July 1, 2014

Manu Valcarce

The Other Side of Rio

Since losing its capital status to Brasília in 1960, Rio has been in decline; investment dried up, brains and businesses fled to arch rival São Paulo, and violence became endemic. The number of favelas grew exponentially, and everything from traffic violations to murder seemed to go unpunished.

Since October 2009, when Rio won its bid to hold the Olympics, authorities, spurred on by progressive Mayor Eduardo Paes, have retaken control of several high-profile favelas, sending in battalions of special-operations police to remove the traffickers and then installing a community-based presence called Pacifying Police Units, or UPPs by their Portuguese initials.

So far, 17 UPPs have been set up in 68 different communities, and the results, according to the government, have been overwhelmingly positive. However, the residents can’t wait that long for health, education, water, infrastructures, transport and, most crucially, employment opportunities. There has been no real investment and little in the way of public services, and authorities must provide the same services, jobs and opportunities as the rest of Rio, and doing that requires more utilities and private enterprise.

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