Last house in Rio's Olympic Park slum demolished
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The last house of a Rio de Janeiro slum near the Olympic park that was once home to 700 families was demolished late Tuesday.
Market vendor Augusto Pereira told the Associated Press that there was too much pressure on him to leave the area and that he needed to carry on with his life somewhere else.
The Vila Autodromo favela was once home to around 700 families. Most left or accepted offers of compensation or resettlement in a nearby housing complex. Favelas are dotted around Rio de Janeiro. Some are small and some house tens of thousands of residents.
Until recently 20 families had refused to move out because proposed new homes did not provide paved streets and public lighting, but the issue was resolved this week for most of them.
Pereira was the very last to stay in the area. ''I requested some conditions to leave, but the City Hall was stalling me. I was getting so depressed that I just decided to go anyway,'' Pereira said. ''Staying here during the Olympics would hurt me even more.''
The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics will be on Friday.
Clearing space for the Olympic venues has brought a political cost for Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes. The bulldozing of Vila Autodromo was made to build a complex of 31 high rises that will become upper-class housing in the city's west zone.
Paes initially said residents could stay if they wanted, but changed course and ordered evictions. He said a few months ago that the homes built in that area will cost between 3 million to 3.5 million reais ($800,000 to $930,000), but sales have been slow so far.
Felipe Pena, a visiting professor at New York University who recently released an award-winning documentary on Vila Autodromo, said that the demolition of the last home in the region is a symbol of how Rio's authorities dealt with the Olympics.
''Demolishing working-class housing next to the Olympic Park shows how much exclusion there is in these Games,'' Pena said. ''What happened to Vila Autodromo is a representation of what might happen to the rest of the country. The mayor, the governor and the interim president belong in the same party. Politicians are fine with this.''
Activists and lawmakers have pledged to keep the pressure on Paes to improve conditions for former residents of Vila Autodromo in their new homes.