Brazil to invest US $3.6bn on slums

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A favela in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Friday announced a R$ 6.86 billion (about $3.6 billion) investment to bring running water, roads, improved housing, sewage and other services to the so-called favelas, or metropolitan slum areas in 13 states of his country.

According to the President, it is the first time a project aimed at the "biggest degradation focuses" becomes part of the Brazilian political culture. The federal government would contribute 5.9 billion Reais (3.14 billion USD), the rest would come from local governments. The total program would involve 504 billion Reais (268 billion USD).

Last January, the second government of President Lula announced the Program for the Acceleration of Growth (PAC in the portuguese acronym). "This phase of the PAC has three aspects: environmental, public health, with the decrease of illnesses, and income, improving the incomes of the population of those cities," explained the President's Chief of Cabinet, Dilma Rousseff.

The project is also aimed at weakening the grip of drug traffickers and other criminal organizations on life in the slums. "If the state doesn't fulfill its role and does not provide (adequate) conditions for the people, drug traffickers and organized crime will. So we want to compete with organized crime, and we are sure that we will beat it when we manage to bring benefits to the poorest places," President Lula da Silva said last month in São Bernardo do Campo, just days after 19 were killed in clashes between police and criminals in a slum.

Last month, the state security chief of Rio de Janeiro said that the shantytowns were "at the mercy of a parallel state, where criminals dictate their will," pledging to conduct more police raids to counter this trend. In a speech in Rio de Janeiro in July, the President acknowledged the difficulties fighting the organized crime: "We have to confront (gangs) knowing that many times they are better prepared than the police, with more modern guns than the police."

In Rio de Janeiro alone, 20% of the city's population, or 1.5 million inhabitants, are estimated to live in one of the 752 favelas.