Em era de cisnes negros, como fica a polícia do Rio de Janeiro?

Perspectiva para 2016: ameaças de terrorismo, escassez de luz e água, calor extremo e caprichos dos megaeventos

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Na sala de crise com jornalistas estrangeiros, sexta-feira passada: José Mariano Beltrame, secretário estadual de Segurança Pública do Rio de Janeiro, o mais longevo de todos

Ao responder a uma pergunta sobre o que aprendeu dos muitos megaeventos no Rio de Janeiro durante os últimos sete anos, o chefe da segurança pública do estado falou primeiro de integração fina entre atores, planejamento, informação ágil e limpa, e a capacidade de antecipar fatos.

For Can Rio police come through, in an age of black swans? click here

Então o Beltrame falou do Papa Francisco. Sua estadia no Rio, em julho de 2013, aconteceu entre manifestações de rua, chuva, lama, um problemaço no metrô e a mudança de última hora em local para a enorme missa campal. “É preciso poder trabalhar com pessoas flexíveis”, disse Beltrame. “Estava tudo planejado e daí no dia seguinte, era tudo diferente”.

Para a frustração de muitos estrangeiros, os brasileiros, em geral, dispõem de bastante flexibilidade. Como, contudo, lançar mão tanto de planejamento quanto da flexibilidade, no caso de eventos extremos, inesperados? Aqui e fora do país, os tais cisnes negros tendem a se tornar quase ordinários.

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A  parede de telas no Centro Integrado de Controle e Comando do estado do Rio de Janeiro

Beltrame disse que esperava que o terrorismo durante os Jogos Olímpicos fosse a primeira pergunta dos jornalistas. Apesar de o Brasil ter sido, até agora, território bastante seguro nesse quesito, os ataques em Paris levantaram a possibilidade assustadora de que os conflitos internacionais encontrem um palco aqui. Beltrame indicou, contudo, que até agora o governo federal nada mudou nos preparativos em curso. Já era prioridade a ameaça do terrorismo, disse, e o governo estadual do Rio aguarda qualquer orientação adicional do Ministério da Defesa, da Polícia Federal, e da Abin.

Para a segurança olímpica, o Rio conta não apenas com suas forças policiais de 63.285 homens e mulheres, mas irá também receber reforços da Polícia Federal, a Polícia Rodoviária Federal (responsável pelas Linhas Vermelha e Amarela e a Avenida Brasil), as Forças Armadas, a Guarda Municipal, a CET e os bombeiros.

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Notícia boa: queda na taxa de homicídio nos anos Beltrame

RioRealblog perguntou a Beltrame sobre outro cisne negro: a já crónica falta d’água em grande parte do país, que neste verão pode afetar nosso quadro energético. Ele não se mostrou preocupado pela necessidade de uma resposta policial no caso de violência social advindo de uma escassez de água (“As barragens não estão bem, já?” perguntou, na verdade querendo fazer referência aos reservatórios, talvez distraído por outra terrível ave de plumagem escura, o rompimento da barragem da Samarco em Minas Gerais, dia 5 de novembro). Mas aquele cisne é mais cinza do que negro. A escassez começou em 2013, foi ignorada em todo o país durante a época eleitoral de 2014 e não, os reservatórios do Rio não estão nada bem. A situação aparece diariamente na coluna direita da página home do jornal O Globo, e mais detalhes estão disponíveis aqui.

Beltrame falou que luz e água são responsabilidades da prefeitura e da Cedae, e acrescentou que a questão pode surgir numa reunião futura com autoridades municipais e estaduais, nos encontros que acontecem de quinze em quinze dias.

Nesses últimos meses de preparação para os Jogos Olímpicos, o secretário já tem o bastante para fazer, sem crises imaginadas e não imaginadas. Enquanto o estado do Rio luta para cumprir com suas folhas de pagamento, ao passo que encolhem as receitas de impostos e royalties , parece que um terço de nosso efetivo policial sofre de distúrbios psicológicos — sem recurso a tratamento adequado.

Leia a reportagem do jornal O Globo, sobre a coletiva, aqui.

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Can Rio police come through, in an age of black swans?

