Fausto Mota, what is your reaction to the raids on Jacarezinho and Manguinhos over the weekend? Will they make things better for the residents? Why were they so peaceful?
Manguinhos and Jacarezinho favelas are both located near Avenida Brasil and Linha Amarela (yellow line) expressways, which are part of the mega events route. Shortly after the invasion, a decree was passed by Governor Sérgio Cabral regarding the expropriation of the Manguinhos refinery to be replaced by a housing project. Several issues have arisen, such as the fact that the terrain is contaminated, making the area uninhabitable, not to mention the 400 lay offs caused by closing the refinery. The question isn't whether the UPP (translated as Police Pacification Units) are good or bad, but whose interests are behind the State’s initiative to occupy favelas. The occupations have been peaceful because they are announced beforehand, making it easy for the traffickers to leave. The "crack land" has moved to Ilha do Governador, in the periphery of Rio. There is proof that the UPP don't end drug trafficking; rather they reduce the presence of drugs and arms in plain view. Drug trafficking continues, but in a more discreet manner. If the aim were to end drug trafficking, the Secretary of Security should stop invading favelas, and instead start to invade mansions.
What do you think the purpose of the pacification police units is? What do they achieve?
The UPP’s purpose is to occupy favelas in which a restricted group of businessmen intend to make major investments for the World Cup and Olympics. Without control over these areas it would be impossible to implement evictions in favelas where there is strong real estate interest. The UPPs enforce the eviction orders, in cases when residents refuse to leave. The drug dealers could make these removals difficult. The idea is a social cleansing in locations that possess great lucrative potential for investment, creating misery and violence in the outskirts of the city, far from the mega events and the eyes of tourists. Over 30 thousand people have been removed from their homes, in most cases without proper compensation and a new home. It's a very serious situation; human rights are being violated in Brazil.
What is life like in the areas that are not being 'pacified'? Do you think the government has a commitment to helping these areas?
Quality of life in areas which have not been pacified is worsening every day. Not just in the outskirts of Rio, but in other neighbouring cities like Niteroi, São Gonçalo, the Baixada Fluminense, and the Lake region just beyond them, where violence has increased extraordinarily since the UPPs have been instated. Also, militias are growing more and more, spreading their domain in the north and west areas of the city. Unlike drug dealers, the militia are not a parallel power; they are part of the State, mainly consisting of public agents (e.g., police officers, firemen, or military). There are also many accounts of "fixed" voting in areas dominated by militia, in which the population of these areas is forced to photograph their votes with cell phones. The people of Rio are living in fear, whether from drug dealers, the militia, or the police. We've had congressmen and representatives sent to jail after investigations to end the militia revealed their involvement (investigations were led by the CPI, or Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry). The situation is very serious; there is real political ambition behind this mafia.
What do you think about Sergio Cabral's broken promise to legalize drugs in 2007. What effect might it have had?
Politicians who don't fulfil promises are common in Brazil. Unfortunately it happens every election. Legalizing drugs is definitely the best way to stop trafficking and crime, because you basically cut of their financial resources. That will only happen in Brazil after the U.S and the main countries of the E.U take some sort of stand. It's in our nature to follow in their footsteps. Most Brazilians still have a colonized mentality in which we wait for “developed” countries to set the trends. The problem with legalization is it would shift a gigantic economic structure in which billions are moved per year. Prohibition is extremely lucrative, as it causes prices to rise, while diminishing the demand for quality. Selling drugs is a business and what matters is extracting the maximum profit. And if prohibition increases profit, why bother with legalization?
Is there a link between drug money and politics?
An extremely lucrative enterprise like the drug industry can't be run by a group of partially literate drug dealers in the favelas. They're scapegoats, an easy group for society to point a finger. A complex operation such as this involves the federal police, judicial branch, the army, politicians, banks that launder money, etc. Behind these actors are private sector businessmen, white collar criminals, who are successful men in society’s eyes. It's an investment like any other with similar market rules, but more profitable due to prohibition. One businessman buys X quantity of cocaine to sell for 10 or 20 times the price afterwards. The return is enormous and these men move the product without ever having to touch it, except for those special occasions where they celebrate their profits and laugh in our faces, sipping champagne and eating caviar. At the same time, the everyday, supposed drug dealers are arrested in the favelas in a false battle against crime.
