The Brazilian presidential elections may be only at the half-way stage – with Lula’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, not quite securing the 50% she needed to avoid a run-off, largely due to a late surge by the radical Green Party candidate, Maria Silva – but the results of the elections for Rio de Janeiro’s Governor were much clearer. The incumbent, Sergio Cabral, was easily re-elected with just over 66% of the vote. Second was, once again, a Green Party candidate, Fernando Gabeira, with almost 21%, followed by a slew of minor candidates.
Cabral was expected to win as he is supported by the growing middle classes who have done well due to the economic bouyancy of Rio in the last few years. However, it is by no means clear that this result will do much good for the poorest in society. Cabral, along with the Mayor Eduardo Paes, favours a hardline approach to the favelas and their inhabitants, favouring a law-enforcement and crime-control approach to a social one – what Paes calls the choque de ordem. In this sense he is out of step with the national government, however for the middle class of Rio reading their copies of O Globo behind the doors of their secured apartments, the favelas represent not an unfair city which is still unable to close the massive gap between the rich, growing ever richer, and the poor, but a spectre of criminal disorder and a source of fear
The upcoming mega-events, particularly the FIFA World Cup, 2014, and the Olympics in 2016, have only strengthened the feeling amongst the privileged that Rio must simply crack down on violence rather than dealing with the underlying problems (poverty and the international drugs and small arms trades) that fuel the violence. What this means in practice is ‘out of sight, out of mind’: walling off favelas, installing surveillance cameras, stopping the illegal street vending that gives many in the favelas some small hope of a livelihood, and demolishing high-profile new construction.
*For more on my work in Brazil and in Rio de Janeiro, see the entries from January to April last year…