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Brazil: Thousands are losing their homes and moving to camps

2021-07-25T12:26:30.591Z

They call themselves Covid-19 refugees: they lost their jobs and homes during the pandemic. Thousands of people now live in camps in São Paulo, the richest city in Latin America.



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Rosileide Paranhos, 37, lives with her two daughters in a self-built wooden hut

Photo: Rogério Vieira / DER SPIEGEL

For months she lay awake at night, gave a start, and could no longer fall asleep.

Rosileide Paranhos wondered how she was going to pay the next rent and what would happen if she couldn't.

What to do with her and the girls?

The moment would come soon.

She had lost her job at the beginning of the pandemic and the money had almost been used up.

Paranhos, 37, has lived here since August 2020, in a hut made of plywood, built on earth and rubble, windowless, nailed together by himself. She brought her furniture with her, a wooden cabinet, a chest of drawers, the stove. The wind whistles through the cracks and under the roof. At night, when she snuggles up to her two daughters so as not to freeze under four blankets, she hears the voices of the others, the neighbors' television, the barking of the dogs. "But I can finally sleep soundly again," she says.

Jardim Julieta, São Paulo, Brazil, around 800 huts in a former field, next to a huge truck parking lot, one of many settlements that did not exist before the pandemic. Located in the middle of an industrial area, next to a ten-lane motorway, the air is heavy and smoky. "The field used to be used for rape," says a neighbor.

"

We only have children playing,

"

says one of the new residents. They all lost their jobs and apartments because of the corona crisis. The first occupied house was an old shipping container.

It was the poor that President Jair Bolsonaro allegedly wanted to protect with his strategy of downplaying the pandemic and largely foregoing measures to contain the virus. "People die of hunger because they can't work," he said, criticizing the lockdowns that individual governors and mayors established. He hesitated to order vaccinations, one fatal wave followed the next.

Brazil now has more than 540,000 corona deaths - and millions more poor than before.

A fifth of the people in the country state that they no longer have any income.

The crisis hit informal workers most of all.

More than half of the 212 million Brazilians now have problems to eat, 19 million are hungry.

Almost 13 percent live on less than 1.50 euros a day.

Settlements like the one in Jardim Julieta are emerging all over the country, on old factory sites or unused fields, from Rio de Janeiro to Manaus, but above all in São Paulo, the richest metropolis in Latin America, a city with expensive car dealerships, star restaurants and the largest private helicopter fleet World.

It's early morning, winter in the southern hemisphere, the nights are so cold that homeless people die in the streets.

The days can get hot though.

Paranhos takes a while before she appears in the door of her little hut.

She squints in the sun.

Lately there has been no electricity at night, then only candles help.

"This is my last," she says, showing a white stub.

The refrigerator doesn't work, just the freezer compartment.

The water often stays away during the day, so she gets up around midnight and fills buckets.

Later she warms water on the gas stove and washes herself and the girls.

She laid the power cables in the house herself.

She mixes some milk with bananas and sugar, breakfast for her two daughters, Hevellyn, ten years old and Bruna, eight.

There are two pink school rucksacks in the kitchen, which is also the living room, behind a partition and a lace curtain, a double bed.

The most valuable thing you have?

"The television," says Paranhos.

She brought it from the old apartment.

During the pandemic, her two daughters would have watched school programs.

“Hevellyn

wrote everything down, ”she says.

"What's your favorite subject, Hevellyn?" She asks, pointing to her daughter's school books.

"English," comes back from behind the partition.

"Oh, you're cosmopolitan!"

The younger Bruna remains silent, burying her face in the neighbors' Siamese cat.

There are a lot of cats and dogs here.

They help against the rats, spiders and scorpions.

Paranhos had two rooms in her old apartment, but she could no longer pay the 600 real (just under 100 euros).

"I miss the warm shower," she says.

Also the tiled floor, which she always wiped clean and which smelled so good - and her work, which she says she loved.

Paranhos was a production assistant in a small factory that assembled baby pacifiers and went broke at the start of the pandemic.

She also had a cleaning job.

