Manoela Vianna, press officer at the Heinrich Böll Foundation Brazil, met Antonieta Rodriguês, former resident of Campinho, a community located in Madureira, north of Rio de Janeiro City, for an interview. Engaged in the fight against the removals and the injustices arising from the construction works, Antonieta lost her home, but remained in the same neighborhood, refusing the City Hall offer to go to a "Minha Casa, Minha Vida" UNIT in Vila Cosmo, 60 kilometers away from her former residence.
Antonieta, what happened with your community?
Antonieta Rodriguês: We found out, when someone passed through ... you know those boys who pass with notes? He passed with a little note saying there was going to be a meeting in a community near here, an Olympic village that was there, and there would be people from the Cedae (State Water and Sewerage Company of Rio de Janeiro), who would talk about the demolition, and then already they said who would have to leave. We were afraid, because representatives from the City Hall said there would be a construction site here (referring to Transcarioca, M1) and that they wanted to register us, so we could be indentified. "No, we're going to do it, but nobody's going to be harmed." In 2009, we went to this meeting and they began to write down the names of the people, telephone numbers, and id numbers, everything. The next day they came with a little ID card saying: "we are here to register you for a program".
Were you a member of the homeowners' association?
Yes we were, but they did not accept our association's membership papers.
The homeowners' association went to the meeting, but was not treated as a legitmite organization?
At first, they said: 'Yes, we heard everything'. However, that was not true. Then X and Y (names hidden by publishers) from City Hall came to register everyone. We let them into our houses, they started to take pictures. It was a mistake that we did, let them enter our houses. After that, they started to mark our homes. We did not know why. They wrote symbols and numbers on our houses: SMH, number 1, 2, 3.... And when asked what would happen to us, they started to say that we would have to go to Cosmo, the housing program "Minha Casa, Minha Vida".
How many families were in the community?
There were about 60,300 people. All of them lost their homes. It is kind of absurd. It is somewhat ridiculous. There was a woman, she also had Alzheimer, and with all these things happening, I know she got worse.
How did the resistence movement begin from 2009 on?
We started looking for the land section of the public defender's office in the State of Rio de Janeiro. There we heard about other people who had already been removed, who knew of our plight and came to us.
Were they from other communities?
Yes, they informed us and told us the things as they awere, guiding us. They said it was our decision, but that we would have to go to the land section so we could have accompaniment". We went to the land section where there were other people there from other communitites but in the same situation. We began to be guided by a public defender who asked what we wanted. He told us about our rights and about the city's rights. And they really had rights, the public has sovereignty over the particular. They can take my house, but they cannot leave me on the street. We started to learn more and more, and to meet with other movements.
How did the process for compensation take place?
The sub-prefect at the time came with a piece of paper saying that everyone would have to go to Cosmos. Moreover, we were supposed to sign that piece of paper, but the paper did not even have a stamp.
Was it a contract?
It was not. It was a paper saying that we had to go to Cosmo and the city was not going to pay for it. And they would come frightening us. Each time another thing happened.
Was there a legitimate document shown?
You know, it didn't have any official symbole on it. The paper was saying that we had to go to Cosmo. That our homes were already there. Then we said: "We will not sign it." However, there were some people who were afraid and moved away.
Some families left?
Yes! At first when it all started, 30 families moved there. I think in 2010 or 2011. Before they started to demolish the houses, people left. It was like this: they would come, and then they would disappear, and then they would reappear six months later. And everybody was quiet.
Without any information?
In December 2010 they said the demolition would start. "But you are going to demolish and where do we go? It's going to drop and we go where?" They told us we should leave for Cosmo. Then people from the City Hall began to infiltrate the community observing who was strong or not and making people argue. People were strong, fighting and all of a sudden, nobody would speak. Demobilized. When the community was torn apart, they managed to take those people.
They were convincing people like this: they would offer neighbours to take appatments and share the same house. People thought: Of course, we are sharing here, so they accept. For a house, they gave three apartments, four apartments. People began to think it was an advantage.
Not to mention other stories: there was a couple, Miss Hilda and Mr. Tião. They had lived here for 40 years. They heard that their house would be demolished at 8 o’clock the night before. It was about eight o'clock at night. We did not sleep.
Did it happen during the night?
At 8 o'clock at night. We could not even sleep. Everyone said: "Mr. Tião, let's not allow them demolish your house". And what happened? The turned off the power and water in the house. Mr. Tião has a heart condition and got sick, they took him to the hospital. When he came back, they were in the dark and without water. But they called the Pastoral staff of 'Slum' and a lot of people came to help. I know who really helped us were the folks at UFRJ, Orlando Junior and his team and the Pastoral staff of Slum and other movements.
Ms. Hilda and Mr. Tião lived here, they are educated, lawyers. Their niece said: "No, my aunt and uncle won't get out of here". And she started to deal with a man there. But this person thought Mr. Tião had already been compensated. He came with his team to demolish the house. But it seemed that the boy wasn't really aware. They said, "no, you can't do that, he loves it. We haven’t received any payment". And them: "What do you mean, you did not receive severance pay?" Then he called several other people there (in the City): "But how come that there is a team here to demolish Mr. Tião's house and you don't pay anything? How does that work?" I believe that a lot of people got the money on the construction site.
When they scheduled to demolish our homes, they would always came at night. I couldn't even sleep anymore at that time. I slept with my sister. Because the people who lived in the same building as I, had already gone to Cosmo and I had been alone. So, I thought it was a little dangerous.
Were you scared?
Because many cracudos (crack users) would often come. We had to pass through very fast. There were lots of things, left behind pipes of houses that had been demolished, the debris, rats passing. It was somewhat dangerous. It was murky. They didn't remove the debris. They wanted us to give up.
When they said they were going to pull apart our homes we joined others who had already gone through it. We said, "No, we will close down the street". We did some peaceful demonstrations, asking them to listen to us, so we could negotiate a settlement, that we did not want to go to Cosmo. We put up a sign at the demonstration: "Transcarioca is a hindrance to Campinho" and others like that. There was some repercussion. The Mayor came here at the construction site with his team to show the work and we were ready to do a demonstration. The sub-prefect, Andre Santos said that the Mayor was going to talk with us, that he would compensate us, so the protest was cancelled. During that time people there from all over the world were there.
What is the role of women in the resistance movement?
Women play a very important role. They are the majority at meetings and don't give up easily. I think they also have a knack for dealing with these situations.
Editor's note: The claim of the community of Campinho was for fair compensation that would allow the acquisition or resettlement of a property in their own neighborhood. As the process of condemnation, removal and demolition of houses had already been completed, the Dhesca platform report recommended the assessment of cases and the possible material and moral damage indemnity imposed on residents. Antonieta and the group that did not accept the housing unit in Cosmo received an indemnity. Today she lives in a house next to the site of her former home.
Watch the video "Witness in Rio": This video is used to train activists who want to fight forced evictions by using video material. Antoinette Rodriguês is one of the characters shown.
Translated by Fal de Azevedo and Marli Tolosa.