In the offing for 2016: threats of terrorism, water and power shortages, extreme heat and the vagaries of mega-events

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Rio’s longest-serving state Public Safety Secretary, José Mariano Beltrame, in the crisis room yesterday with foreign journalists 

Asked what he’s learned from Rio’s many mega-events over the last seven years, Rio’s security czar first mentioned fine-tuned agency integration, planning, clear information and the ability to foresee developments.

Then Beltrame spoke of Pope Francis. His July 2013 visit took place amid street demonstrations, rain, mud, a huge metro glitch and a last-minute switch in venue for an enormous outdoor mass. “You need to work with people who can be flexible,” said Beltrame. “We would have everything all planned and then the next day it was all different.”

Brazilians are generally quite flexible, as many foreigners have been dismayed to discover. But how do you use both planning and flexibility to your advantage, when extreme unexpected events unfold? Black swans seem to be becoming a kind of norm, here and elsewhere.

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The data wall at Rio’s Integrated Control and Command Center

Beltrame said he’d expected the first question from foreign journalists to be about terrorism and the Olympic Games. Though Brazil so far has been fairly safe territory in this regard, the Paris attacks brought home the awful possibility that world conflict could play out here. Nevertheless, Beltrame indicated that Brasília has so far changed none of its ongoing preparation. The threat of terrorism was already a priority, he said, but the Rio state government answers to the Defense Ministry, the Federal Police and Abin, the national intelligence agency.

For Olympic security, Rio will depend not only on its own police forces of 63,285 men and women, but will also call on Federal Police, Federal Highway Police (responsible for the Red and Yellow highway Lines and Avenida Brasil), Army, Navy and Air Force troops, the Municipal Guard, the CET traffic police, and state firemen.

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Good news: drop in homicide rate in the Beltrame years

RioRealblog asked Beltrame about another black swan: the now-chronic water shortage in much of the country, which could affect the power supply this summer. Though he shrugged off the possibility that a lack of water could spark violence requiring police response (“Aren’t the dams all right now?” he asked, actually referring to reservoirs, his mind perhaps distracted by another horrific dark-feathered avian, the Nov. 5 burst mining residue dam in the state of Minas Gerais which has brought death to the Doce River and environs), that particular swan is more grey than black. The shortage began in 2013, was ignored nationally and locally during the electoral season of 2014 and no, Rio’s reservoirs are not all right. Their status appears in the far right-hand column of the O Globo newspaper home page site, and can be found in great detail here.

Beltrame said that water and power are the concerns of city officials and the state water concession, Cedae, but added that the issue may come up in a future meeting with city and state officials, held every two weeks.

He’s got plenty on his hands without imagined or unimagined crises, in the runup to the Olympic Games. As Rio state struggles to meet payrolls with shrinking tax and oil royalty revenue, apparently one third of our police force is psychologically unstable — and with not nearly enough of a mental health safety net.

Read O Globo‘s report on the press conference here.

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Intelligent life in Rio, despite lack of funds

The War on Drugs, women and blacks, urban transportation, the water crisis: hot topics

We get bad news daily. Nevertheless (or maybe because of this), Rio is seeing growing activity in the realm of ideas and beliefs. People are asking questions, expressing themselves, joining together. It’s actually hard to keep up with it all.

Clique aqui, para Vida inteligente persiste no Rio de Janeiro, apesar de falta de recursos

We may one day see this turbulent year as an opportune, rich moment. Social inclusion (poverty in Rio is said to have fallen by half from 2013 to 2014, according to a new IETS study) opened the door to new behaviors.

Somewhat late in the game (better than never), we now see formal institutional queries regarding bus companies’ finances. These reportedly quietly pocketed R$ 90 million over five years, in expired pre-paid passenger tickets.

The real estate market, which had neglected affordable housing, has lost impetus. This could lead to a reevaluation of the Port area’s vocation and also that of Barra da Tijuca and its surroundings. A recent New York Times story reports that only 230 of the 3,604 apartments in the 31 towers meant to  house Olympic and Paralympic athletes have been sold up to now.