She wants to earn money again, but she also has to take care of the girls.

They now have alternating lessons.

There is a school bus, but it doesn't stop here.

Paranhos won't let you go alone, too dangerous, on the big road.

Hevellyn takes her there on foot Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and they walk for about half an hour.

She goes with Bruna on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

There are rules in Jardim Julieta's camp.

"Women and children have priority here," says Luciene Guedes, "as well as old people and wheelchair users."

Guedes was one of the first to occupy the field in April 2020 and is now one of the settlement's coordinators, four men, three women, "because women understand women".

You are responsible for new admissions, allocation of places or if there is a conflict somewhere.

They couldn't accommodate people with alcohol problems because of the large number of children, says Guedes.

If a man wanted to separate from his family, then it was he who had to leave here.

Drugs are forbidden, as are funk parties.

That is the music of the favelas, explains Guedes, here they want to make a good impression.

"We want to earn this place."

Guedes is that day

arranged to meet the district mayor to negotiate the future of the settlement, the future of all of them.

You want to stay here.

A few people have built houses out of bricks.

The Brazilian Supreme Court ruled in June that occupied houses and areas may not be evacuated during the pandemic.

However, there are conditions; the judge's verdict does not apply to newer settlements.

And so in Rio de Janeiro, for example, a camp with around 400 families was closed, who settled in a field that belonged to the semi-state oil company Petrobras.

They called themselves Covid-19 refugees.

Dozens of people have been arrested, including the leader, who is now charged with illegal land occupation.

In front of "Bobby's Bar," a wooden hut with a sales window on the edge of the settlement in Jardim Julieta, a few men are sitting smoking a joint;

Apparently, marijuana does not count as a drug.

"This is the vegetable garden for all of us," says the owner of the bar, who calls himself Bobby, and points to a few beds in which heads of lettuce and tomatoes are ripe.

They laid the electricity and water lines together.

The houses are in several rows.

Many here still have small jobs, work as unofficial park rangers, street vendors, sort garbage, some even do telephone advertisements or deliver food to the chic upper middle class neighborhoods.

Most are dependent on food donations.

About half of the barracks are connected to a self-made pipe system, which directs the sewage into a nearby canal with condoms on the bank.

A few trucks are parked next to the canal, there is a building with toilets and showers - exclusively for the drivers.

The other residents have dug holes in the narrow streets between their houses that they cover with wooden panels.

Juliane Soares lives there with her two year old son and her partner.

Unlike most of the others here, she had been homeless for years, living under a bridge.

"My life is so much better now," she says.

When asked why that is, she does not think of the hut or the electricity.

She says, “Because of the community.

I am no longer alone. "

There were tens of thousands of homeless people in São Paulo even before the pandemic.

"We don't know how many there are today," says Guilherme Boulos, president of the socialist movement MTST.

The city had pointed stones concreted under bridges several times to get rid of the people.

"Society dehumanizes the homeless," says Boulous.

Which also leads to the fact that security forces kill them again and again.

At the beginning of 2021, Jardim Julieta grew particularly strongly: The Bolsonaro government had suspended the emergency aid payments, which were paid out to poorer households in 2020 according to the watering can principle.

At some point the settlement could no longer accept new people, they had to send families away.

Around the same time, construction workers, hairdressers and former cleaners in another empty field began nailing wooden huts together in the southeast of the city.

Since mid-April

the emergency aid is suddenly paid out again, but less than half the amount.

Maria de Lurdes, 51, who lost her three cleaning jobs in the pandemic and finally swapped her apartment for a wooden hut with a roof made of plastic sheeting, says: “Once people know where we live, they'll let us be stop working in their homes. ”She would be considered filthy.

"You'd better keep your mouth shut." More than 250 families now live in the fields.

The houses in what the residents call "Vision Street" are neatly numbered.

In addition to the disastrous health policy of the Bolsonaro government, there was an erratic social policy that cost a lot and was hardly sustainable. "People have been paid money to stay at home and at the same time told to go out and not be afraid of the virus," says Brazilian economist Marcelo Neri. Brazil had spent more money than any other emerging country - but the results were worse.

