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Impeachment: They’re Stealing the Little We Achieved [OPINION]

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This article by Cleber Araújo Santos is one of a series of five opinion pieces on the impeachment by community reporters published this week on RioOnWatch.

Cleber Araújo Santos, 40, was born in Monte Pascoal, Bahia. Today, as a resident of Complexo do Alemão, he showcases the favela in in its many forms and moments through social media. He shares daily content through the Complexo Alemão Facebook page and through the Facebook profile of Mariluce Mariá, a local artist who paints in the community and has a stall at the Palmeiras cable car station. This station [at the end of the cable car network] is a place where people from all over the world pass, giving residents a chance to make new contacts and show their reality to a wider audience.

I am a favela resident. I live in Complexo do Alemão and I know very well what it is like to live in the periphery: I feel it in my skin. It is a hostile environment, full of difficulties, marked by the social indifference of a divided and exclusionary city.

It’s clear to see that Rio de Janeiro is home to two different realities: the Favela and the “Asphalt” [the formal city], the Rich Zone and the Poor Zone. The impression given is that this is a totally natural state. And it was precisely the possibility that this could change that must have made some people uncomfortable. With this possibility, people began to study how to change the scenario.

The plan, conceived by this current government, seemed good: the idea was to help the poor people who live here. They discussed building new housing, “pacifying” the places where other forces had total control, upgrading spaces, bringing culture and social initiatives–all this led us to think that these were serious ideas. It was all going to be concrete and real, but the government, local as well as state government, with a taste for and ties to big business and hungry for corruption, allowed the dreams of thousands of people to fall by the wayside.

Public works were left incomplete, millions of reais were embezzled and important projects were not concluded, like for example: the houses, intended for demolition, whose owners were handsomely compensated but which ended up being left untouched; the roads that were meant to have been upgraded that never got past the planning stages; the public spaces that were selected for building leisure spaces and sports grounds that never arrived. Not to mention the broken promises regarding education: just one school was built in a hurry and it was built outside the favela (Tim Lopes State School). All of this was within the scope of the first Growth Acceleration Program (PAC 1), created by the federal government but intended to be executed by the state government, with the promise that this would lead into the second stage of the Growth Acceleration Program (PAC 2). To sum up this cocktail of corruptions: PAC 1 was never finished and PAC 2 never started, and all of us were denied the chance to see a bit of this dream become reality, to see our favela change for the better.

Now the most alarming part of this story is the art of security policy. Up to now this is the only aspect of the promised investments that is present in the community, despite being the most boasted about and with the most failures.

The initial promise was to bring the security forces into the favela. They would do a clear-up of the area, assess the situation and above all bring “peace” to the residents in order to allow other public services that the community lacks to be brought in. But we are still waiting for these public services today. The failures of the project became more and more obvious and every day local insecurity increases, since the only visible presence of the State here is armed: the barrel of a gun. It’s very sad that they want to resolve conflict using guns; all we see are the military coming and going in the community, without any help from the other government departments which are also part of this so-called “pacification.”

In the meantime, the country has entered a huge political crisis that began with problems regulating the distribution of the money awarded for these public programs, which caused a generalized disaster. As a way of shifting attention away from the small embezzlements that were taking place in different states, a big farce was created: the whole of Brazil seemed to be embroiled in a financial crisis, when in reality the crisis was a big moral and political one.

As always the rope breaks at its weakest points and we are now at the mercy of darker, partisan interests, involved in a power struggle playing out on the national level. They [the politicians] are thinking about political expediency, about their families, about their personal interests, about future positions they might hold–not about us. It’s such a pity to live like this: we have no value for the political class and this was made clear on the day of the impeachment vote, broadcast live for everyone to watch.

My point of view is that this is a parliament that’s lost inside itself, with legislators who are obsolete and anachronistic, ready to take away what is ours, at any cost. They took away our hope and are getting carried away with disastrous ideologies that don’t work for any Brazilians. They get a free ride from the power that they don’t know how to handle. They’re stealing the little that we achieved.

Everything we’ve seen via the “traditional media” as well as other alternative media outlets has made us sure that what is going on is no less than a coup designed to topple a popular government that helped the poor. After the impeachment, those who orchestrated the coup will take the reins and go back to doing what they’ve been doing for over 500 years in this country: treating the poor as though they were slaves whose only purpose was to serve them. They find it uncomfortable to read an article written by a favela resident like me, to see poor people writing books, traveling in the same airplane as them, and so on. It is clear there is a lot of manipulation being undertaken by the traditional media, supporting what’s going on. Lots of media outlets are even endorsing it.

As favela residents, favelados, we know that we were promised improvements in our communities–it was the beginning of something new. But they [politicians] are stealing the little that we achieved, reversing and embezzling the millions of reais that were destined for us here… We believed that everything was going to change.

I appeal to those who have managed to achieve a bit of autonomy and have their voices heard. Fight in favor of democracy and for all that is ours.