Last Sunday, August 20, the Fifth Peace With Guaranteed Rights Walk brought together social movements, organizations and collectives from Manguinhos and other favelas in the city to denounce armed violence and the increasingly recurrent episodes of human rights violations that residents, workers and students in the area face every day.
When we reflect on the need to claim peace with rights guaranteed, it is evident that it is not a vague idea of peace that we are talking about. We do not speak of an abstract peace, but one that is provided through the guarantee of fundamental civil and constitutional rights. But can it be that we’re still struggling to guarantee basic rights? It seems absurd and old-fashioned that guaranteeing the right to life is still a permanent banner of confrontation. The same communities that create the world-famous Rio de Janeiro carnival are those that suffer from social and economic inequalities that are becoming even more violent by the day. Fighting for basic rights is thus still necessary and urgent.
We must frame recent events in the region of Manguinhos and Jacarezinho in the spectrum of public policies–focused on public security–that the State has undertaken for decades in the favelas of the city. A policy that is essentially characterized by making increasingly vulnerable the poor and black population of Rio de Janeiro. In the complexes of Manguinhos, Jacarezinho and Alemão–groups of neighboring favelas in the North Zone of Rio–year after year residents witness the closure of schools and daycare centers, public facilities (health units, Women’s Center, Park Libraries, Workers Center), restrictions on coming and going, the death of their relatives and friends.
Lives are mostly destroyed by the armed action of the State, an extremely militarized public security model. The war on drugs is used as an argument for police operations and incursions that result in the loss of innocent lives. The right to life has often been the most violated right in these territories. When the most basic of rights is disrespected, those others which would help guarantee citizenship and dignity, become but a distant fantasy.
The first Peace Walk, which took place 12 years ago, in 2005, saw a group of important community members of Manguinhos take to the streets to raise awareness of the most varied human rights violations in the area, based on the Agenda to Reduce Violence–a group of Manguinhos’ social actors working together on this theme. The establishment of the Commission Against Violence in 2016, with regular meetings of residents, collectives, community organizations and with the support of ASFOC SN and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz, Brazil’s national health institute, whose headquarters are within the Manguinhos neighborhood) to discuss strategies for coping with violence and violations of rights, made the active calendar of activities in Manguinhos possible, such as the I and II Cultural Saturday I Just Want to Be Happy, with a letter of disapproval of armed violence and in defense of the Manguinhos Park Library, respectively.
In addition, the Commission has also been pressing an agenda with responsible government bodies to guarantee the rights of favela residents. This year’s edition seeks to create a dialogue with other favelas in the city and to strengthen a popular network that presses and presents to society and public authorities the type of peace we want, with guaranteed human and constitutional rights.
The recent violent attacks in the communities of Manguinhos and Jacarezinho, with the massive presence of police officers inside favelas and the victimization of residents, meant that the 5th Peace with Guaranteed Rights Walk last Sunday had to be altered. The event that had been planned months ago by the organizational committee of the Walk decided to keep the date, but without the social actions, service provisions and cultural attractions. A reduction to the schedule was also agreed to, due to the insecurity of the area. The group walked together between the communities of Nelson Mandela and Samora Machel calling people to join.
On the way back to Rua Leopoldo Bulhões, the concentration of people arrived in front of a truck with a loudspeaker, where representatives of collectives and organizations from Manguinhos made statements about the violence, recalling recent cases that victimized residents of the communities–at the time of the event seven people had been killed in ten days of attacks. These included Georgina Maria Ferreira, a 60-year-old Jacarezinho resident, shot in the head late at night on Saturday August 19, surprised by an armored car from the Civil Police while returning from a friend’s house. The friend who was with her was hit in the leg. Georgina had lived in the community for about 40 years.
The speeches of the collectives, community organizations and institutional representatives who were present on Sunday reaffirmed the confrontations with the violations of rights that residents, workers and students suffer daily in the area. The names of the victims were remembered and activists were honored, as were the projects that contribute to the strengthening of spaces for the promotion of citizenship and rights in the communities.
The Fiocruz Workers’ Union (ASFOC SN) awarded the Jorge Carelli Human Rights Medal to Jane Maria Camilo, an activist from Manguinhos and a member of the Women of Attitude Organization; as well as the women’s soccer project Mandela Stars and the Commission of Community Health Agents of Manguinhos (Comacs). The Sérgio Arouca Prize for Health and Citizenship was presented to the That’s Enough Violence Forum of the Maré Complex, which brings together residents, civil society and community organizations with health and education institutions to discuss and create solutions to the problems of violence in the area.
A letter from the president of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Nísia Trindade Lima, was read during the protest, reaffirming the institution’s commitment to fighting violations and guaranteeing rights. In July, the president was in an audience with Rio Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão, calling for a security policy that was not based on a war logic, which makes people vulnerable and endangers the life of the population.
As a vehicle for community communication based in the Manguinhos Complex, concerned with the critical treatment of information regarding the area, Fala Manguinhos! could not be silent in the face of the recent episodes of violence in the favelas of Rio which are now being characterized as an outright war by the mainstream media. It is necessary that the situation be reflected on publicly and with responsibility, making sure to include both the views and the voices of those who actually live in these communities.
This article was written by Edilano Cavalcante and Brunna Araraki and produced in partnership between RioOnWatch and Fala Manguinhos! Edilano is coordinator of the community communication agency Fala Manguinhos! And Brunna is a journalist and collaborator. As a community communication initiative produced by and for Manguinhos, Fala Manguinhos! was set up to defend human and environmental rights, and to promote citizenship and health with the direct participation of residents in the decisions that involve the Community Communication Agency of Manguinhos, from the meetings of the communication group and the Community Council. Follow Fala Manguinhos on Facebook here.