Have the World Cup and the Olympics increased corruption in Brazil?
The World Cup and Olympics didn't increase corruption in Brazil. Our country is among the most corrupt in the world, and has been so since the Portuguese arrived in 1500. Corruption isn't unknown to Brazilians; it has even become a subject of jokes. These mega events have considerably increased investments to Brazil, mainly with public money. Billions are being spent, but the legacy for the Brazilian people will be minimal. The main inheritance will be massive debts left for the people to pay. We are witnessing one of the greatest robbing of public money in our history. It's known that many construction projects are being delayed on purpose so that they can be eligible as “emergency projects” to bailed out at the last minute with less rigorous accountability standards for spending. The World Cup and Olympics will be wonderful for the banks, contractors, politicians, FIFA, CBF (the National Football Federation), but it will be disastrous for the population. Two weeks ago there was a headline stating that FIFA wanted to prohibit sales of acaraje, a typical north-eastern Brazilian food, in a two kilometre radius around Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador, Bahia because of an exclusive contract with McDonald's. We still don't know what will happen, but it's a sign of what things will be like here: the World Cup in Bahia without the baianas (women wearing traditional clothing from Bahia), and the traditional acaraje. We believe that tourists will be frustrated by not being able to taste one of the most typical snacks of regional Brazilian cuisine. FIFA must think that Big Macs are really healthy for our athletic youth.
How do you see Rio developing after the Olympics have finished, both in the favelas and in the new developments?
Rio de Janeiro is becoming an elitist and expensive city. We have the largest rent prices in the country and the most expensive daily hotel rate in the world. Like Marcelo Freixo said in the film, the city has become one of the most lucrative in the world for a small group, and one of the most difficult places to live for the general population, which suffers from serious problems with transportation, housing, health, and education. In research about health and education services, Rio was ranked as one of the cities with the worst service delivery in the country. With all that is being invested, we would hope for concrete improvements in citizens’ lives, but instead what we’re witnessing is “making the city up,” giving it a facial for the mega events. Rio has historical and geographical particularities that differentiate it from other cities. Normally people with great means are the ones living in high places or with views, like Beverly Hills or Bel Air. Our city is one of the few that has the opposite characteristic, where the poor live on hilltops. The idea behind this is to transform the distribution of the city, making the rich live in the centre, and expelling the poor people toward the outskirts and far from the public eye. This is the case of Brasilia, for example. At this rate, by 2016 we will live in a city that is more segregated and elitist, where social inequalities become apparent in a new urban layout. We may experience a great depression in Brazil after the World Cup and Olympic Games... we expect the worst.
What can ordinary people do to help make things better?
Part of the population is organized and resisting (such as in Popular Committees), combining forces with universities, public defenders, secretaries (mainly those related to defending human rights), NGOs, and favela residents affected by the construction. We believe our film – Public Domain – can become an important weapon in this fight, calling society’s attention, international organizations, and political activists around the world. What we've exposed in this 17-minute video is just the tip of the iceberg and was filmed independently, with very few resources and confronting various difficulties. Our goal is to continue investigating and eventually have a feature-length film about the issue, adding other points of view, statistics, research, maps and other information to clarifying the shameful truths regarding the World Cup and Olympics. Apart from that, we have Cine Ataque, where we screen films in urban and public spaces, plazas, and favelas in order to disseminate this information to people who don't have internet access. Making a film is complicated and equipment is very expensive. Funding for projects in Brazil often comes from grants tied to the government and big companies that would not be interested in financing our project. That is why we've opted for crowd funding, a collective fundraising site. People can donate any value above 10 Brazilian reais (approximately 3 GBP/ 3.8 EUR/ 5 US dollars), in exchange for some rewards as the site describes. All you have to do is sign up to a fast and secure site at Catarse - this is how ordinary people can help fight the injustices taking place in Brazil.