In the Port area, there’s still time to implement a unique landscape project, the Circuito da Celebração da Herança Africana (African Heritage Celebration Circuit). Created by landscape designer Sara Zewde together with the city’s Instituto Rio Patrimônio da Humanidade, the project would have a significant impact at a time of increasing black consciousness

On November 19th, Sara Zewde will participate in a roundtable discussion of the project, at Columbia University’s Studio X, in Praça Tiradentes, open to all.

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Heloisa Helena Berto, Yalorixá Luizinha de Nanã, a candomblé spiritist, is fighting to preserve a spiritual locale on the banks of the Jacarepaguá Lagoon in Vila Autódromo, next to Olympic installations

There was much talk of race, as well as gender, at the FLUPP, the Festa Literária das Periferias (Periphery Literary Festival) where public school students this month had a chance to enter the world of books, joining Brazilian and foreign writers. One student read a poem she’d written on her cell phone, saying she didn’t want to be called “neguinha” (little black girl) any more, to wild applause. Another cited the macho comments women hear in the street.

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Jurors at the exciting FLUPP international poetry slam at the Babilônia favela, show their scores

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FLUPP founders Júlio Ludemir and Écio Salles, honored at the end of the party, with young Babilônia resident Ágata Cris, destined by her name to become a writer

Rio de Janeiro women took to the streets and commandeered newspaper and magazine columns in recent weeks, with the new ‪#‎AgoraÉQueSãoElas (Now it’s Women) movement. Last Thursday they demonstrated against a proposal from embattled congressional Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, to further limit abortion access — and also against the 2016 mayoral candidacy of current municipal Government Secretary Pedro Paulo Carvalho Teixeira, Eduardo Paes’ chosen successor. Last week, Carvalho Teixeira admitted he’d hit his then-wife in 2008 and 2010. We also recently saw a wave of accounts of sexual harrassment, under the hashtag #primeiroassedio (first harrassment).

The day when beer manufacturers do away with bikini-clad women in their ads in Brazil, however, as is planned for the Superbowl, has yet to come.

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The move from marginalization to empowerment in poetry was in great evidence during the FLUPP international Poetry Slam

The environment is also the focus of greater activism. On November 8, at the invitation of the São Paulo Greenpeace office and the Meu Rio (My Rio) public policy activism NGO, a new group formed to push for more government transparency and responsibility at all levels, regarding the ongoing drought. Rio’s reservoir levels are seriously low.

Days earlier, a mining residue damn broke in the neighboring state of Minas Gerais, creating even more concern in Rio de Janeiro over Brazilian government capability to manage environmental needs as well as crisis situations. Rio may soon be dealing with its hottest summer ever, during an economic recession with worrisome impact on jobs, income and public spending.

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Raull Santiago (left), from the Papo Reto (Straight Talk) journalism collective of the Complexo do Alemão favelas, told workshop participants what it’s like to live with the War on Drugs

At a time when the state pacification program is already in trouble, this would be just the ticket for more violence. Rio de Janeiro doesn’t need to go looking for citizen/police conflict.

To help journalists rethink the long and violent War on Drugs in the Americas, CESeC, with the support of the Open Society foundation, organized a two-day workshop for area professionals and students, Drogas em Pauta (Reporting on Drugs). The workshop ended with the announcement of the Gilberto Velho Mídia e Drogas award winners.

Even for those who already believe it’s time to move drugs from public safety to health policy — decriminalizing them — the workshop offered a great deal of surprising information. U.S. Prohibition in the 1920s saw 50,000 deaths in gang wars. Thousands became ill or died from drinking methyl alcohol. Ultimately, it became clear that decriminalization rather than prohibition was better for society as a whole. This, despite the fact that alcohol has more negative effects on users and those around them than do many drugs, including marijuana.

There are also myths about drugs. Marijuana doesn’t  automatically lead to the use of other substances, as has long been preached. Researchers have shown that crack isn’t as addictive and deathly as was thought. And it’s interesting to ponder the fact that some drugs tend to expand consciousness and strengthen social ties among humans, which can threaten the status quo.

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Journalista Fernanda Mena, left, described anti-drug campaigns driven by social control concerns.

