Beautiful Rio isn’t the Real Rio

Rio de Janeiro, the Marvelous City.

Rio de Janeiro, the melting pot for all races and cultures.

Rio de Janeiro, the gem of South America.

Rio, famous for its wonderful beaches, festivals, and the statue of Christ the Redeemer, is undoubtedly a beautiful city. The welcoming atmosphere seems to lure everyone and absorb them into a fantastical journey across this magical city. But there is one limitation to whom is welcomed — the indigent people of Rio.

For years, Rio has been developing on its highly tourism-dependent economy. Rio, like all the other tourism-dependent cities, has been trying to think of a way to make the tourist industry flourish. There are many different ways to achieve this goal, such as amending social policies or new marketing strategies. However, for Rio, one of the most effective and direct steps towards creating an even more popular tourist site is “social cleansing.”

social cleansing [noun]: The large-scale removal from an area of members of a social category regarded as undesirable.

Indeed, there exists numerous different methods to reach the same goal albeit with varying degrees of consequences and implications. For example, if the goal is to be part of the top 10% of a high school graduating class, a student can either diligently study his/her way up or — quite extremely and unfairly — move all the smart kids out of the school by providing a monetary incentive to leave. The reason why the latter is never actually carried out is because it violates our ethics; such an action is certainly immoral and corrupt and should not even be taken into consideration. Yet, the city of Rio de Janeiro has decided to do just that: choosing the immoral choice as an easy shortcut to gaining more tourists.

Social cleansing has been a plan that Rio’s top governing officials and big corporations have been keeping up their sleeves for several years. This decade’s series of international events taking place in Rio such as the 2007 Pan American Games, 2012 UN Earth Summit, 2014 World Cup, and the 2016 Olympic Games, worked as a perfect excuse for actually carrying out the social cleansing.

Ever since 2009, more than 77,000 citizens of Rio have been forcibly evicted. These citizens that were removed from the city were neither homeless nor squatting. In fact, most of these individuals had legal title to their property but were simply cleansed out of the city area against their will. They were forced to make unrealistically long trips far outside the city center with little to no compensation. Outside, they had to rebuild their communities from ground zero.

The city of Rio de Janeiro has violated its own citizens’ property rights for more tourism and revenue. They justified this by linking more tourism to a better economy, which will theoretically increase the standard of living for all citizens. But, will the better quality of life that Rio guarantees really be a better quality of life for all if a large majority of citizens are forced to give up their rights? And, more importantly, is the higher standard of living worth it if it is only applicable to society’s elites?

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