitable...

That's all for a very entertaining and difficult 2010! Welcome to the thousands of new readers and thanks to those of you who tune in regularly. 2011 promises to be just as busy so please keep coming back. I'm taking a few weeks of holiday in the frigid USA, so I'll be back once I've resettled in the Cidade Maravilhosa.

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