Interview with Danilo Cajazeira
Preparations for major sporting events are often accompanied by the gentrification process enabled by the construction of infrastructure. Brazil is very relevant for this kind of issue, considering that in the next two years I will host two major events – the World Cup of 2014 and the Summer Olympics of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. 2013 brought with it a surge in protests and resistance to the abuse and injustice inherent in the preparations for these events. I talked about all this with Danilo Cajazeira, a geography teacher and amateur footballer, member of the Sao Paulo branch of the World Cup Popular Committees.
How did the resistance movement develop and how did you end up a part of the Popular Committee?
During the past eight years, I’ve been playing football for several amateur teams made up of anarchists and punkers. Sao Paulo has a special amateur football scene, because the city was built on the banks of several rivers which have been recently turned into canals. Until the industrialization and gentrification processes, there were many amateur football pitches on the banks of these rivers. Lately, football has been played more on private pitches, on artificial turf, where the fee is expensive. The pitches which still exist by the rivers represent important places for various communities where people get together, party, play football, take drugs. These pitches play a significant role in the community and they are endangered.
Another country-wide problem is the fact that there are more empty houses than people who need a place to live. Using basic mathematics, we could offer everyone a place. And Sao Paulo has the highest number of favelas in Brazil. Therefore, squatting movements have become increasingly stronger. This struggle for housing rights, which took shape in 2011, has embraced the World Cup Popular Committees throughout Brazil. This movement undertakes research and fights the consequences large urban projects have on the inhabitants of the city. One of the football teams I play for is part of one such Committee and I have been a part of this movement for over a year and a half.
Can you tell me more about the organization methods and actions of the World Cup Popular Committee in Sao Paulo?
This Committee is made up of a network of movements and groups, from anarchist groups to political parties and civic movements. But the Committee itself functions on the basis of autonomous principles and is not connected to any particular institution or party. During the last year, we’ve organized several large-scale protests, one during the draw for the group stages and others during the Confederations’ Cup. We also organized many debates in impoverished areas, universities and schools, where we explained the effects of the World Cup on the inhabitants of the city. We organized the first Rebel Cup of Social Movements – a football tournament which we organized on the land where the municipality demolished the old bus station to build a disco. They have been trying to gentrify the center of the city for over 20 years, but the resistance movement is very strong – Sao Paulo is probably the only major city in relatively wealthy countries where the center has yet to be gentrified. We organized this tournament in which 32 teams took part and there were also debates besides games. We also take part in protests organized by our partners. For instance, last Saturday, for March 8th, we took part in protests for women’s rights where we specifically asked for women’s rights to be upheld in context of the World Cup. Brazil has seen a rise in trafficked women, including underage ones, in host cities. Women’s rights are not taken into account. These are phenomena which have taken place in other countries which hosted the World Cup, it is not something new. Our demands since 2011 have been in favor of efficient, coherent government programs to prevent such issues. And nothing has happened. In the matter of housing issues, Sao Paulo has 74 communities living in the proximity of stadiums and have been or are soon to be evicted because of the World Cup. The government claims only 6 families have been evacuated in order to renovate the stadium, but we know there are many more communities affected by the gentrification in the eastern part of the city, a traditionally impoverished area, where this process has been accelerated since 2007, when Brazil officially became the host of the World Cup. For instance, we, together with a group of architects, helped a community located only 800 meters away from the stadium and devised an alternative eviction plan which we submitted to the municipality.
And how did they react?
We didn’t receive an answer. Only this year did the government begin to fake interest in a dialogue with the resistance movement, after all the protests. But they’re only pretending, there is no real conversation. After repeatedly trying to communicate with the government, the 12 Popular Committees in the 12 host cities issued a common statement: we refuse to negotiate any longer. These are our demands. Meet them or face us in the streets. […]
Interview conducted by David Schwartz
 Comites Populare de la Copa – popular committees formed in all the host cities of the 2014 World Cup to push for upholding the rights of the inhabitants, which were systematically violated by the gentrification projects related to the World Cup.