During the economic boom years here we did see a great deal of debate on various issues and ideas. It could be, however, that consumer spending and easy access to funds undermined individual and group reflection on identity, social roles and moral questions. Today presents us with an opportunity that many in Rio are doing all they can to profit from. As statesman and General Charles de Gaulle once said, “Faced with crisis, the man of character falls back on himself. He imposes his own stamp of action, takes responsibility for it, makes it his own.”

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Vida inteligente persiste no Rio de Janeiro, apesar de falta de recursos

A Guerra às Drogas, a condição da mulher e do negro, o transporte urbano, a crise hídrica: assuntos em debate quente

As más notícias chegam diariamente. Mesmo assim (ou talvez por causa disso), cresce o movimento no campo das ideias, o questionamento, a expressão pessoal. Fica até difícil acompanhar os acontecimentos na metrópole.

Talvez , futuramente, vejamos esse ano turbulento como um momento de grande riqueza. A inclusão social (a miséria no Rio teria caído à metade entre 2013 e 2014, de acordo com um novo estudo do IETS) abriu portas para comportamentos novos.

Tardiamente (melhor do que nunca), surge o questionamento formal das finanças das empresas de ônibus, que teriam silenciosamente embolsado R$ 90 milhões em cinco anos, em créditos expirados de cartões de passagens pré-pagos.

O mercado imobiliário, que neglenciava a moradia acessível, perde ímpeto, o que pode propiciar uma reavaliação da vocação da região do Porto e até da Barra da Tijuca e adjacências. Uma matéria recente do New York Times relata que, dos 3.604 apartamentos nos 31 torres que irão abrigar os atletas olímpicos e paralímpicos, apenas 230 foram vendidos até agora.

Na região do Porto, há tempo ainda de implementar um singular projeto paisagístico, o Circuito da Celebração da Herança Africana. Elaborada pela paisagista afro-americana Sara Zewde, em colaboração com o Instituto Rio Patrimônio da Humanidade, o projeto seria de grande impacto numa hora de crescente consciência negra

No dia 19 deste mês, Sara Zewde participa de uma mesa redonda sobre o assunto, no Studio X, na praça Tiradentes, de convite aberto a todos.

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Heloisa Helena Berto, Yalorixá Luizinha de Nanã, espírita candomblecista, luta para preservar um local espiritual à beira da Lagoa  de Jacarepaguá, na Vila Autódromo, ao lado das instalações olímpicas

Falou-se bastante de raça, e de gênero também, durante a FLUPP, a Festa Literária das Periferias, onde alunos de escolas públicas tiveram, neste mês, a oportunidade de adentrar o mundo dos livros, junto com autores nacionais e internacionais. Para aplausos animados, uma aluna declamou a poesia sua escrita no celular, afirmando que não queria mais ser “neguinha”. Outra denunciou os comentários machistas que as mulheres ouvem ao andar na rua.

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Jurados de animado “poetry slam” internacional da FLUPP, no morro da Babilônia, levantam seus números

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Os fundadores da Flupp, Júlio Ludemir e Écio Salles, homenageados no final da Festa, ao lado da menina Ágata Cris, moradora do morro, fadada pelo nome a escrever

As mulheres do Rio de Janeiro foram para as ruas e para as colunas dos jornais e revistas, nas últimas semanas, com o movimento novo ‪#‎AgoraÉQueSãoElas. Se manifestaram, quinta-feira passada, contra uma proposta do problemático presidente da Câmara dos Deputados, Eduardo Cunha, para limitar o acesso ao aborto — e também contra a candidatura do secretário de governo Pedro Paulo Carvalho Teixeira, para suceder o prefeito atual, Eduardo Paes, nas eleições municipais de 2016. Ele admitiu, semana passada, ter agredido fisicamente a então mulher, em 2008 e 2010. Também houve, recentemente, uma onda de relatos de assédio sexual, com o hashtag #primeiroassedio.

O dia em que fabricantes de cerveja deixem de objetificar as mulheres nos anúncios de cerveja no Brasil porém, conforme se planeja nos EUA, ainda não chegou.

