Last residents of Rio slum fighting eviction for Olympics

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 4:52 PM

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — As the clock ticks down to the start of the Summer Olympics, the residents of a Rio de Janeiro shantytown are battling to save what remains of their neighborhood from demolition by the city government.

Dozens of activists resisting a court order gathered Thursday in a house in the favela known as Vila Autodromo, a community on the edge of the main venue for the Olympics, in an attempt to stop city workers from tearing it down. Two other buildings were demolished under the same order Wednesday.

The home's owner, Maria da Penha, 50, who shares the two-floor property with three other families, has lived in the area for 22 years.

"Any moment now they could pull it down," she said. "But I am going to stay here until they do."

The favela originally was home to 700 families, but around 50 of them have refused to leave and rejected the city's offers of compensation or resettlement. Most of the properties in the area have now been bulldozed, and the people remaining say they have only sporadic access to electricity and running water.

Residents say they are being intimidated into leaving despite repeated promises by the mayor, Eduardo Paes, that he would let people stay if they wished.

Penha said that even if she loses her property, she will stay in Vila Autodromo. "I am prepared to leave my house, but I am not prepared to leave this community," she said.

On Saturday, the residents will discuss a "People's Plan" for upgrading the remains of the community in the hope of avoiding further demolitions.

Vila Autodromo was included in the original plans for the Olympic park, but city authorities decided to demolish it instead. Much of the area around the park is being transformed into luxury apartment buildings for use after the Olympics, which begin Aug. 5.