Social needs: a third try

Vice-mayor to take on Rio’s biggest challenge

Sources close to Adilson Pires, Rio’s vice-mayor elect, say that in January he’ll preside over a newly baptized secretariat, meant to address social needs in all of Rio de Janeiro.

The existing municipal Secretaria de Assistência Social (Secretariat for Social Aid), they say, will become the Secretaria de Desenvolvimento Social (Secretariat for Social Development).

So far, social needs have been riding a merry-go-round. Created in April 2010 to accompany the state’s police pacification program, the Social UPP was originally part of the state government’s social assistance and human rights secretariat. In December of that year, the governor handed the unit over to the city, which set up the Social UPP inside the Pereira Passos Institute (IPP  is the Portuguese acronym), responsible for the city’s data and strategic planning. Now, it looks as though the Social UPP will be affected in some way, since Pires is meant to be responsible for social needs across the city, including the current 28 pacified favelas and other areas.

Just this past August, the city moved its highly capable Finance Secretary Eduarda la Rocque to the presidency of the Pereira Passos Institute, after previous president Ricardo Henriques, who had started out with the Social UPP under state aegis, left to run the Unibanco Institute in São Paulo; and his replacement, José Marcelo Zacchi, departed for IETS, a Rio urban thinktank. Under la Rocque, Tiago Borba was Social UPP coordinator, but he’s now moved to São Paulo to work with Henriques.

The Social UPP’s brief has been to map social needs and existing facilities, and coordinate the work of municipal agencies. Originally, those agencies  were told to give top priority to the needs of pacified favelas.

It’s not clear just how effective the Social UPP has been. No impact study has been carried out. The unit partners with the UN Habitat program, training local residents to map their communities, naming every alley and byway. The mapping is key to the process of meeting social needs, and, as Douglas Mayhew points out in his groundbreaking new book of text and stunning photos, Inside the Favelas, helps to prevent the return of violent drug trafficking by bringing favelas into the daylight.

But the common perception in Rio is that social needs in pacified favelas have yet to be adequately met. State Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame always points out that his occupation and proximity policing program will not be enough to ensure that Rio’s turnaround will deepen and last. The new 5 x Pacificação documentary, partly funded by the state government, delivers the same message.

The sources close to Pires say that city agencies have stuck to their own agendas and suffer from inertia. Even the most basic and widespread problem in favelas, trash, still plagues residents, despite the fact that Comlurb developed a motorized tricycle to negotiate steep alleyways and get to the garbage.

Pires, a six-time city councilman and founding member of the PT, the Workers’ Party, is no newcomer to issues of political power in Rio. A resident of the West Zone Vila Aliança housing project, to which South Zone favela residents were removed in the 1970s, he came up through Catholic Church community organizing.  He’s a strong defender of newly-reelected mayor Eduardo Paes, and has been an effective bridge between the executive and the City Council. He proposes a new income transfer program to help families of crack users so they’ll help them to kick the habit.

Money is no object when it comes to social needs (or anything, really) ever since la Rocque cleaned up the city’s finances, with the budget now twice what it was four years ago, at R$23 billion, or about US$ 11.5 billion, equivalent.

“The Social UPP didn’t have political power. Adilson will,” said one source, who adds that the veep may become Rio’s next mayor in the 2016 election.

The Workers’ Party has also been moving to get into the governor’s seat, in the 2014 vote. Although current governor Sérgio Cabral and his PMDB party plan on his veep Luís Fernando de Souza, or “Pezão” (Bigfoot), as successor, the PT supports Senator Lindbergh Farias, who  as mayor of nearby Nova Iguaçu from 2005-2010 pulled together a risk-taking and innovative staff, many of whom have gone on to key roles in Rio itself. With Farias and Pires in office, Rio could see a move to the left in some policies– though, as President Lula discovered on his 2002 election, most of Brazil’s power structure is quite unyielding.

This January, a likely outcome of Pires’ appointment will be a quite logical division of labor: the Pereira Passos Institute focusing on data and policy development, with an eye towards sustainability; and Pires responsible for everyday policy execution and the politics that go along with that.

At a dialogue held at the SESC theater in Copacabana November 13, la Rocque said she likes to think of the Portuguese acronym IPP as standing for Public Policy Integrator. She’s also working on an internet network of pacified communities, which will be able to access information on government and NGO activity in their areas; and spoke of borrowing funds from the BNDES, the National Development Bank, to set up a Favela Development Fund that would in turn make resources available to local groups.

As a Pereira Passos Institute spokesperson told RioRealblog, “Eduarda la Rocque’s goal is to make the IPP more and more of a center of excellence for the provision of services in the area of information regarding the city, and … an important articulator and integrator of all public policies (of municipal, state and federal, as well as those of the third sector), now developing in communities”.

Mayor Paes has already made some changes among his secretaries. The ever-energetic and enthusiastic Carlos Roberto Osório, who was readying the city for the megaevents as Conservation Secretary, has moved over to Transportation, a central job as the city shifts from rickety buses, minivan and automobile transportation to four major dedicated lanes for articulated buses. Rio’s Metrô, a state entity, is also expanding.

Education Secretary Claudia Costin, who has been working to bring the city’s schools up to acceptable standards, was reportedly asked to take on a position at the Education Ministry in Brasília— but O Dia newspaper says she’ll stay in Rio for now. She recently found herself in a spot, as parents and students protested the planned demolition of a city school– one of the best– attached to Maracanã stadium.

Jorge Bittar, Housing Secretary, has already left his post for political reasons having to do with internal Workers’ Party politics, with undersecretary Pierre Alex Domiciano Batista taking his place. Not much is expected to change there, despite the fact that urban relocation is creating a feeling of injustice in affected areas. The Housing Secretariat’s organization and communication have been criticized, and little thought seems to have been given to policies such as mixed income housing (Columbia University graduate students made a study of this for the Secretariat with regard to the port area, but results remain to be seen).

And City Planning Secretary Sérgio Dias may be forced to leave his post, according to O Globo newspaper, for having traveled to the Caribbean at the expense of a consortium that won a bid to provide sewage collection in the West Zone.

About Rio real

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

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