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The murder of the Brazilian slums
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-11-29 07:24:20
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Every time I read something from Brazil I cannot avid remembering the tour some friends and colleagues gave me to the Brazilian slums. A place where human dignity fights misery, poverty, bugs and reptiles and that only kilometres from where Hollywood stars taking their morning swim. And I had similar experience in two cities, the historic Rio and the contemporary Brasilia; a city built sometime in the mid-fifties, the creation of some of the top architectural minds of the world including a friend, known Greek urbanist.

And yes the status of Christ the Redeemer in Rio is something hard to forget especially when you have the experience of standing over the hill looking at the city expanding under your feet but something that will definitely stay with you or at least staid with me and will be there for the rest of my life is the slums or as if I remember correctly the “tin city” And they call it the “tin city” because most of the houses – houses is a way to call them but they have nothing to do with the image the word brings – are made from bid pieces of tin or some kind of aluminium leftovers or parts of metal containers and trucks. There are very few streets, mainly paths full of dirty waters and all kind of trash where here and there men and women of every age lay half conscious, heavy alcoholics or drug addicts.

That was in mid eighties and one more think that really shocked me was not the numbers of prostitutes in those hell paths but their age despite gender. Boys and girls aged sometimes not more than twelve thirteen, obviously experienced trying to attract the tourists or the passing by for pennies or enough to give them their next shot. For more than thirty years I’ve been privilege to have travel a lot and my work gave me the chance to see a lot of places occasionally forcing me to see the darkest of humanity in all parts of this globe and slums is something I saw a lot in Africa or in Asia and I’m really sorry to say that the worst were in Brazil where human dignity had disappeared and even I the atheist felt the need to ask the help from some kind of a power to help those people or at least give them back what separates humanity from animals.

So reading about the police strikes to the slums near Rio in an effect to clean the area from the drug dealers I have to admit that I felt sick and dizzy and wandering where was the truth, the truth the Brazilian news and authorities will never tell us. First it was the numbers of the nineteen dead than made me sick, knowing the place – the little I saw and the rest I imagined from what I saw – I think the number of dead is far bigger, but you see these people are forgotten from god and humans, they have no security numbers, they have to identities, actually for the authorities they don’t even exist and for the Brazilian security forces they shouldn’t exist; they don’t count. The average Brazilian ignores them and wishes something will happen to make them disappear since they “embarrass” the good image the country, the people and the government want to project. And they have tried again and again for years using a number of methods and I’m afraid president Lula at last and just weeks before stepping away from the presidency found the excuse to finish for good with them. You see these people except ruining Brazil’s image, they also occupy land between Rio and the airport that could be developed and bring millions even billions to everybody except the people who need the pennies to survive and find their lost dignity.

I always found the Brazilian president a man of two faces; elected with the votes of the poor to help the poor he was elevated to a nationalist who often practiced policies the Brazilian right would felt envy for. And yes he helped the poor the only problem was that he identified as poor the poorest part of the Brazilian middle class ignoring the millions that live much lower than the international levels of poverty. On the contrary he pushed them one more step behind making the gap between rich and poor bigger and bigger.

Lula da Silva for me was a dangerous president for a South American state with so much power and riches – despite the unbelievable number of poor and international debt Brazil is not a poor country but another victim of uncontrollable corruption – a nationalist with suspicious plans. For example while the numbers of homeless was dramatically increasing Lula was building the most offensive modern weapons, nuclear submarines and when people where dying in thousands from HIV AIDS Lula was funding the Brazilian embassies abroad to play role in the internal events of the countries that hosted them for example in Africa with aim to expand Brazilian influence internationally. Not to forget that after been ignored form most of the major powers he turned to the dictatorial regime of Teheran looking for allies. And unfortunately Lula might ends for the presidential palace but Dilma Rousseff, his successor I’m afraid that will keep him behind the curtains to pull the strings.

So I’m afraid that what happens in the slums of Rio is not so simple as the Brazilian authorities and government like to tell us, is not just a drug-lords’ battle with the state. Is not clearing out the place from criminals but I’m afraid is clearing up the land for the “developers” whatever that means or might translates in their pockets. The one thing is for sure is that the victims of this clearance are not only nineteen and the truth is that we will never know the real numbers or what really happens there, you see for the Brazilian authorities and the Brazilian state they don’t count even for humans.

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