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Empoderamento dos até então marginalizados, na poesia do Poetry Slam internacional: grande apelo na FLUPP

O meio ambiente é também objeto de maior ativismo. No dia 8 de novembro, como resultado de uma iniciativa do Greenpeace e do Meu Rio, constitui-se um grupo de ação focado na crise hídrica no Rio de Janeiro. Diante dos baixos níveis de nossos reservatórios, os participantes do grupo novo sentem necessidade por maior transparência e protagonismo, por parte dos governos federal, estadual e municipal.

Dias antes, uma barragem se rompera no estado vizinho de Minas Gerais, criando mais preocupação ainda no Rio de Janeiro, pela capacidade governamental de gestão ambiental e de situações de crise. O Rio talvez tenha que lidar com o verão mais quente e seco de sua história, durante uma recessão econômica com grave impacto no emprego, renda e gastos públicos.

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Raull Santiago (esq), do coletivo de jornalismo Papo Reto, do Complexo do Alemão, contou aos participantes do workshop como é viver o dia a dia da Guerra às Drogas

Seria uma receita para mais violência, num quadro de dificuldades com o programa estadual de pacificação. De mais embates entre cidadãos e policiais, o Rio de Janeiro não precisa.

Com o intuito de ajudar jornalistas a repensarem a longa e violenta Guerra às Drogas nas Américas, o CESeC, com o apoio da Open Society, organizou, para jornalistas e estudantes, um workshop de dois dias, Drogas em Pauta. O workshop culminou na entrega do prêmio Gilberto Velho Mídia e Drogas.

Mesmo para quem já acredita que está na hora de pensar drogas no âmbito da saúde, em vez da segurança — descriminalizando-as — o workshop ofereceu muita informação surpreendente: a Lei Seca, nos anos 1920 nos EUA, teve 50 mil mortes em guerras de gangues. Milhares de pessoas adoeceram ou morreram, ao beber álcool metílico. No fim, chegou-se à conclusão de que, para a sociedade como um todo, a descriminalização era melhor do que a proibição. Mesmo assim, o álcool tem mais efeitos negativos, sobre o indivíduo e outros, do que muitas drogas, inclusive a maconha.

Também, há mitos sobre as drogas. A maconha não leva automaticamente ao uso de outros entorpecentes, como se pregava. Pesquisadores mostraram que o crack não é tão viciante e mortal como se pensa. E é interessante refletir que algumas drogas tendem a expandir consciência e fortalecer laços sociais entre os seres humanos, o que pode ameaçar o status quo.

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A jornalista Fernanda Mena, à esquerda, descreveu campanhas anti-droga, através do tempo, com fundo de controle social. 

Nos anos de boom econômico, já tivemos bastante debate e questionamento. Pode ser, porém, que o consumo e o acesso fácil aos recursos financeiros tenham minado as reflexões de pessoas e grupos sobre identidades, papeis sociais e questões morais. Hoje constitui uma grande oportunidade, da qual muita gente no Rio de Janeiro faz proveito. Como disse o general e estadista Charles de Gaulle, “Diante de uma crise, o homem de carater descobre suas capacidades. Impõe seu próprio estilo de ação, toma responsabilidade para ele, faz ele o seu”.

 

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Chefe do morro da Rocinha: livro novo, Nemesis, de Misha Glenny

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No Dia das Mães, em maio último, no Complexo do Alemão: uma mãe conta a perda trágica do filho

For King of the hill of Rocinha: new book, Nemesis, by Misha Glenny, click here

O leitor pode pensar que o silêncio longo de sua blogueira seja devido a tanta notícia ruim  — recessão econômica, impasse político, escándalos de corrupção cada vez mais abrangentes. Realmente, não há muito a dizer –para além do desalento — a não ser expressar a certeza de que as mudanças socioeconômicas da última década terão duradouros efeitos positivos e que, apesar dos retrocessos, aprofunda-se a democracia. A verdadeira razão pelo silêncio, porém, é o trabalho focado num livro sobre a metrópole do Rio.

O foco inclui a leitura de livros, e o silêncio precisa ser quebrado para recomendar (além de Dancing with the Devil in the City of God, por Juliana Barbassa ) o livro Nemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio (Nêmesis: um homem e a batalha pelo Rio) disponível atualmente apenas na Inglaterra. Recomenda-se também o Rio de Janeiro: Histórias de Vida e Morte, de Luiz Eduardo Soares, um conjunto marcante de experiências que o especialista de longa carreira em segurança pública nos oferece.

