The Olympic Games are close: Debts and Violence Against the People have Already Arrived in Brazil

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Source: Brasil De Fato / The Dawn News / July, 6, 2016

According to Economist Sandra Quintela, this kind of mega events flexibilize the definitions of what is public and what is private.

Since 2007, when the Pan American Games were hosted in Rio de Janeiro, through the World Cup in 2014 and to the Olympic Games this year, popular and collective movements organized against the negative impact of mega sport events, have denounced a rise of violence against the population, including evictions and a growing militarization in the favelas plus the lack of transparency in the administration of the preparation in the host cities, which create an imbalance in the public budget and prevent the poor population from accessing public and basic services.

“We’re not against the Olympic Games. We’re against the way in which these mega events are imposed on the cities, not acknowledging the demands of the population and imposing a model of city that is absolutely different from the real needs of the people that live there”, regrets economist Sandra Quintela, who is a coordinator at the Institute of Alternative Policies for the Southern Cone (PACS) and a member of the Popular Committee of the Cup and the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The most recent controversy was over the granting of a credit of U$S 870 million, authorized by the interim President, Michel Temer, and destined to the Public Security of the Olympic Games of Rio 2016, which will begin on August 5. The State of Rio de Janeiro is going through a deep economic crisis and this provisional measure was taken after the government of Rio de Janeiro decreed the “state of public calamity” due to financial deficit.

Only a month away from the beginning of the Games, the urban picture of Rio presents several contradictions. The crisis allegedly makes it impossible for the state to pay the salaries of public officers and forces it to decrease the investment in health and education, however, it spent 11,000 million dollars for the Mega Event. This is 3,000 millions dollars more than what Brazil had expected when it offered to host the event.

In an interview with Brasil De Fato, Sandra affirmed that Rio de Janeiro adopted the “model of a merchandise-state, a city to be sold to big businesses”. “The huge touristic infrastructures are destined to the foreign market, the foreign capital, privatization of the public space… there’s a process of indebtment in the public accounts that has left a huge debt, which is increasing the social debt”, analysed the economist of the PACS.  

Privatization

The government of Rio de Janeiro has denied the crisis of the State to be caused by the Olympic Games, claiming that the financial difficulties are caused by the general crisis and the drop of the oil price. Also, they claimed that most of the costs of public works were financed by the Public-Private Association (APP). According to the information of the Municipality, only 43% of the cost was paid with money from the public budget, while 57% came from the APP.

However, the PACS warns on this issue: “Through this sort of public-private association, the State is not responsible for the costs but, on the other hand, neither does it receive any profit, as is the case of the works done in the subways, trains and stadiums”, explained the institution in its magazine, “Rio de Gastos”.

Through the APPs, the State guarantees private capital a minimum amount profit for a period of 3 to 35 years, by contract. So this, apart from being just another way to privatize the services and public responsibilities, also creates an illusion that in the short term this is a reduction of the public expenditure, but it actually compromises the State in the long term.

According to Sandra Quintela, “governors end up working as managers of the interests of the capital, which have a key role in the cities due to the enormous real estate speculation: this entails the expansion of the limits of the housing and land market. So, then, actual liveability in the city comes in last”.

 

Violence

According to the information released by the PACS, 65 thousand families were removed in the name of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “Entire regions have been privatized. For example, the region of Porto Maravilla, where the old port was located. There, Capoeira and samba where born. Nowadays, everything is completely petrified by the privatization process and the APP. With these mega-sport events there has been a flexibilization of what’s private and what’s public”, analysed Sandra.

The popular Committee stated that the other legacy is the growth in police violence against the black youth of the favelas. A popular rise carried out by Global Justice indicates that, between January and July 2015, 498 people were murdered by the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, in cases often registered as “self defense”, which is 18.6% more than the same period in 2014.

“It’s impressive that, in a city as militarized as Rio, that militarization is deepened in the name of mega events”, the economist expressed. In an attempt to show the world that the favelas are pacified, the Rio de Janeiro government, with the support of the Federal Government, has increased the military expenses and the number of military police.

The Ministry of Defense detailed that 18 thousand military would be located in the cities where the Cup World will be held (Sao Paulo, Manaus, Salvador, Brasilia, Belo Horizonte), and Rio de Janeiro will receive 20 thousand units, composed “approximately by 14 thousand from the Brazilian Army, 4 thousand Marines, and 2 thousand from Aeronautics”.

According to the information requested by the Artigo 19 and Global Justice organizations to the State Secretary of Security of Rio de Janeiro (SESEG), the government has acquired 4 thousand units of equipment for individual protection, 18 thousand rubber bullets, 9 thousand firebombs (which throw paint to mark people), 4500 grenades to disperse, 4500 canisters of tear gas and 1000 tear gas sprays.

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