Over 100 Families Occupy Abandoned Apartment Complex in Brazil

In the Brazilian state of Paraná more than 100 families have taken over a set of abandoned buildings. Squatting the Residencial Golden Ville, located at 1850 Avenida Independência in Paiçandu, one of the Bolsonarist strongholds in the country, families are seeking to secure their housing rights as established in Article 6 of Brazil’s Constitution.

“Education, health, food, work, housing, transportation, leisure, security, social security, maternity and childhood protection, assistance to the destitute, in the form of this Constitution are social rights. “

Constitutional Amendment No. 90, of 2015 – Article 6

The occupation organized by the social movement of struggles for urban and rural agrarian reform in Brazil, Frente Nacional de Luta Campo e Cidade (FNL), began with just over 100 families. After stories were published on the occupation from local news, families from surrounding cities such as Mandaguaçu, Sarandi, Maringá and even from other countries like Haiti, moved to the complex.

The occupation was named after Dom Helder Câmara (1909-1999), a Catholic bishop and archbishop emeritus of the cities of Olinda/Pernambuco and Recife/Pernambuco, who became well known for defending human rights, especially during the period of the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985).

During one of our visits to the space to learn about the challenges faced by the local residents, we heard from some people who participated in the occupation, including Dona Inês, one of the Floor Coordinators, who confided in us the reason for living in the occupation is money. She said the rent is “too expensive for people” and that many like her, have come to the occupation and felt welcomed.

Many public policies were abandoned during the four years of Jair Bolsonaro’s presidential term, including cutting social welfare programs and eliminating government food programs. There are currently over 33 million Brazilians living in extreme poverty along with 70 million with food insecurity. Many of the people living in the squatted buildings are Black, single mothers and illiterate.

Mapping to Streamline Social Services

On Jan. 28, we documented a group health and social assistance public servants from the Greater Maringá/Paraná region. Represented by Brena Pantoja Guimarã and Rodrigo Ramos, the workers went to the space to collect information on residents.

Their goal was to create a report after analyzing their findings and present the results to those responsible for social programs within local governments. Their reports are used to put pressure on public authorities to improve living conditions.

We spoke with Brena Pantoja, a Social Worker living in Maringá/PR who is carrying out voluntary mapping work at the buildings. She told us that:

“The diagnosis of families makes it possible to present to the municipality the legitimacy of the movement so that there is guarantee and access to institutional rights.”

Brena Pantoja, social worker

She said that she was invited by the newspaper “Movimento Contra a Carestia e Emprego” to help document and identify the families taking part in the occupation, not for the police sake but to protect the people and help raise their demands. Her work helps possible referrals get sent through the municipality’s social protection network.

Default by a Renowned Political Family

The Residential Golden Ville housing complex was abandoned nine years ago mid-construction with 73% of the work completed. The failed project cost more than 20 million reais to the public coffers. The complex belonged to Construtora Cantareira, a construction company linked to the family of Edmar Arruda, a former mayor of Paraná and federal deputy (elected politician) who has been in bankruptcy for almost 10 years.

As a result, investments and all financing was cancelled. Thus generating losses both for the construction workers — many are still suing the contractor, and for the families that financed the construction. Both parties suffered default and the families have not had their money returned to them.

Families living in the complex are currently in need of drinking water, food, mattresses and clothes along with monetary donations and have organized a Facebook page to coordinate their efforts.

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