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…
Cabral, who is otherwise all in favour of video surveillance, did everything he could to stop this law, but in vain. The reason that the pro-police governor is so against this particular law and order measure is that the cameras are supposed to be installed not simply to ‘protect’ police officers but also to prevent abuse of power, corrupt practice and police violence against suspects. This is a huge issue in Rio (and Brazil more generally), and we saw a good example of this recently with the inhumane actions by officers after the fatal assault on Evandro, the founder of Afro-Reggae.
However, I do wonder how officers will take this development, how the cameras will be used in practice, and how many of them will conveniently experience technical failures at important moments…
(Thanks to Paola Barreto Leblanc for the heads up)
if this appointment is any sign of what is to come… this is going to be war on the favelas.
So, with Rio de Janeiro now hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, and a huge set of social problems providing big obstacles to a PR success and the place climbing the world rankings of ‘global cities’, who have the right-wing administration of Governor Sergio Cabral and Mayor Eduardo Paes appointed to advise them on security?
As I’ve argued before, Giuliani’s macho urban politics have inspired the new tough choque de ordem (shock of order) approach that has flourished under Paes undermining the previous progressive social measures of former Mayor Cesar Maia, in particular the Favela Bairro program that attempted to make the illegal settlements in which the excluded minority of Rio’s population live, into normal functioning neighbourhoods. Cabral and Paes have turned this back into an ongoing confrontation, which is costing lives and livelihoods, and if this appointment is any sign of what is to come, the World Cup and the Olympics are going to mean more than just the usual high security and surveillance exhibition that these mega-events have become – this is going to be war on the favelas and war on the poor.
(As ever, thanks to my eyes in Rio, Paola Baretto Leblanc, for the link).