Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

After my previous article regarding the gentrification of my neighbourhood, I thought the next logical step would be to show the true meaning of gentrification, rather than the first world definition that my previous article gave. With that in mind it seems only natural that I discuss what’s happening in Brazil on the eve of one of the greatest sporting events, the FIFA World Cup. Brazil is a country that has huge gulfs between rich and poor a staggering 6% of the entire population lives in favelas. With that in mind you must ask yourself are they not spending beyond their means by hosting the World Cup? I know many people are looking forward to the tournament, which only makes uncovering what’s really going all the more important.

Before winning the race to host the World cup and the Olympics, Brazil was being heralded as one of the fastest growing economies along with China and India. What most people may not know is just how polarised Brazil actually is, this is a country where politicians earn somewhere in the region of 116 times more than the minimum wage. So although the economy may be growing, large portions of the population are not seeing any fruits of such growth. The arrival of the World Cup also seems only to be benefitting a select few rather than the nation as a whole. I find this fact particularly distressing when you think just how important football is to these people, especially the working classes. The World Cup has brought nothing but anguish to the people living in the favelas. The atrocities that have been taking place in the run up to the World cup are truly innumerable; these atrocities FIFA are complicit in and therefore will do anything to keep out of the public eye.

Hundreds of thousands of people are being kicked out of homes that they have lived in for decades to make way for the World Cup. Take the renovation of the Maracana stadium (where the final will be played), reportedly costing $500 Million. Residents in the surrounding favelas in Rio De Janerio are being evicted to make room for a 10,000 space car parking lot. They wouldn’t be politicians if they were not adept at lying and trying to deceive their own people, the city’s housing secretary has said that these demolitions and evictions have nothing to do with the World Cup, Jorge Bittar states that these homes were “precarious homes, built in an inappropriate area”. Cue raised eyebrows; in reality it’s only “inappropriate” in the sense that it’s now prime real estate and they most certainly cannot have poor people living there! Many of these evictions are being carried out at gunpoint by the thugs in uniform the Brazilian police. The very same police force that was sent into the favelas to “pacify” them, ironically the method they used to pacify these poor hungry and forgotten people was violence. It comes as no surprise then that the police are as equally to blame as the drug cartels for the rising murder rate, according to The Rio Times there has been an 8% rise in murders between 2012-13.
As if being kicked out of your home wasn’t bad enough, most of the locals will not even be able to afford to go and watch a game in their local stadiums. In a country where football is more than a national sport, it’s something embedded in national culture this is utterly despicable. Most locals will almost certainly be out-priced, although Deputy Sports Minister Luis Fernandes claims to recognize the fact that there could be a “gentrification of the stadiums” little action has been taken to actually address this issue. This is because he knows that in order to make sure these stadiums remain a sound investment the ticket prices need to be higher. What this means is that the renowned atmosphere of watching football in a South American football stadium will be nothing more than a fallacy, as the inflated ticket prices will be attracting the kind of fans that ex footballer Roy Keane labelled as the “prawn sandwich brigade”.

A common way in which the residents of these favelas earn a living is to sell local cuisine and other football paraphernalia at stalls outside the stadiums. During the World Cup this will not be possible as FIFA plans to have 2KM exclusion zones around the stadiums; consequently only FIFA approved brands will be sold in and around the stadiums. Surely one of the major pulls about attending a World Cup is that you get to experience the culture of the host nation? Clearly FIFA is trying to ensure that the World Cup is completely devoid of anything that isn’t an “official sponsor”. Why not just host the World Cup in the same place each year if FIFA are hell bent on the World Cup having such a bland corporate identity? The FIFA hegemony doesn’t stop there; special judicial procedures are set to be implemented during the World Cup, which is no doubt something that is being shoehorned in by FIFA. In effect special courts will be set up in order to deal with any offences committed at the World Cup. One commentator claims that should these measures be accepted then acts of protest during the World Cup could be judged as terrorism. In order to keep the facade going, FIFA have greased the palms of Brazilian football legends Pele and Ronaldo, as both have spoken positively of the upcoming tournament, not once mentioning the suffering that is being faced by their own people as a result of the World Cup, the latter has even written an article featured in The Guardian.

