The population of 15-to-24-year-olds in Rio de Janeiro's metropolitan
area is on the order of 1.8 million. According to 1999 data
from the National Housing and Population Statistics Research,
684 thousand (38%) have not completed primary schooling. On
the other hand, 216 thousand (12%) have at least finished
high school. As far as the job market is concerned, 718 thousand
(40.1%) have work, while 226 thousand (12.6%) are unemployed.
Statistics from Rio de Janeiro's 53 favelas (slums/shantytowns)
show that 62% of young people have not completed primary schooling;
barely 1% have finished high school; 51% have jobs or are
looking for work, and the unemployment rate is 18.6%.
and Survival in Rio's favelas
de Souza e Silva*
(Interrogation is quite easy to do:
Beat the slum-dweller; whip him black and blue.
Interrogation is quite easy to end:
Beat the scum criminal; whip him till he's dead.)3
sung by BOPE - Portuguese initials of the Special Operations
Battalion of Rio de Janeiro's Military Police - during their
Daily life in Rio's favelas is a world unknown to the vast
majority of the city's residents, known as cariocas. Fascination,
prejudice and fear are entwined in the speech of the residents
of the formal districts' when talking about the inhabitants
of the favelas and their environment. And, these days in particular,
they seem more distant and incomprehensible than the Iraqis,
Afghans and Palestinians killed by the vengeful rage of those
setting themselves up as the world's rulers and their allies.
is because the most common conceptions of the favelas, and
of the violence and drug trafficking found there, are characterized
by sociocentric preconceptions that complicate both an understanding
of, and the search for adequate alternatives to the real problems
in those areas.
other things, established ways of thinking and talking about
the community areas (the favelas) follow this pattern. This
is why, when attention is directed toward these urban areas,
the primary focus is on absence. These communities are usually
defined by what is lacking: Favelas are places that don't
have access to basic services, paved roads, schools, healthcare,
daycare, education; where there are no rules, or laws, or
civility. So goes the common formulation.
concept of absence reveals the rather common interpretation
that the favela does not form part of the city.
according to this concept, all favela residents are potential
criminals. So it has become common to infer that any young
person from a favela would be involved in criminal activities.
As if they would never seek out, of their own initiative,
other ways to become part of the workforce. And as if the
only social network that existed in the favela was the one
supporting drug trafficking.
children and teenagers in the favelas do have greater exposure
to the drug trade than the residents of the formal districts.
But to conclude that they are potential criminals reflects
a discriminatory perspective. We need to consider the vast
population of these communities alongside the miniscule percentage
of those who participate in criminal activities.
2003 the State Secretary of Security rejoice in announcing
that in 12 days, more than 100 criminals were killed. This
number included four young workers killed by police in Morro
do Borel, a crime that brought more than a thousand community
residents into the streets of Tijuca, united in a silent march
another example, the stationing of a military police battalion
in Maré, the largest favela in the city, has turned
the lives of the local residents into a living hell, even
worse than having to put up with a conflict among three rival
criminal groups in their midst. Now there are four armed groups,
and, as far as protecting the lives of residents is concerned,
none is any different from the others. So, since the battalion's
600 soldiers were deployed, the number of innocent victims'
deaths has increased. For the police, all residents are viewed
as suspects or, at the very least, as sympathizers with the
situation looks even bleaker when one considers the treatment
received by young people in poor communities. The 15-to-24-year-old
population of Metropolitan Rio de Janeiro is on the order
of 1.8 million. According to 1999 data from the Pesquisa Nacional
por Amostra de Domicilio (PNAD; National Housing and Population
Statistics Research), 684 thousand (38%) have not completed
primary schooling. On the other hand, 216 thousand (12%) have
at least finished high school. As far as the job market is
concerned, 718 thousand (40.1%) have work, while 226 thousand
(12.6%) are unemployed. Statistics from Rio de Janeiro's 53
favelas show that 62% of young people have not completed primary
schooling; barely 1% have finished high school; 51% have jobs
or are looking for work, and the unemployment rate is 18.6%.
unemployment rate is accompanied by a dramatic increase in
deadly violence. Young people in the favelas are killing and
dying in ever-growing numbers:
The death of numerous residents of Rio's favelas point to
the urgency of implementing public policy in these communities.
Such action is fundamental to dealing with the phenomenon
of violence. It remains to be seen whether the middle and
upper classes of the city are ready to change their way of
thinking. We need to create more dialog, based on justice,
between the residents of the formal districts and the residents
of the favelas in Rio do Janeiro.
Professor at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, head of
the Centro de Estudos e Ações Solidárias
do Maré (CEASM), and director of the Observatorio de
Favelas do Rio de Janeiro
Source: Radio CBN - 23 Sep 03, and O Globo newspaper, from
24 Sep 03