VIDEO: Brazil Bulldozes Neighborhood Without Warning for World Cup

This post, by Andrea Dip, is a part of Agência Pública's special #CopaPública coverage and was originally published on February 1, 2013 under the title Minidoc: Francisca perdeu tudo por estar no caminho da Transoeste

Video records the moment when Rio de Janeiro officials armed with bulldozers descend into Restinga, intent on demolishing the homes and businesses of 153 families who live in the neighborhood.

Francisca de Pinho Melo describes her desperate attempts to stop the demolition crews:

Foto: Agência Pública

Photo: Agência Pública

Vi a máquina arrebentando o portão. Eu tentei entrar na frente e um rapaz que estava lá trabalhando com eles me segurou. Foi espontâneo eu ficar segurando na corrente, achando que eles iriam parar para conversar comigo e com os outros moradores. Mas minha irmã e minha filha ficaram gritando, pedindo para eu sair. Fui na minha casa, peguei um saco de documentos e fui para a casa de um irmão. Fiquei em estado de choque, chorando sem parar. Por que aquilo? Por que tirar a moradia de tantas pessoas necessitadas?

I saw when the bulldozer burst through the gate. I tried to get in its way, but one of the guys in the group held me back. It was just natural that I kept holding on to the chain, thinking that they would stop and talk with me and with the other residents. But my sister and my daughter kept yelling, begging me to get out of there. I went to my house, took a bag full of documents and left for my brother's. I was in a state of shock, crying nonstop. What was the reason for that? Why take away the dwellings of so many needy people?

Launched in January 2013, the footage is part of the second installation of the a mini documentary series  “O Legado Somos Nós” (The Legacy Is All of Us), produced by the human rights organization Witness in a partnership with the Rio People's World Cup and Olympics Committee (Comitê Popular Rio Copa e Olimpíadas). The evictions and demolitions in the Restinga neighborhood on the west side of Rio de Janeiro that appear in the documentary took place in 2010 in order to widen the Avenida das Américas in the district of Recreio dos Bandeirantes, a pre-requisite for the installation of the bus express lane Transoeste.

Foto: Agência Pública

Photo: Agência Pública

Up to now, the residents received negligible compensation for their loss, whereas the business owners received no compensation at all, even though the Municipal Decree no. 20.454, from 2001 [pt] established that, in the case of a business, “a new business unit, compensation or purchase of some other facility subject to the same criteria as the ones established for premises of residential use, as provided in the SMH projects, should be offered”.

According to the documentary, 8,000 people have already lost their houses in Rio de Janeiro since the beginning of preparations for upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games, and the dossier published by the Rio People's World Cup and Olympics Committee states that about 30,000 people in the city will forcibly be evicted due to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

Families “lose everything”

Francisca de Pinho Melo em "Minidoc: Francisca perdeu tudo por estar no caminho da Transoeste." Agência Pública

Francisca de Pinho Melo in the video “Minidoc: Francisca perdeu tudo por estar no caminho da Transoeste.” Agência Pública

In the video, Francisca says that she lost the cabinetmaking business where she worked side-by-side with her husband, her daughter, and two relatives when they demolished the neighborhood. She says she had to restart life in another community, making a living out of selling meals:

Eu estava na marcenaria há uns seis, sete anos. Tinhamos uma renda até boa, que estava dando para a gente suprir nossas necessidades. Quando aconteceu isso a gente ficou uns três meses sem ganhar nada, só gastando. Aí viemos morar de aluguel. O mais difícil são os filhos, é difícil ver um filho pedir. Meus amigos, parentes, vizinhos foram doando uma porta, um balcão e agora eu estou vendendo refeição, lanche, refrigerante. Chego a trabalhar 18 horas por dia.

I had been working in the cabinetmaking business for some six or seven years. Our income was quite reasonable, enough to meet our needs. When this happened, we went three months without earning any money at all, only spending money. Then we had to start paying rent on a house. The most difficult part of this situation is the children, it is hard to see a child begging. My friends, relatives, neighbors donated a door, a counter, and now I am making a living selling meals, snacks, soft drinks. I work as long as 18 hours a day.

Francisca, who lost not only her house, but also her work and her source of income, told Copa Pública that she is still fighting along with a public defender to get fair compensation for the loss of the cabinetmaking business; as for the loss of the house, she has had to accept the symbolic value of 3,800 reais [about 1,800 US dollars] offered by the city government:

Eu perdi tudo, minha casa, meu trabalho, a fonte de renda da minha família. Pior ficou quem morava e trabalhava no mesmo lugar, que não recebeu nada.

I lost everything, my house, my work, my family's source of income. It was worse for people who used to live and work in the same place, and did not get any compensation for it.

Watch the video [pt with en subtitles]:

Learn about Elisângela's story in the first documentary in the series [pt].

To get in touch with the Committee of Residents Affected by the Transoeste, please send an email to

The blog #CopaPública [pt] is a citizen journalism initiative that reports how the Brazilian population is being affected by – and mobilizing against – preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

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