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Field of Faith | Irreal Estate?

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There are suspicions of irregular real estate development, clandestine landfill and the presence of militia in the area.

The amounts of these two disbursements have not been disclosed — only the total costs: R$26 million in public funds and  R$ 300 million in funding from the WYD.

What will happen to the vast tract of land set aside for the so-called Campus Fidei — Field of Faith — now that World Youth Day is over? For background on the story, see

This is the R$ 326 million question.

And the organizing committee of World Youth Day could not be less transparent.

In this selection of coverage — surprisingly — Veja magazine offers a moving, first-hand account of life in the community and the changes wrought by their removal from the Elysian Fields.

Donation by the Archdiosese?

Source:  SRZD (Globo)

Rio de Janeiro mayor Eduardo Paes, said Sunday [– July 28 –] that the Field of Faith, the area that will host the vigil and closing mass of the Papal visit and World Youth Day, could be used to mount an open-air musical show. The object would be to take advantage of the stage built by the church and to minimize the losses to area residents.

“We will see how we can compensate [for the cancellation], create attractions in that area. They gave me the idea of using the stage for a musical show. We will have to see, this could be a good idea,” said Paes.

The organizing body of the WYD switched the location where the closing mass would be celebrated due to the rains of recent days, which turned the site into a quagmire.

Area residents who bought food and drink to sell to the pilgrims wound up taking the loss.

Along with the idea for holding a show, the  mayor announced that he intends to transform the area into a popular neighborhood. Neither the plans nor the number of residential units have been defined, but the apartments will go to shantytown dwellers in the area.

To reduce the cost of this project, Paes said he would go to court to expropriate the land in order to avoid reimbursing the investments made by World Youth Day in the area, such as its investment in the general earthworks. “It will be as if the Church were donating the land to the people of Rio,” he said.

Donating a  “quagmire” in an environmental protection and flood zone, bulldozed flat. As if?

The mayor went on to say that the decision was made after obtaining the approval of the Pope, represented by Rio archbishop dom Orani Tempesta.

Minha Casa, Minha Vida

Estado Conteudo reports on another approach to cleaning up after the flood: Federalize the project as part of the My House, My Life social subsidy.  The report ran on July 29.

Passed over by organizers of World Youth Day after rains turned it into a quagmire, the Guaratiba area of the Western Zone … will be transformed into a public housing project as part of the Minha Casa, Minha Vida program.

The development will be christened “The Field of Faith of Pope Francis”. The announcement by Rio archbishop Orani Tempesta, duing the closing mass in  Copacabana, was confirmed by Rio mayor Eduardo Paes.

“The fact is that the church invested a lot of money there, and this should not be wasted. Only the owners of the area have benefited.  The city will sue to expropriate the area and we will hold a competition with the Institute of Brazilian Architects to build a popular neighborhood for the poorest citizens,” the mayor said on his Twitter account.

The IAB issued the following terse statement on the situation …

The Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil (IAB) believes it necessary to elaborate a General Place for Guaratiba, in the Western  Zone of Rio, and at the same time freeze the licenses for public works in the area for 180 days. In the view of the IAB, it is essential to supply the popular neighbhorhoods already occupying the area with infrastructure and public services, as well as to avoid the expansion of the city, which is incompatible with the universalization of public services. The IAB also believes that strict observance of environmental regulation is needed.

As the mayor was saying,

Paes explained that the expropriation is one way of guaranteeing the correct valuation of the land, including the investments of the WYD organizing committee — but without accounting for it as a real asset, but rather as a “donation” of the Church.

The mayor could not estimate the amount to be invested in the new neighborhood. “If the event had taken place there, the investment of the Church would have been justified. But it did not take place, and I saw that Dom Orani was very distressed by this,” he said.

The mayor acknowledges the lack of decent housing conditions in Guaratiba — it has one of the lowest Human Development Index scores in all of Rio (118th of 126 regions studied) — and cited the construction of the  BRT TRansoeste (a bus corridor that connects the Western Zones with the Northern Zone) as an example of investment. He said that the city will invest in infrastructure for the new neighborhood, including sewage treatment, schools, and family clinics.

Announced as the “promised land” of World Youth Day in November 2012 the Guaratiba Field of Faith, measuring 1.7 million square meters, underwent five months of preparatory work.

It could not be used for the vigil and mass because of several days of incessant rain. The activities were moved to Copacabana. The use of the land is under investigation by the state attorney because it is an Area of Permanent (Environmental) Protection.

There are suspicions of irregular real estate development, clandestine landfill and the presence of militia in the area.

Part of the lands supposedly belong to the hereditary city bus mogul Jacob Barata Filho.

Paes denied there was anything irregular about the environmental licenses obtained for the project.

The city provides drainage for the rivers and the public works in the surrounding area, and the Organizing Committee of WYD paid the costs of the earthworks and the construction on the site.

