Announcement from the Movement to Fight in Defense of Housing (MLDM) regarding the Parangaba-Mucuripe Light Rail project alterations

On March 12th, Metrofor, a transportation company in Fortaleza, shared on its web site changes in the Parangaba-Mucuripe Light Rail project. The most significant change refers to the location of the Fátima neighborhood station, which initially would have been placed next to the Engineer João Tomé bus station, on top of the Aldaci Barbosa community, forcing the removal of close to 250 families (according to Metrofor).

With the project alteration, the station will be constructed in an area in front of the old location, between Borges de Melo Avenue and Francisco Lorda Street, reducing the number of properties affected in this locality due to the station to approximately 20. The proposed Parangaba-Mucuripe Light Rail would connect the wealthy, hotel sector of the city to another neighborhood, where the soccer stadium is located, enabling transportation for World Cup tourists.

According to Metrofor, due to other project alterations, there is an expected reduction in the total number of families affected by the Light Rail from approximately 2,500 to 1,700. The initial Light Rail construction plans would have displaced about 2,500 families, the majority of whom are very low-income; the displaced families will be forced to relocate to areas on the city limits of Fortaleza with minimal compensation.

 

Cid Gomes expelled from the Aldaci Barbosa community [1]

The Aldaci Barbosa community was one of the first to resist the Light Rail removals, and up until today the community has refused to cooperate with the government. Because of this, on August 2nd, 2011, Governor Cid Gomez made a “visit” at night, and without prior notification to the community, with the intention of pressuring the residents to accept the removal. Accompanied by secretaries, advisers, and a security battalion (the general commander of the Military Police was even there!), Cid tried to go from house to house, attempting to secretly negotiate with the residents. But the attempt to intimidate the community, which was caught by surprise with the visit, became a real embarrassment! It didn’t take long before the residents from other communities threatened by the Light Rail construction, political activist organizations, and social movements united with the Aldaci residents. Diverse communication forms covered Cid Gomes being expelled from the community in a humiliating way, below a rain of boos, and yells of “terrorist,” and, “dictator, respect the resident!”

 

The resistance from the communities was crucial!

The Light Rail project alterations cannot be understood as a kind act from Governor Cid Gomes. On the contrary, the resistance from the communities was crucial!

Since the communities learned about the threat of removal, in the beginning of 2010, they started an organization process and a mobilization of the community residents surrounding the Parangaba-Mucuripe extension. In some parts, they have been able to prevent the outsourcing companies’ action, not allowing the registration of families, or the marking of homes, and property evaluation (a situation that has persisted up until today). There have been numerous assemblies, meetings, protests, debates, and other activities within and outside the communities. The resident mobilization and the supporters have brought about the formation of the Movement to Fight in Defense of the Housing (MLDM), which has taken the lead in fighting against the removals. 

All of this movement was decisive in making the situation public, using the local media, up to the national media, to constantly spread material about the issue of the removals.

 

Emergency Changes: The rush against time and the World Cup 2014

Another resource that the MLDM has used has been seeking the support of the Federal Public Ministry and the Public Defenders, which has resulted in recommendations and judicial actions. In result of this, throughout months the government was prevented from performing any act of expropriation in the Light Rail implementation. The result from the most recent actions has been preventing the start of the works in areas where there were planned removals before the government gives a definitive solution for the housing issue for the residents of those areas.

Following this obstruction, the solution the government has sought in order to accelerate the Light Rail implementation was, on one side, to substitute one removal location for another, where supposedly all of these removals would not be necessary (as is the case for Aldaci Barbosa). On the other side, it was necessary to diminish the size of some stations and to alter trajectory points to diminish the quantity of resettlements (from 2,500 to 1,700, according to Metrofor). As the initial project called for removals in almost 70 percent of the route, this would slow down the work in a major part, with the subordinate rhythm of the “resolution of the housing issue.” By diminishing the number of removals, it’s possible to speed up the necessary time for resettlements, and advance the progress of the works.

