[UPDATE Dec. 30, 2010] Ricardo Henriques has accepted Mayor Paes job offer to head up the Instituto Pereira Passos. According to O Globo, this means he’ll be running a municipal level Social UPP. It’s not known yet if he’ll be taking his topnotch team along. See this column in O Globo for spot-on local comment.
Peace depends on social programs in pacified favelas
The year 2011 hasn’t yet begun, but RioRealblog’s New Year’s resolution to focus on politicians and politics is already proving to be useful. Just before Christmas, governor Sérgio Cabral dismissed Ricardo Henriques from his position as Social Assistance and Human Rights Secretary. With him goes his excellent team, which was doing one of the area’s most difficult jobs, key to the sucess of Rio’s state pacification policy for 40 of the capital’s favelas. Henriques, “considered one of [Brazil’s] top public policy experts”, as Globo columnist Míriam Leitão wrote today, belongs to the Workers’ Party– but, according to a blog source, he ignored party whims and demands to give priority to technical issues. In Míriam Leitão’s column the governor denies having made the change for political reasons, but backstage commentary is that he was meeting party demands by naming Rodrigo Neves to replace Henriques. State legislator for the Workers’ Party, a native of the neighboring city of Niterói across the bay from Rio, Neves is a young sociologist and former student leader who was just about to begin his second term.
Hopefully the change doesn’t imply a complete re-do of Henriques’ work, begun last April. Continuity is crucial in the context of the social change now under way in Rio de Janeiro. This previous post portrays a negative scenario for the city’s future, should short-sighted politics take precedence over long-term public policy objectives. The experience of other cities and plain common sense show that the state’s occupation of territories previously dominated by drug traffickers must be accompanied by well-run social programs, to bring about urban integration.
Most likely, Ricardo Henriques– one of the creators of the successful federal income transfer program Bolsa Família– won’t remain unemployed for long. According to the O Dia newspaper, mayor Eduardo Paes has offered him the presidency of the Instituto Pereira Passos, responsible for Rio’s strategic planning. Henriques, according to the report, would bring along most of his team if he accepts the job.
In O Globo, governor Cabral defends his decision by saying that social programs are basically municipal issues such as trash collection. Yet Henriques and his team were involved in much more than this, for example the creation of partnerships with NGOs and private enterprise to train and find jobs for the young population of occupied favelas, whose dreams were long subverted by the drug trade. He also had carte blanche from the governor to give priority to favelas with UPPs, over other areas of the city, even if more needy.