Nem –Antônio Francisco Bonfim Lopes — está na cadeia hoje, longe de seu território, a Rocinha, onde moram mais ou menos cem mil pessoas. Misha Glenny, jornalista inglês (e amigo de sua blogueira), que já escrevu sobre segurança cibernética, crime organisado global e a região dos balcãs, assumiu para si a missão de visitar o traficante na penitenciária de segurança máxima no estado de Mato Grosso.

O que Glenny colheu dessas conversas extraodinárias e de muita pesquisa adicional (inclusive um tempo morando na Rocinha) é um retrato único de como o negócio das drogas e a Guerra às Drogas afetam a vida no Rio de Janeiro, dentro e fora das favelas. Qualquer um que faça a tentativa de entender a metrópole, especialmente aqueles que receberam a tarefa de cobrir os Jogos Olímpicos de 2016 aqui, deve ler esse livro novo, a ser lançado no começo do ano que vem nos EUA e no Brasil.

A experiência de Glenny o preparou para ligar pontos como poucos fizeram, se alguém já fez. Relata a chegada da cocaina e da violência no Rio, explica as origens das facções, traça as relações entre elas e com a polícia e descreve os rituais fora-estado da favela da Rocinha. Tudo isso então é contextualizado na história brasileira mais ampla e, mais importante, é conectado à história de subida e queda de um homem inteligente, que entrou no negócio das drogas — e no mundo da violência — porque sua filha sofria de uma doença rara, de custos altos.

Trata-se de um livro que, para esta leitora, prova a necessidade urgente de descriminalizar as drogas e integrar mais ainda as cidades e a sociedade no Brasil. Não devemos deixar repetir a história de Nem, e de tantos jovens.

E agora, enquanto Brasília debate como salvar políticos, de volta ao trabalho.

P.T. se você ainda não assistiu ao filme Que horas ela volta?, corre para o cinema.

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King of the hill of Rocinha: new book, Nemesis, by Misha Glenny

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Last Mother’s Day in Complexo do Alemão: a mom recounts the tragic loss of her son

You might think this blogger’s long silence is due to so much bad news — economic recession, political impasse, widening corruption scandals. It’s true, there’s not much to say –beyond dismay — except to express the belief that socioeconomic change of the last decade will have lasting positive effects, that, despite leaps and lags, democracy is deepening. But the real reason for the silence is focused work on a book about greater Rio.

The focus includes reading books, and the silence must be broken to recommend (in addition to Juliana Barbassa’s Dancing with the Devil in the City of GodNemesis: One Man and the Battle for Rio, currently available only in the UK. There is also, for those who read Portuguese, Luiz Eduardo Soares’ Rio de Janeiro: Histórias de Vida e Morte, a striking collection of dark experiences that this longtime public safety expert and former official has put down on paper.

Nem –Antonio Francisco Bonfim Lopes — is in jail now, far away from his territory, Rocinha favela, home to about 100,000. Misha Glenny, a British journalist (and friend of this blogger) who’s previously written about cyber security, global organized crime and the Balkan region took it upon himself to pay the drug “don”, as he calls him, quite a few visits, in a maximum security penitentiary in the state of Mato Grosso.

What Glenny extracted from such unusual conversations and an enormous amount of additional research (including time spent living in Rocinha) is a unique portrait of how the drug business and the War on Drugs affect life in Rio de Janeiro, in and outside of favelas. Anyone attempting to come to grips with the metropolis, particularly those charged with covering the 2016 Olympic Games here, should read this new book, set to come out early next year in the U.S. and Brazil.

Glenny’s experience prepared him to connect dots that few have done. He tells how cocaine and violence descended on Rio, explains the origins of the local gangs, charts the relationships among them and with the police, and describes the outlier rituals of the Rocinha favela. All this is then contextualized within broader Brazilian history and, most important, connected to the up- and downhill story of one intelligent man drawn into the business — and the violence — because his daughter had a rare, expensive illness.

