Residents of a favela in northern Belo Horizonte built a barricade of burning tyres across one of the main motorways out of Belo Horizonte yesterday to protest the forced removal of 8,000 families from their homes.
The burning tyres shut off the road throughout the evening outside the iconic Oscar Niemeyer-designed Cidade Administrativa building, the offices of the government of Minas Gerais.
Considering the motorway is the only route from the airport to Belo Horizonte’s downtown, it raises implications for tourists arriving for the World Cup if they do the same thing.
The protest was part of Ocupação Rosa Leão, the name given to the fight against the forced removal of residents from their homes in the Zilah Sposito neighbourhood in Belo Horizonte.
Residents of favelas are generally tolerated until the land becomes valuable as urban sprawl spreads to the outskirts of the city. The 2014 World Cup and Brazil’s economic boom since 2008 have raised property values into the stratosphere, and all those favelas sit on now-prime valleysides with beautiful views over the city.
When Belo Horizonte was built 115 years ago it was its central neighbourhoods that were prime real estate, as delineated by Avenida Conturno, which formed a barrier around the city. Only government workers could buy properties in the centre of the city, which is why the most-fashionable area of BH is still the “Funcionarios” neighbourhood, literally, “Government workers”.
The residents of Zilah Sposito say the ground they built their homes has never been used by the city. As favelas grow they become mini-cities, complete with eletrical and water systems, roads, bus routes and all of them have little bars and supermarkets.
Ultimately, however, the land is the property of the government, and the favelas are considered illegal settlements.