Anyone who really wants to help the poor has to be much more targeted. For example, a reform of the social assistance program Bolsa Familia, which reaches the poor better than other programs, makes sense. In terms of financing, Neri sees room for maneuver in the taxation of large fortunes, as is currently being discussed. But the resistance is great. Such a tax on the wealthy, the owner of the Riachuelo fashion brand, something like Brazil’s H&M, claimed the other day, would reduce inequality. "But the rich would become poor."

A couple of magnets, a tile from Lisbon and a small Eiffel Tower from Paris are stuck to Paranho's broken fridge in Jardim Julieta.

Places she's never seen.

She got the souvenirs from a woman for whom she has been cleaning every now and then for many years.

"She travels all over the world and always brings me something," says Paranhos and smiles.

For Bruna's birthday, the woman bought a cake with a candle in the shape of an eight, Paranhos couldn't afford that.

She takes an empty, turquoise-colored Victoria's Secret perfume bottle from her dresser, also a present.

"I liked that very much," she says, and smells the bottle.

But now she has also lost this job, her last income.

The woman has been in the hospital for eight days.

You have Covid and must be ventilated.

"The situation is serious," says economist Neri. "Inequality in income through work has never been as great as it is now." The country is more unstable. What particularly worries him: The life satisfaction levels of Brazilians are also diverging more and more. This is strongly related to income. But in the past, the poor in Brazil were still disproportionately happy despite their low incomes. In the meantime, they felt increasingly stressed, sadder and also angry: "Brazil is now an even more unequal country when it comes to happiness."

It's Friday evening in Jardim Julieta.

Rosileide Paranhos and the girls watch telenovelas in their hut.

Paranhos straightens its hair.

"I do that once a week," she says.

Two habits that she salvaged from her old life.

Out in the dark, the coordinator Luciene Guedes is frustrated because the district mayor did not show up for the meeting, but only sent a deputy, and because there is still no solution for the settlement.

Barman Bobby installs lightbulbs.

He's preparing a winter party.

"We stay inside," says Paranhos, "you never know what's going to happen outside."

Paranhos fought for this house.

It stands on a slight hill, surrounded by other houses, but with an open area in front of the door.

“They wanted to give me a seat in the middle first,” she says, “but I was afraid of fire, everything is made of wood.

And because of the narrow streets where people have sex. "

She pleaded with the coordinators to be alone and have two daughters.

After all, she was given this place.

For the first few weeks she slept there alone, on a bed, initially under a structure made of plastic sheeting.

She gave the girls to her sister, who already lived a few houses away.

At night, rainstorms almost tore the barrack down.

She was afraid.

“But if I had left I would have lost this place,” she says, “I am a warrior.

I survived it."

This contribution is part of the Global Society project

Expand areaWhat is the Global Society project?

Reporters from

Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe

report under the title “Global Society”

- on injustices in a globalized world, socio-political challenges and sustainable development.

The reports, analyzes, photo series, videos and podcasts appear in the international section of SPIEGEL.

The project is long-term and will be supported for three years by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

A detailed FAQ with questions and answers about the project can be found here.

AreaWhat does the funding look like in concrete terms?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is supporting the project for three years with a total of around 2.3 million euros.

Are the journalistic content independent of the foundation?

Yes.

The editorial content is created without the influence of the Gates Foundation.

Do other media have similar projects?

Yes.

Big European media like "The Guardian" and "El País" have set up similar sections on their news sites with "Global Development" and "Planeta Futuro" with the support of the Gates Foundation.

Have there already been similar projects at SPIEGEL?

In the past few years, SPIEGEL has already implemented two projects with the European Journalism Center (EJC) and the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: the “Expedition ÜberMorgen” on global sustainability goals and the journalistic refugee project “The New Arrivals” within the framework several award-winning multimedia reports on the topics of migration and flight have been produced.

Where can I find all publications on global society?

The pieces can be found at SPIEGEL on the topic Global Society.

Source: spiegel

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