Vila União de Curicica is a small neighborhood in the Western zone of Rio de Janeiro, situated between two major Olympic sites: the Olympic Park and the Deodoro sport complex. Once completed, the BRT TransOlímpica transport corridor will connect the two venues and areas of the city.
Over the past eight months, Vila União has been hanging in Olympic eviction limbo as the BRT route remains unconfirmed. Some residents fight to stay while others eagerly await the move to Minha Casa Minha Vida public housing apartments.
In late December, residents had some cause for optimism. Citing resistance to the community’s removal, city officials visited the community to announce a revised plan for the BRT that avoided most homes and lowered necessary evictions by 83 percent. The new plan utilized some relatively unused land in a hospital complex along the neighborhood’s northern edge. Still, residents heard little more from officials after the announcement, and proceeded with caution.
A quietly released recent government document declares that 304 families will now be evicted, up from the 181 announced in December. Others in the community report hearing–from government officials– that now everyone will need to leave their homes–the city’s plan as of mid-2014, in gray above.
“Today engineers can build viaducts, tunnels and build in space but they can’t avoid our community?” – Vila União resident
The city’s Public Ministry has sent a request for the official project plan but was told that it is not yet finalized.
Despite the lack of an official plan, the city has already begun destroying homes of residents who have opted to move to public housing apartments. As has been done in nearby Vila Autodromo and other communities facing eviction, city workers punch holes in each wall of the home to make it uninhabitable.
Residents in Vila União claim much of the demolition took place over the Easter holiday weekend.
The city has been cracking down on local businesses in the neighborhood as well. One local bar owner had his business shut down due to alleged sanitary violations, even though he doesn’t actually serve food — only sealed beverages. When he applied to renew his license, officials told him he could not renew because the neighborhood was being removed, putting him in an impossible bind.
Residents who wish to stay in their homes report that the demolitions of some homes have affected their own services. Both water and Internet service have become less consistent for some as surrounding structures are dismantled.
Above all, though, residents say the psychological pressure is the most difficult.
What remains to be seen is whether the city will stick with its promise to minimize evictions and use the revised project plan or whether it will ultimately revert to its original plan, requiring it to evict the entire community. At the moment, judging based upon which homes are coming down, the latter seems far more likely.