Resistance to Forced Eviction of 468 Families of Prestes Maia

What is affected
Housing Social/public
Land Social/public
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 15 February 2006
Region LAC [ Latin America/Caribbean ]
Country Brazil
Location São Paulo1

Affected persons

Total 0
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution The government should thoroughly explore alternatives to the eviction, including offering secure tenure in adequate alternative housing. The authorities should avoid coercing residents.
Details BrazilSP-AI-06.doc

Forced eviction

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Brief narrative The Prewstes Maia is the first large squatted high-rise building in South America. The municipal authorities in São Paulo are pursuing the forcible eviction of 468 families who have occupied a derelict building in the centre of the city for over two years. The authoirities seek to clear the site for commercial development. The Batalhão de Choque (riot police) in São Paulo have a history of using excessive force during similar evictions; therefore, and the families face grave danger. No alternative accommodation has been arranged for them, and the eviction is likely to make them homeless.

Under international law, forced evictions can be legal only is they are carried out consultations, due process of law and assurances of adequate alternative accommodation. Otherwise, the evicion would constitute a grave violation of human rights.

The families, who originally numbered over 1,000, are mostly migrants from other parts of Brazil and other countries in South America. They moved into the long-abandoned 22-storey clothes factory called Prestes Maia on 3 November 2003. After remaining empty for over 12 years, the Prestes Maia had become known for drug-dealing and prostitution. Working with a local NGO, the Movimento Sem-Teto do Centro (MSTC) (Homeless Movement of Central São Paulo), the families cleaned out the building, removing 300 truckloads of rubbish and large quantities of sewage. They pooled money and organised repairs and services including a library, a cinema, an art gallery and regular cultural events.

They were scheduled for eviction on 15 February, but after negotiations the municipal authorities allowed them a further 60 days to vacate the building, and they are now facing a deadline of 15 April. In the weeks leading up to the earlier eviction date, over a dozen police cars would park outside the building every day at 4:00 am. When residents came to the windows, the heavily armed officers inside waved their guns and shout threats.

The municipal authorities have tried otherwise to pressure residents of Prestes Maia to leave the city and return to their places of origin, offering payments of around 5,000 Brazilian reais (US$2,300) on condition that they sign documents renouncing any rights to council services, including schools, welfare and the issuing of work papers. Similar payments of money halos ave been offered in attempts to erode community solidarity and obtain individual agreements to vacate.

The residents succeeded in gaining some concessions for relocation from the government, such as financial aid for rental and credit plans.

Municipal authorities managed to arrange the gradual removal of the residents to other locations in downtown São Paulo, with varying degrees of government promises and assistance.

Since July 2007 the building has been closed. At October 2008 the building is still closed and barricaded with concrete blocks.

Even though the Prestes Maia building is still unused, it has become a symbol of struggle and victory for many Brazilians, showing the power of humble people who stood up for their rights and resisted entrenched financial and government power.

Ultimate consutlations and alternative arrangements for the Prestes Maia residents eventualy avoided massive violations of housing rights and other human rights affected by forced eviction.
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