Putting Up Walls Around Rio’s Problems

Twenty years after the Berlin Wall was pulled down, another one is being put up around some of the poorest areas of urban Brazil.

Seven miles of high concrete fencing are being built around over 40 favelas (shanty towns) this year in Rio de Janeiro – destroying around 600 homes.

Inside favella life

Inside one of Rio's Favelas

The Brazilian government claims that the walls are necessary to prevent the continuous expansion of the favelas, which they believe causes deforestation of the Atlantic rainforest. However, human rights groups argue that the walls are being built to imprison residents of the favelas and segregate them from the rest of the world.

Illegally Occupied Drug Dens

Although Rio’s shanty towns warrant recommendation from many guide books, tourists don’t exactly flock there to marvel at the magnificent architecture.

The absolute poverty and desperation of its inhabitants is clear from miles away. The vast ‘housing estates’ lie in the shadows of the city’s skyscrapers, spreading further than the eye can see and pouncing on the slightest glimpse of space.

Many of the favelas are drug dens, irregularly built and illegally occupied, some don’t have electricity or running water.

Rio’s Guilty Secret

It’s no wonder that Rio wants to hide its guilty secret. The enclaves of poverty are a physical reminder of the enormous disparity of wealth that exists in Brazil – Latin America’s largest economy.

RIOIt’s not only their successful Olympic bid that draws parallels with China. Brazil’s rise over the last decade from a lowly, indebted nation to an economic heavyweight is comparable to the Games’ 2008 host country. The treatment of its poor is worryingly similar too.

The majority of the slum-like urban villages of Beijing mysteriously disappeared before the eyes of the world fell upon the Chinese capital in 2008 and not because the inhabitants were all re-housed in better neighbourhoods down the road.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is Brazil’s first working-class leader and has lifted millions of people out of poverty. However, his government’s current treatment of Rio’s favelas may detract from his popularity.

Rather than putting an Israeli-style wall up around the problem, the government needs to look at sustainable ways to create more employment opportunities and help more of its people out of poverty so that favelas don’t need to exist.

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1 Response to “Putting Up Walls Around Rio’s Problems”


  1. 1 Christine Reilly February 1, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    I agree with you, it’s not exactly the best plan for any government nowadays to literally box off the bad area of the city.
    It appears its made the city’s drug problems worse by almost handing them an area to get away with dealing drugs without consequences. Definately an interesting read Anna.


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