News / Rio 2016 Olympics / Work by Donna Bowater

High cash settlements for favela families forced out by Olympic building work

AFTER years of opposition and protest, three-quarters of the 583 families in a favela community have agreed to make way for 2016 Olympic building work.

In what has been described as an unprecedented move, authorities have now offered remaining residents at Vila Autódromo market-rate compensation to give up their homes.

But many in the 40-year-old community feel the have lost out. Earlier this year, resident Altair Antunes Guimarães told a public hearing that the community was “living a war of poverty against money, against power”.

AutodromoA construction worker who has been displaced twice before, Mr Guimarães, 59, was speaking out about the removals. According to the city’s Official Gazette, families have received offers of sums of up to $2.3 million (£580,000) for the expropriation of their houses on the prime real estate land.

Previously, favela residents would be offered as little as a tenth, with compensation packages amounting to around $200,000 (£50,000).

“If a resident gets R$150,000, R$200,000 to go and buy a house, they won’t be able to,” said Maria da Penha Marcena, who lives in Vila Autódromo, at the same hearing in front of the Defence Commission of Human Rights and Citizenship.

“There are no longer homes for R$200,000 in a legalised place. So they will get R$200,000 and buy a home in another favela? Soon, we’ll hit the same problem.”

The high settlements now being offered are testament to the community’s hard-fought opposition. While the majority of families agreed to compensation or a new apartment in a £26 million social housing condominium half a mile away, a core of residents refused to be swayed or “shortchanged”.

Since the City Hall announced the removal of Vila Autódromo in 2009, the defiant community became a byword for the popular struggle of those in the path of last year’s World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

Vila Autodromo ESSituated in between the future Olympic Park and athlete’s village in the neighbourhood of Barra da Tijuca, part of Vila Autódromo was needed for widening major access roads to the construction site.

But with the athlete’s village expected to be handed over to developers for high-end apartments after the Games, many suspect the motivation for removals was to allow investors a clear and attractive path.

Mr Guimarães added: “The City Hall is so desperate to end the community that they are paying any price.”

Originally published by The Evening Standard

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