It’s a book that for this reader, proves our urgent need to decriminalize drugs and further integrate Brazilian cities and society. Nem’s story, and that of so many young men and women, must not be repeated.

And now, while Brasília debates how to save politicians, back to work.

P.S. if you haven’t seen The Second Mother, do.

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Rio de Janeiro has moved forward, but won’t be spared recession: a conversation with Alfredo Sirkis

Extensão do metrô

The metro line extension is one of many achievements for Rio in the last several years

From student revolutionary to urbanism secretary, alderman, congressman and today, an activist focused on climate change, Alfredo Sirkis has much to say about the Rio metropolis’ past, present and future. Is he a visionary? He considers himself the “father of Rio bicycle paths,” since he was the person who took the idea to then-mayor Marcello Alencar in 1992. Today we have about 250 miles of paths.

RioRealblog had a thought-provoking conversation with him last week at his downtown office.

Para Rio de Janeiro avançou, mas a crise não vai nos poupar, clique aqui

An experienced politician who’s seen a bit of everything, Sirkis points to many gains for Rio since 2006. But he warns that, even before we get started with the 2016 Olympics, the party is over: “Very soon the state government won’t be able to meet its payroll. It’s going broke fast.” It’s going to be a “Saturnino situation,”he predicts.

Saturnino Braga was Rio de Janeiro’s first elected mayor, after the military government came to an end, in 1985. In 1988, he declared municipal bankruptcy; the book A Casa da Gávea (the Gávea house, which is the mayor’s official residence) tells how the mayor dispensed with his official car and drove a VW Bug. The residence was in disrepair. One can only imagine the impact on public service, infrastructure maintenance and investment at that  time.

While the reader takes in this somber scenario, herewith the best parts of the Sirkis interview.

RRB: How do you evaluate mayor Eduardo Paes?

“Eduardo had seven years of fairly generous circumstances. There was political alignment — municipal, state, and federal — something quite unusual for Rio de Janeiro . Rio’s selection as host for the Olympic Games brought big investments to the city,” said Sirkis, recalling that the Porto Maravilha port revitalization project first took shape during his term as urbanism secretary, when César Maia was mayor, in the early 2000s.

Sirkis was pleased to see the project implemented, but says he’s told Paes that “the project’s success or failure depends on middle class residential use in the port area. Without it, it will become just an extension of downtown do Rio de Janeiro as it exists today.” Sirkis is also concerned about “the non-urban characteristics of the revitalization, particularly the socio-economic aspect, the local economy; in other words, revitalization isn’t merely public works, it’s also a social and economic process, it’s boosting the local economy.”

Similarly, Sirkis partially approves of  the Perimetral elevated highway removal, allowing better access (particularly for pedestrians) to Guanabara Bay. In Paes’ place, he says, he would have left a piece of the overpass standing (from Barão de Tefé Avenue onwards, in the direction of Caju) instead of substituting it with an expressway, which will still function as a barrier to the water. “In the future, I think [the new expressway] will also have to be incorporated into the revitalization,” he predicts.

The metro line extension, a federally-funded state public works project, and the creation of the BRT dedicated busways, Sirkis says, are key legacies of Rio de Janeiro’s recent turnaround. In favor of dense urban environments and against urban sprawl, he agrees with critics of Paes who preach less focus on the West Zone and more on the North Zone and the city center. Nevertheless, he believes that the crowded BRT lines are proof of their success. “This shows there’s enough density to economically justify such a transportation system,” he says.

Sirkis doesn’t see the large numbers of buses in constant maintenance — due to poorly applied asphalt —  as an important factor in current overcrowding.

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In the port area, potential to be realized

RRB: So, will it have been worth it for Rio to host the Olympics?

Sirkis answers the question with more calm than many young critics feel. Having helped to put together a previous Rio candidacy, proposing the Ilha do Fundão (where the UFRJ federal university is located, in the bay) as a location for the games, he recalls that it “went out the window, it was practically laughed at.”

The West Zone’s Barra da Tijuca is known to have trumped the Ilha do Fundão (or any other part of Rio) on Olympic security, since Barra boasts thinly occupied areas with easy access.

