A new republic

Social UPP secretary: “Not makeup”, “not salvationist”; “just the integration of the city”

Rio de Janeiro State Social Aid and Human Rights Secretary Ricardo Henriques spends a lot of time explaining the UPP Social – especially the fact that until 2016, pacified favelas take precedence over the rest of the city—but he’s also acting to map, organize and streamline the 137 and counting city, state, federal, private sector and NGO programs in Rio’s 12 pacified territories.

“Can you believe that there are from 40-60 NGOs in Santa Marta, and only 3,200 people?” he exclaimed Sept. 20 during a presentation at the Casa das Garças Institute for the Study of Economic Policy, to business executives, economists, urban planners, journalists and architects, among others.

Henriques was appointed in April and leads a highly participatory process that involves the city and federal government, as well as NGOs and the private sector.  Without the social UPP, Rio’s pacification program—the keystone of the city’s turnaround–  is doomed to fail.

The pilot program in Morro da Providência, launched last month, has already provided street signs (implementing a six-year-old plan!), and moved on the issues of electric power, trash, sewage, and job training.

Last week the social UPP focused on Morro do Salgueiro, Rio’s most recently pacified territory. A hundred people turned out to talk about what their community needs; absent was the neighborhood association president who, like so many in Rio, had never actually lived in Salgueiro and was the drug trafficker’s agent.

This week is dedicated to Cidade de Deus, where residents said public health is at the root of most of their problems; and a school director explained that until pacification, she’d been negotiating her students’ job hours with the local drug traffickers (“No more than two days a week”). Next week is Morro do Borel, a complex of favelas in Tijuca.

Henriques emphasizes that his brief is to “reconstitute the republic” in the pacified areas, without adding layers to existing government bureaucracies. “We’re working with a light structure, there are no big working groups” he said. “It’s just a question of facilitating things and then letting the wheel spin on its own.”

There will be performance indicators, Henriques said, in answer to a question. Architect Sérgio Magalhães reflected that guaranteeing continued public services in the newly pacified areas will be the “hardest part” for the social UPP. In fact, this is an issue even in upscale neighborhoods such as Ipanema, where public lighting and upkeep can be spotty. But Icatu insurance company president Maria Sílvia Bastos Marques, a former municipal finance secretary, pointed out that the current revitalization is bringing in greater tax revenues, such that city services can easily be expanded. “There’s enough money, it just has to be spent efficiently,” she added.

The risks for this ambitious, uber-important program? Henriques anticipates three: that favela residents won’t engage for fear that the pacification won’t last and they’ll suffer the druglords’ revenge, later; that the various actors in a community, fearful of the risks, wait for each other to take the lead; and that those whose way of life depended on the earlier paradigm, in one way or another, will stymie the social UPP, since adaption is too unsettling.

There are many unknowns and much learning ahead, Henriques added. For example, what impact will new favela housing deeds have on Rio’s booming real estate market?

About Rio real

American journalist, writer, editor who's lived in Rio de Janeiro for 20 years.
This entry was posted in Transformation of Rio de Janeiro / Transformação do Rio de Janeiro and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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