By Priscila Néri | November 2011
We’ve joined forces with our local partners in Rio and Amnesty International to call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to address the complaints of hundreds of poor families that have been (or are at risk of being) forcibly evicted from their homes under the pretext of the XXXI Summer Olympic Games to be held in Rio in 2016.
On November 11th, our partners, after several attempts, hand-delivered a letter and video-dossier on recent forced evictions to members of the IOC’s Rio 2016? Coordination Commission, who were visiting Rio for a periodic project review. The letter – co-signed by Amnesty, WITNESS, Comitê Popular Rio da Copa e Olimpíadas, Conselho Popular do Rio de Janeiro, and Movimento Nacional de Luta pela Moradia – calls on the IOC to meet with affected communities and take immediate action to stop forced evictions conducted in the name of the Olympics. See the actions you can take below.
When first handed the letter, the president of the World Union of Olympic Cities, Daniel Brélaz (also mayor of Lausanne), reportedly declined to read it and then left it on a nearby table saying simply: “this is of no interest to me.” Ironically, the World Union of Olympic Cities was meeting in Rio to discuss how to ensure the Rio 2016 Games “result in community and environmentally sustainable legacies.”
But our partners didn’t give up. Next, they traveled to a nearby community to meet roughly 40 delegates from the gathering (including members of the IOC) during a field visit. Led by Antonieta, a 31-year-old single mother who was forcibly evicted from her home in the Largo do Campinho community in May, they seized an opportunity to interrupt the official agenda and alert delegates about the forced evictions poor communities are being subjected to across Rio.
Antonieta shared her story. Her 6-year-old daughter, Ludmila, distributed envelopes containing the letters and DVDs. Reporters approached Antonieta to listen to her account. As you can imagine, the Olympics’ PR team wasn’t too pleased. They quickly distributed their business cards and tried to diffuse the action by offering to meet and address Antonieta’s situation.
That’s a welcome change of heart. When Antonieta was forcibly evicted in May – months before receiving compensation – she had to live with her daughter in the spare room of a local orphanage for five months. Her daughter would often have to miss school because they couldn’t afford the four bus tickets it now took each day just to get there. In January, when rumors of the community’s evictions first surfaced, Antonieta lost her job after missing too many shifts scurrying around city government offices to try and obtain official information about what was going to happen.
Uncertain about what lay ahead, she was afraid of leaving her house and missing a visit from someone who could inform her, or even coming home to find her belongings beneath rubble. Meanwhile, local city officials would visit the community, often without proper identification, and threaten residents to accept low offers of compensation or lose everything.
Though Antonieta finally received compensation in late August, it was not enough for her to stay in the same neighborhood or maintain her quality of life. As a result, she has moved from “the asphalt to the hills,” finding a house at the top of a hill in a shantytown and facing several flights of makeshift stairs to get home every day. She is now farther from hospitals, transportation, and Ludimila’s school, and she is still unemployed, surviving thanks to the help of friends/family and by accepting temporary work when it is available.
Authorities and Olympics Officials Must Do More
Past attempts to engage local authorities have not yielded effective solutions. Hundreds of evicted families are now living in dangerous and precarious resettlement areas as far as 70km from where they were previously, and many others are facing imminent eviction even though they were never properly informed, consulted or involved in the plans for their future. It is unacceptable that communities be made poorer because of the action of a government that should be focused on doing the exact opposite. Forced evictions violate Brazilian legislation as well as international human rights standards, and the government must fully commit to abolishing this egregious practice for once and for all.
Two weeks ago, WITNESS emailed the IOC on behalf of our partners in Rio requesting a meeting in Brazil in order to highlight the stories of communities affected by forced evictions. Citing a packed agenda, the IOC declined the invitation and said: “we have been assured by Rio 2016 [the local Olympics organizing committee] and the local authorities that the legal process will be followed” for communities who need to be relocated.
But these assurances – often repeated by Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes and Rio Organizing Committee head Carlos Nuzman – are far from accurate. Independent research by local NGOs, Rio de Janeiro’s Public Defenders’ Office and international organizations including Amnesty, WITNESS, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, has proven otherwise. The IOC and the Brazilian government must do more to ensure that forced evictions are no longer a part of the story for Rio 2016.
Join Us in Calling for the IOC to:
- Publicly and unequivocally reaffirm its commitment to human rights by condemning any and all forced evictions carried out in the name of the Olympic Games and by calling on the Brazilian government to ensure that evictions are only carried out as a last resort, after all other feasible alternatives to eviction have been explored in genuine consultation with affected communities.
- Request that the authorities in Rio de Janeiro substantiate their claims that all evictions are being done within the confines of the law by releasing to the Public Defenders’ Office the names, compensation values, and resettlement locations of all of the families that have already been evicted due to Olympics-related construction projects.
Also add your voice and urge local government officials in Rio to:
- Ensure that all persons who have been forcibly evicted are provided with effective remedies, including adequate alternative housing that maintains or improves their current standard of living.
- Engage in genuine consultations with communities that are affected by construction of Olympics infrastructure or negatively impacted in other ways by the hosting of the games, in order to thoroughly assess, minimize and address any impacts on the human rights of these communities.
- Live up to commitments made in their bid and, in conformity with the Olympics Charter and the Code of Ethics, ensure that the Olympics promote a positive legacy in Rio by increasing the availability of low-income housing and better living conditions for communities living in poverty.
To take action, help us spread the word by sharing these videos with bloggers and media, leaving your comments of support in the fields below, and supporting the local groups working with affected communities on the ground.
On Twitter, help us tweet the IOC at @IOCMedia and local Olympics organizers in Rio @Rio2016 and ask them to respond to our call!
The campaign continues…stay tuned here for more updates!
Click here to watch a clip of Antonieta at 1:20min in this video produced after our training in Rio earlier this year.
To read the letter in Portuguese, visit Amnesty International’s Brazil site.