Rio’s ‘wall of shame’ between its slums and Olympic image

July 24, 2016 1:00 pm

Residents watch as police work a crime scene where a man was murdered in a favela. Photo / AP

On one side of the wall are the bright, new, welcoming
facades for Rio 2016. On the other, a drug den guarded by armed
traffickers.
As the first of 10,000 athletes start to arrive in
Rio, they will pass the vivid murals, pasted onto a 3m-high barrier,
stretching for 8km along the motorway out of the international airport.
But the colourful partition hides the inequality that polarises the Olympic city as it prepares to welcome the world.
Behind
it lies Mare, a complex of 16 favela communities where life goes on
under gang rule, except for when under-resourced police carry out
increasingly frequent, bloody raids.
Organisers have spent more
than R$200,000 ($84,300) covering the wall ahead of the , claiming
it is a decoration and not a disguise.

But in Nova Holanda, one of the communities that sits
alongside the motorway and where drug traffickers man a makeshift
checkpoint at the entrance, there is no sign of the Olympic spirit.
“For
us here, in my community, it hasn’t helped us in anything.,” said
Gilmar Rodrigues Gomes, president of the residents’ association in the
neighbourhood, where traffickers loiter on street corners, carrying
rifles and pistols.
Wedged between two parallel main roads, Nova
Holanda – home to around 30,000 people – is visible from the motorway
only through the occasional missed panel in the barrier.
The
complex was occupied by the army during the World Cup and had been due
to be “pacified” or occupied by community police, an initiative that has
stalled amid Rio’s financial crisis.
As workers pasted the Rio 2016 fascia to what
locals have branded the “wall of shame”, favela residents said the only
thing that has changed is the increase in violent police operations.

The Olympic Village stands ready in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo / AP
Last week, residents told community network Mare Vive that
they woke up to police raiding their homes in the latest operation,
ostensibly to control drug trafficking.
“I was sleeping with my children, my husband was at work and they invaded my home,” one mother said.
“He didn’t have an ounce of respect… What are the police for if we’re not even safe with them?”
Antonio
Pedro, tourism secretary for Rio, insisted City Hall was putting up
Olympic posters along the main tourist routes to animate the city and
give it the “look” of an Olympic host.
But Gomes said: “There was no reason. They came and put it [the wall] up. They isolated us.”

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