Thursday, July 14, 2016

Rio Games

There is less than a month until the Olympics begin in Brazil.

At least 77,206 people have already been displaced from Rio de Janeiro as the city prepares to host the Olympic Games. According to Larissa Lacerda, a member of the Rio Cup and Olympics Popular Committee, since the start of 2016, police raids in the favelas have provoked mass killings. Since 2011, to prepare the city for mega sporting events, what Lacerda terms "social sanitization" operations, including clearing homeless children and youth, have taken place in areas in the city with tourism potential. Since 2009, police have killed 2,500 people in the city. "Justice was served in a small fraction of these cases," argues Atila Roque, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Brazil. The vast majority of the victims have been Black youth in favelas and working class neighborhoods. 65,000 police officers and 20,000 military troops will take part in security operations during the Olympics, making it the largest operation in Brazilian history, according to Amnesty International.

The majority of displacement takes place in neighborhoods where real estate speculation has led to big returns for investors. In the past three years, the value per square meter of real estate in Rio de Janeiro has increased on average 29.4 percent, but there are some parts of the city, such as the Vidigal favela, where it has gone up as much as 481%. Of Rio de Janeiro's 11.8 million residents, between 1.5 to 2 million are spread between 900 to 1,000 favela neighborhoods. The favelas are settlements characterized by informal buildings, low-quality housing, limited access to public services, high population density and insecure property rights.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Children, in its 2015 report on issues facing youth in Brazil, denounced the government initiative to "clean up" the city for the 2016 Olympics and issued the following call: "The Committee is very concerned with the high number of children living in the streets who are vulnerable to extrajudicial killings, torture, forced disappearance, recruitment by criminal groups, drug abuse and sexual exploitation."

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