The Brazilian government is investing billions into constructing the stadiums alone; the figure stands at $7,261,000,000. When around 6% of the countries entire population lives in favelas which are not in receipt of basic public services it’s not difficult to see why Brazilians are angry. Despite these facts, FIFA corporate goon ball Sepp Blatter has the audacity to suggest that Brazilians should not be using the World Cup for political ends. Of course Blatter’s only worry is that the protests of the Confederation Cup will spill over into his beloved World Cup and expose the countless human rights offences FIFA has been complicit in. To further rub salt in the wound, FIFA astonishingly is seen as a non profit organization which means that it is largely exempt from taxes, thereby cheating Brazil out of $400 million in tax revenue. I use the word astonish because it truly boggles the mind that a corporation that is clearly motivated by profit and makes an obscene amount of profit could somehow still be viewed as non profit? During this World Cup what’s happening off the pitch will certainly be more important than what’s happening on it.

To follow on from the recent documentary How to get a council house which showed the dire situations some people find themselves in due to the shortage of low cost housing. I thought it would be appropriate to shed further light on the social housing situation many people across the capital find themselves in. In particular the very borough in which I live in, Ealing. Currently there are many redevelopments and regenerations taking place within the borough. There are seven sites which are currently in the process of being regenerated all of various sizes. Some are completed or near completion whereas some are due to begin in the coming months. What this means is that a large number of people who live on these sites are most likely going to need to be re-homed. Now just by peeking on the Ealing council website you can find the number of houses they have  available for people on the housing register each year, they say that this is somewhere in the region of 900 homes on average. Now with over 13,000 people on the housing register in Ealing alone it is clear that there is a huge shortage, which is pretty much the case across the rest of London. Now with a housing shortage already rife in the borough, you need to ask are these regenerations really necessary? It is clear that regenerations such as the ones taking place will further lengthen the wait for people who were already waiting for housing. To further illustrate how bad the shortage is last year 175 2 bedroom properties were available and over 2,400 people were waiting for properties of that size. With this in mind regenerating must be seen as something of a luxury at times like these, we simply don’t have the housing stock available to re-house the people on the waiting list already, let alone the people being made to move by council regeneration schemes.

I myself am a 17 year resident of Havelock estate, one of the 8 housing estates deemed necessary for regeneration. I speak for myself when saying this; however I know that most of the other residents will echo me when I say that the people of Havelock would rather not move. Approximately eight years ago, a ballot was held to decide whether or not residents wanted Havelock estate to be sold to a Housing Association company 51% voted against this attempted venture by the council. A council official has confirmed that the recent turn of events in Havelock (namely the regeneration) is pretty much exactly what the council proposed to do eight years ago, this time around there was no ballot of course. The reason being is the council were obviously afraid of losing, and why risk the embarrassment when they are not required to even hold a ballot in the first place? It’s not like residents should have the right to decide what happens to their homes or anything. I was also told by the council official that the Havelock estate properties are at the end of their life cycle and it would cost more to refurbish them than it would to build completely new homes. Again the ugly word profit rears its head, this should not be about money, and the council should be providing residents with what they ultimately want. Perhaps if the housing list was not 13,000 long and the council had the houses to re-house the residents without putting unnecessary pressure on an already long list, then and only then should such “regenerations” be considered. However what’s taking place would be better referred to as gentrification not regeneration. The proposed prices of the rents here may well be too high for many of the current residents, so coming back to Havelock upon completion may not be a realistic option for many people. Following on from that more than half the current properties on Havelock are to be sold (current housing stock 845, 434 for outright sale), if the residents of Havelock could afford to buy their own houses would they really be renting a council home? The splitting up of the long standing community of Havelock estate is despicable; what’s worse is this is all being masqueraded as “being for the good of the community” my community will no longer be a community so how can we be seen to benefit from whatever comes of the so called regeneration? Not to mention that the council had promised to find the residents of Havelock better or similar properties than the ones we currently have. A number of residents that have been re-housed and moved away from the estate are unhappy with what the council has given them. For the last remaining residents which needed to be out before the end of last year, we have received letter in which the council state that we will be given a direct offer of residence and if we chose to refuse this offer then they will begin legal proceedings against us. A regeneration that was neither wanted nor arguably needed is going to displace and break up a long standing community all in the name of profit. The question remains, does this money actually go back to the community? Or does it end up in the pockets of some shameless politicians?