“I prefer a dense city and I think that sprawl is a serious problem,” he continues. “And I’d like to see all these investments made in Barra going to the North Zone, to downtown. But the bare-naked truth … is that either you want to win the Olympics or you don’t want to win the Olympics.”

He says that comparing what’s going on in Barra with what would have been the case if the Olympics were to be held in the port area, for example, “is a false dilemma … the same funds wouldn’t be available for anywhere else.” There were benefits, he adds, despite the costs of West Zone sprawl. We had an improved investment climate, with money also going into the North Zone and the port area.

Just how the last ten or so years in Rio would have been without the perspective of the 2016  Games is something we’ll never know. Sirkis believes that the full impact of the event on the city will only be measurable some time from now.

RRB: What’s the main obstacle to urbanizing favelas, as the mayor had promised to do with his aborted Morar Carioca program?

IN the 1990s Sirkis created POUSOs, Postos de Orientação Urbanística e Social (Social and Urbanistic Orientation posts), located in favelas to “provide on-site technical support to ensure safety and introduce regulations in favela construction.” Since then, he’s observed that land ownership issues are the biggest obstacle to urbanization (and consequently, urban integration).

“The problem,” says Sirkis, “is that you have a chaotic ownership situation, you have the Brazilian notary system that’s a horror, and you have decisions that only the judiciary can bang the gavel on, in relation to usucapião coletivo (collective land ownership stemming from occupation) and other mechanisms. Meanwhile, to build legally in a favela, in Special Zones of Social Interest, you have to have a city license, which is relatively simple in areas with POUSOs … And the problem is that for the formal sector to have access to credit, they have to mortgage the lot. And if you cannot straighten out the ownership question, you go back to square one, back to informal construction. The problem never ends.”

Brazil is full of these gray areas, the result of centuries of inequality and irregular justice, permeated by personal relationships and odd compensations — that block institutions’ capacity to treat cases solely on the basis of their merits. This paralyzes governments.

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The North Zone, with a decent infrastructure base, could be denser, shortening commutes

RRB: How can we deal with powerful groups, such as bus companies?

Incremental is the key word, according to Sirkis. Bit by bit…

“In relation to the issue of construction companies, bus companies, I think they’re there, part of reality. Either you expropriate the buses — and buses were expropriated, with disastrous results, during the Brizola government — or you try to create a certain degree of regulation and repression. But you have to take into the account the fact that they have interests, they’re not philanthropic groups, they’re companies. So it’s a complicated balancing act, with the political complication of the [bus companies’] influence on … the City Council, so it’s complicated, often, to stand up to their interests.

I think that constant ideological antagonism doesn’t help the city. You have to, from the point of view of the public interest, see where the shortcomings are — which in the case of the bus system are many — and put pressure on these agents.”

Sirkis says that when he was on the City Council “[bus company representatives] had a systematic majority. And at that time the Council was much better than it is now. You had 18 aldermen who weren’t in on the deal. Sometimes we came to 22, and there was [a total of] 42 aldermen. Not 51, like now. Today, I don’t know how many [are independent], but certainly fewer… Now, I think that with this correlation of forces, you could say real progress was made, ultimately, with the [2010] bidding process for bus lines, because before there were no contracts. It’s incremental.”

He suggests that the city try to keep part of all public services under its own management, just to have some idea of real costs and the kinds of problems that arise. This strategy is also a useful tool when it comes to a strike, he adds.

RRB: Since you see tough days ahead, what can Rio de Janeiro do to get through the current recession?

“Rio de Janeiro has to find its economic vocations and remove barriers. Rio de Janeiro is a knowledge center, but the universities need to connect up more with companies,” says Sirkis, pointing to Recife’s Porto Digital as a model.

Given that the pre-salt oil fields’ brilliant future is over, the construction boom is ending and the public employment option “is at its limit”, Sirkis suggests a neighborhood-by-neighborhood survey of ongoing and potential economic activity. “You have to encourage more permanent employment,” he adds, and reduce bureaucracy.

With or without a recession, one thing is for sure: there are no more VW Bugs in Rio’s future. At very least, the golden era now coming to an end has given us more space for bicycles, dedicated busways and the metro.

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