OGlobo’s mission is not to report fully the story but to spin what the government is doing in such a way as to make it more palatable to the middle and upper middle classes. This is why OGlobo continually refers to the occupation of favelas via the installation of UPPs as “The War of Rio”. It’s not a war, porra! These are military actions to gain control of strategic areas of the city. The general hope is that once the presence of the state is installed through violence (or the threat of), that other state functions such as education, sanitation, water provision, and health care will begin to appear. So far, these programs have been limited to massively centralized, top-down projects. It will take years to evaluate the effectiveness of these new projects. The concentration of military force and urbanization projects in the Olympic Zones of Rio is compounding the already grossly unequal urban, social, and economic geographies of Rio.
The economic and geographic logics for the occupations are clear. UPPs function to install the state in the areas within the so-called Olympic Rings of Rio traffickers so that:
1) New consumers can be added to the market. Form Ancelmo Gois today, “Mintues after BOPE occupied the São Carols yesterday, an elite troop of Sky salespeople (a cable provider) disembarked in the carioca favela. They set up headquarters on top of the hill…to take advantage of the presence of the law in the community that will put an end to the pirating of cable services.” Nossa senhora. So now, when BOPE goes into a favela they have embedded commercial interests? This is not the first instance of this trend. Light, the electricity provider, is giving away free refrigerators in the Complexo do Alemão, as long as the new consumers legalize their electricity service. By pacifying the favelas, the state opens up new markets for service providers. That they act in such a concerted manner is reflective of the general logics of capital accumulation (insert your favorite David Harvey quote here:).
2) Real estate values can be unlocked. The mere mention of the installation of a new UPP increases real-estate prices in the targeted favelas and their surrounding neighborhoods. (insert favorite Raquel Rolink quote here).
3) The new security regime of Rio can be broadcast to the world announcing that the city is safe for accelerated capital accumulation. While I don’t think that UPPs are only a Potemkin exercise, the ostentatious displays of power are not only for local audiences. What is not reported in the national media is that while the international showpiece city of Rio de Janeiro is becoming safer, the entire northeast of Brazil is exploding in violence. The cities of Salvador, Natal, Recife and Fortaleza will all receive World Cup projects and all have seen dramatic increases in violent crime in recent years. The massive investments in the South-east of the country not only increase geographic and social inequalities within the cities themselves, but extend this inequality to other parts of the country. This is one of the issues that we’ll be taking up in the Mega-events observation project.
4) Armed drug trafficking will become increasingly concentrated in other parts of the city and state so that the police will be able to more easily eliminate it. From p.12 of today’s paper: “Traffickers from the Complexo de São Carols and the favelas of Santa Teresa, knowing that the occupation was coming, fled to Rocinha, Costa Barros, the favelas in Caju, and communities in Enenho da Rainha…Residents of Santa Teresa were adamant in saying that traffickers had fled once the governor announced that the favelas would be occupied.” Ok, fine, they’ve left for other communities. But is that the end of the story? What is happening in the places where the traffickers go to? Are these places becoming more violent? I assume that a higher concentration of violent people with more weapons would make for a more hostile place to live. The map below would suggest the same. Is the government working to identify how the dislocations of armed and violent drug traffic to other parts of the city and state are negatively affecting hundreds of thousands of people in the same way that OGlobo crows about the numbers of people “benefitted” by the UPPs? Given that the demand for drugs is never, ever going to diminish, how will the government “regulate” it? Are they trying to move the sale of marijuana to the middle class kids of the Zona Sul? Why is “Toke” the sponsor on the jerseys of the referees in the Campeonato Carioca? (para os Brasileiros, em inglês, “Toke” quer dizer dar uma tapinha num baseado). Perhaps this explains some of their bizarre decisions.
5) To demonstrate that the city, state and national governments are inveting massively in public works that work for the public. However, the total investments in urbanization of favelas and the occupation of communities in Rio will probably only total around R$2-3 billion, while the spending just for the Maracanã reforms will be around R$1.5 billion and the proposed budget for the Olympics is R$ 30 billion. So while it is laudable that the government is finally putting some money where its mouth is, they are talking more to FIFA and the IOC than to the people, communities, and entities with whom they have a longer standing and more substantial contract.
The movement of drug trafficking and drug traffickers within Rio de Janeiro is making the coming Battle of Rocinha and the Battle of Vidigal even more complex than they were. These battles will happen either this year or next. Maybe before the Jogos Militares in July? (Will someone please correct their English on this site? Nossa. “Meet the history of Santa Cruz air base”. I offered to help, but received no reply).
In happier news, Vasco da Gama finally won, giving them 4 points after 6 games.