The resistance from the communities has been decisive for the enormous delay in the implementation of the Light Rail. The initial planned time in the Matrix of Responsibilities [2] (a letter of responsibilities written by the government concerning the Light Rail project) was for 30 months (from January 2011 to June 2013). After this, five different dates were announced. The Light Rail bidding notice already defines an 18-month period [3] in order for the winning consortium to finalize the implementation of the project. From April 2012, when the first interventions occurred, the delay has already prevented the train from being ready for the Confederations Cup in June 2013. In order to avoid the risk of not having it done for 2014, the Ceará government was obligated to alter the project.

 

The fight is not going to stop here!

There is no doubt that the decrease of impacts on the resident population surrounding the track should be considered a conquest (not a gift!) by the communities and the Movement. However, the fight is still far from finished, given that: 

 1.     The number of removals remains absurdly high (1,700, according to Metrofor) and we consider it of fundamental importance that other alterations are explored in the project — primarily related to the plan — that could drastically reduce the number of removals; 

 2.)      We consider the government’s resettlement plan completely inadequate, given that it disregards the land surrounding the communities by planning to relocate the families in housing on Fortaleza’s city limits (in José Walter and in Paupina), without equipment guarantees and sufficient social services (schools, nurseries, hospitals, health centers, churches, etc.), creating socioeconomic damage for the large portion of low-income families, with the impossibility of work and income. The Light Rail families’ work and income already depend directly on the housing location (many are fishermen, work in buildings nearby as maids or janitors, nannies, or other services; in surrounding stores, like vendors on the beach, in the restaurants, etc.). Therefore, in exploring new alterations in the plan for persisting resettlement cases, all the relocation possibilities in the areas surrounding the communities should be considered, with adequate housing conditions, and the affected population should have the right to participate and make decisions regarding the elaboration of the housing plan.

 3.) The insecurity of the families in relation to the extremely low value of the indemnities continues to exist. The government housing assistance (R$ 200), which aside from being completely insufficient to finance adequate living conditions, reveals itself as practically a perverse resource because the government tends to delay it for too long. This generates an extreme situation of vulnerability for the families. With the need to accelerate the Light Rail implementation, we are afraid that the government will excessively use this housing assistance, by forcefully lowering the indemnity values (giving properties valued at up to R$16,000 the “right” to receive housing assistance), which gives the government the possibility to postpone the resettlements, extending indefinitely the suffering of these people.

In conclusion, we always insisted in the necessity and the possibility to make these changes in the Light Rail project that would eliminate and drastically reduce the impacts on the residents, who live in the area surrounding the track. The state government of Ceará, when it was not pretending to be deaf, would use supposedly technical arguments that would make such alterations to the project impossible (and only did when it was faced with a threat!). Today, with the World Cup deadlines, once more it’s proven that the impossibilities were always of another order; they are to combine an urban mobility project with the political social cleansing in area of great economic interest (commercial, real estate, and tourism) in Fortaleza.

WHEN THOSE ON THE BOTTOM MOVE, THE TOP ROCKS!!

                                                                                               

Fortaleza, April 15th, 2012

Movement to Fight in Defense of Housing (MLDM)

 

  “CID GOMEZ, LEAVE THE ALDACI BARBOSA COMMUNITY IN PEACE!”

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gB65T_-Z62Q

[2] A document signed on January 13th, 2010 between the federal government, 11 mayors and 12 governors (Brasília, one of the host cities, does not have a mayor), defined the responsibilities (cost, schedule, source of founds, executors) of each federative entity in the areas of stadiums, ports, airports, and urban mobility for the World Cup 2014.

[3] According to the National Association of Urban Transportation, the implementation time of a diesel light rail is two years. Information reproduced by Metrofor in Projects Based on Light Rails in Operation and Implementation – Light Rail Projects. SEINFRA – State Government of Ceará, s/d.

 (translated from Portuguese version at: http://pelamoradia.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/fortaleza-nota-do-movimento-de-luta-em-defesa-da-moradia-mldm-ce/)

 

 

 

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