By: Hugo Fanton
São Paulo — Sambodia — awaits a Robert Moses of its own.
Sociologist Hernando de Soto Polar [EN] has long maintained that the creativity of the slum-dwelling population is like an engine and its discreet disobedience — think of Rio slums and their taxicabs — what fuels an instinctual libertarian liberalism.
Then he went to work for Fujimori and trashed his intellectual credibility.
Like the Nobelist Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank — the noble savage who would be an entrepreneur who needs very little to better his conditions. The collections policies of Grameen programs have been likened to loan sharking,
Yoolim Lee and Ruth David discuss how microfinance and the Grameen model in South India have in recent years been distorted by venture capitalism and profit-makers. In some cases, poor rural families have suffered debt spirals, harassment by microfinance debt collectors, and in some cases suicide.
Are the enterprising shantytown dwellers of São Paulo any different? The distribution of CEUs — unified educational centers — is a positive sign and a symbol of semi-permanence.
At any rate, it would be interesting to produce an overlay juxtaposing the Arc of the Future of the current mayor and the Rodoanel — a pharaonic undertaking, as local pundits say, of Bostonian Big Dig proportions.
The only roadway extension not yet inaugurated, however, is the Eastern Zone, scheduled for a ribbon-cutting some time next (election) year .
The current plan produced by the city — Arco do Futuro — will affect all but the Southern and part of the Eastern Zones.
The construction of the northern arm of the Rodoanel is the trump card of the Alckmin government (PSDB) and the largest roadway project in Brazil.
Budgeted at R$ 6.5 billion, it is financed by the Interamerican Development Bank (BID), which will invest R$ 2 billion, and the federal government (R$ 1.7 billion), with the remainder provided by the state government.
From the beginning, the government has ignored the warning signs that the project would have a major social and environmental impact as it passed through densely populated areas and lands under environmental protection in the Serra da Cantareira.
Alckmin also shrugged off the experts who said the project was unnecessary, given that roadways already exist … that provide a route between the eastern highways (Dutra and Ayrton Senna) and the northern (Fernão Dias and Bandeirantes).
The promises made by Dersa, a São Paulo state government agency in charge of the projeect, and by other members of the government was that the impact would be minimal and that families affected by the project would not have their rights violated.
This, by the way, is one of the conditions imposed on the BID loan. In order to satisfy it, the government has offered families two options: an apartment in a CDHU housing project, with a rent subsidy good until the project is finished, or a fair compensatory settlement.
What we are witnessing now, as the first expropriations begin, is quite different from what was promised and agreed upon. Very small amounts of compensatory damages, psychological pressure, a lack of guarantees and support for affected families have been the norm rather than the exception in such neighborhoods as Jardim Paraná, in Brasilândia, and Parada de Taipas, in the region of Jaraguá, two of the communities most affected by the project.
Dersa outsourced the preparation of inspection reports on houses that serve as a basis for calculating compensation to residents to a company called Diagonal.
[Case study of the joint venture. Settlement conditions were reportedly negotiated with a group called Cooperativa Habitacional Rodoanel, headquartered in Osasco]. The only contemporary reference I can find was a case study from 2002, where we read about Diagonal’s
…. management and execution of social services during the process of evictions and forced relocations of families destined for the Sylvio Gonçalves Pereira housing project and the Rodoanel Padroeira resident reserve, as well as overseeing the post-occupation of the residences in these two housing projects in addition to the Rodoanel Osasco residential area, as an integreated part of the resettlement plan of the RodoanelMario Covas — Western Route — as specified by the Environmental Impact Study and Report.
These inspections, which took into account only the “value added” of the homes, ignoring the time residents had lived there and the physical dimensions of the lots, as they should have under the Law of Usucaption, were carried out between July and September of this year.
Many residents were indignant at the results, complaining of how little they received in the settlement.
Oddly, the government’s method for compensating those affected by the northern stretch of the Rodoanel differed from that adopted in other public works projects, such as the subway system’s Line 17-Gold, which removed entire communities from the area around the Avenida Água Espraiada [Roberto Marinho, Journalista] in the Southern Zone.
In those cases, residents received between R$ 85,000 and R$ 119,000. In Jardim Paraná and Parada de Taipas, the settlements offered were much more various and considerably lower: R$ 2,000, R$ 5,000, R$ 15,000.
The overwhelming majority of the families were offered a settlement that makes it impossible for them to moveto a decent new home. Once again, these families are forced to migrate to irregular lands, such as … environmentally protected areas or shantytowns. That is to say, the State itself is providing these people with an incentive to occupy irregular properties, from which, most likely, theywill be evicted once again in a few years time. Illustrating this process are the for sale signs in front of irregular construction placed in the area where Dersa maintains its services center.
To force families to swallow these laughable settlement, the government simply refrains from informing them of the deadlines and the location of the land where the new housing units will be built. Put it like this: without knowing where the new housing units will be built and how long it will take beforet hey are ready, residents are induced to opt for the settlement. . Since the beginning, organizations like the Escritório Modelo at PUC, which works in the communities in partnership with the public defender and the Public Ministry, have demanded that the government publish the exact location where the housing units will be built.
Government tactics to force families out
Those who opted for the new housing units were kept in the dark as they made their bet. They run the risk of going off to live in distant areas with less infrastructure. Worse, like many of those evicted from the southern arm of the Rodoanel, they might wind up waiting forever for the housing units promised them.
In many cases, the right to the “dismemberment” of families. When more than one family live together, each of them has the right to their own settlement or housing unit. In theory, this principle should apply to the northern arm of the Rodoanel as well. But the lack of criteria — or the adoption of secret criteria — has led many families who live together to receive only one settlement or one housing unit.
As though this litany of violations were not enough, the government uses a bogus tactic to force families out: the destruction of empty houses, which fills the streets with rubble, garbage, rats and cockroaches and makes it impossible to stay and fight for a just settlement or demand guarantees for public housing vacancies. Despite the incessant noise of bulldozers and sledgehammers, the families must care for children who play in the middle of the rubble, which exposes them to various risks.
The eviction proceedings are carried out without the presence of social workers or physicians. Worse, the government only pays the the settlement or deposits the first installment of the rent subsidy after the family has left the premises. How can this family rent or buy another house and finance the move when it has no money?
Communities emerged decades ago
The communities of the Northern Zone of São Paulo affected by the Rodoanel project emerged decades ago. Jardim Paraná, for example, was founded in 1994, occupied by homeless families or families that could no longer afford their rent. Since then, the community has introduced running water, electricity, asphalt, bus and even a CEU education center. This all came about due to the tireless efforts of the families.
For this reason, its residents, who have property rights to their land under the Usucaption Law, would have to be negotiated with or treated fairly. The conventions of international institutions such as the UN provide that in the case of an eviction, the families should be relocated in conditions comparable, or perhaps even better, than previously. None of this is occurring in the communities affected by the Rodoanel.
The state government of São Paulo, which has enough cash to finance a billion-dollar public works project, does not treat the affected families with dignity, even though it knows that the amount required to pay a fair settlement is laughable compared with the costs of construction. The state government and Dersa simply bypass the international standards, tearing up the law and the Constitution. As a result,we see families falling apart, people entering into a depression, and the city itself paying the cost.
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