The details of these two sums have not been disclosed — only the total costs: R$26 million in public funds and  R$ 300 million in funding from the WYD.

The area is an example of the manguezal ecosystem, and because it lies below sea level, close to a river choked with silt, there has always existed the possibility of heavy accumulation of water in the area. During Sunday’s mass, Dom Orani said that although the event was moved from Guaratiba to Copacabana, WYD had called attention to the difficulties of the peripheral  and suggested to the mayor that the area be transformed into a popular neighborhood.

A flood-prone neighborhood, with quagmires, toxic waste and — nearly all the news source mentioned it in passing –militia activity, possibly in support of extralegal evictions.

Paes took advantage of the moment to improve his evaluation of the general organization of WYD. Early in the week, he had said that “it is much closer to zero than to ten.” On the final day of the event, he said it was “closer to ten.” “We lost the first battles, but we won the war,”he stated. According to Paes, “starting on Thursday”, everything went well. The mayor also downplayed organizational problems of the subway and crowd control at Copacabana.

The saga of Campus Fidei continues to raise more questions than it answers.

Veja |  Hard Rain

On July 27,l Cecília Ritto of Veja magazine filed a fine story on life in the quagmire that the Campus Fidei became. I translate an excerpt.

When the rain came, they returned to their puddles. The blanket of water covering the reddish earth created tiny mirrors that reflected fragments of the immense altar being built to receive Pope Francis. The Pope is not coming, and neither are the pilgrims with their colorful flags. Workers who observed the quagmire of Guaratiba in recent months already know that it will take a miracle for the land to support the events of Saturday and Sunday. Even so, the news that neither the pontiff nor the millions of the faithful would ever see the completed project was disappointing. “I cried all note. I would rather not talk about it, it makes me want to cry again. We gave it all our heart and soul. To me, it was  marvelous to work for the pope,” said André Luiz Ruela,  39, who worked at the Guaratiba site as a truck driver supplying the different lots with drinking water — a challenge to the temporary infrastructure being mounted. There were 12 vehicles performing this service. On the day of the closing mass, six remained inside the area of Campus Fidei, and Andre had negotiated to be one of the drivers to see the pope up close. “Now, I have no hope of seeing him,” he said.

Campus Fidei was delivered for the Sunday event after a six month battle against mud puddles that formed every time it rained. The project involved some 500,000 truckloads of earth used to level out the earth and a month of constant 24 hour a day labor, divided into two shifts. On Monday, a powerful rain storm hit Rio and the soil could not withstand it. A tractor had already been swallowed up by the mud while working on the project, and a truck got stuck in the mud while trying to make a delivery on Wednesday.

Civil Defense went out to the site and announced that it would not be possible to hold the event.  “It felt like someone had died,” said one of the workers, on Friday, as he dismantled the Campus Fidei. The workers were dispirited. During the months of labor, they felt they were participating in a historic construction. In time, they made friends — among themselves and with local residents.

“I did not want to take part in tearing it down. I have worked here for three months, and sleep in my car on week days. Here, everyone helps their neighbor. It is sad, but it did not have to be this way. If it had not rained, people would have come here to eat dust. If it rained, here comes the mud,” Paulo Roberto Costa,49 .

Some pilgrims arrived early at Guaratiba. A group of  25 young persons, accompanied by Father Clesio Ribeiro dos Santos, 34, arrived from Belo Horizonte on Friday morning. They occupied a house rented for 5,000 reais, 500 meters from the  Campus Fidei. “We rented the house seven months ago in order to be close to where the Pope would say mass. Now we run the risk of not participating in the event. From what I can see, there is nothing but bare earth here. It reminds me of the Naked Mountains,” the priest said.

Local commerce also suffered losses. Fábio Azevedo, owner of a convenience store, and Patricia Marques, owner of a market, joined forces to establish a system for selling food and drink to the pilgrmis. They invested R$ 300.000 in their inventory, rented two houses two months ago to stock and sell their products close by the Campus Dei. They learned on Thursday that there would be no event at  Guaratiba. “This is a great disrespect to those of us here. It is disheartening,” said Patricia, who had sent a sound car out into the streets to advertise her market. Fábio was stuck with half of the products for sale.  “Even if we resell the products, we lose R$ 100,000,” he explained.

Others invested less, like Jaqueline de Paula, 35, who took out a R$ 300 loan to buy dough for making baked goods.  “I am going to try to sell day and night to the people who are here. What else can I do?” said Jaqueline. On Thursday, she was on the bus when she heard that the celebration at Guaratiba was cancelled. She barely had time to call her supplier and tell her that she only needed 8 soda pop racks. Across the street, bar owner Cesar da Cruz, is angry with the loss and with the shame it brings. “A disappointment for us. An embarrassment for Brazil..

So much for shantytown capitalism. Where market forces come from the barrel of a gun.