Brazilian residents fight to preserve old city land

Global Business

Brazilian residents fight to preserve old city land

Along Brazil’s most beautiful stretch of coastline a battle is underway pitting conservationists against developers, poor residents against elites accused of trying taking their land.

CCTV’s Gerry Hadden reports.

Brazilian residents fight to preserve old city land

Brazilian residents fight to preserve old city land

The land in question is an old train yard called Estelita, a huge swath of abandoned land that many briefly called home. CCTV’s Gerry Hadden reports.

The land in question is an old train yard called Estelita, a huge swath of abandoned land that many briefly called home. The city wants to build high-rise condos there, while the protesters want public parks.

The stand-off has gone on for more than a year. Clashes have been common and sometimes violent.

The dispute comes as Brazil takes flak for major development messes associated with the World Cup and to the upcoming Olympics.

The train yard was a storage warehouse, and has been a protected historical site until two years ago when bulldozers showed up and tore the place down.

As for why the government demolished the place, A Recife housing activist who goes only by Doro said the land was purposely abandoned so it would become dangerous and vulnerable and so the government could sell it.

“Because it’s near the historic Old City, it’s valuable,” Doro said. “It will gentrify very quickly.”

The tensions over Estelita come at a crucial time for Recife. It’s one of Brazil’s few big cities that retain its old world charm, with a mix of rich and poor. These days the protests seem to feed off one another. A policeman in Recife once shot a protester at an Estelita march.

All these protests have caught the attention of Brazil’s federal police. They’ve opened an investigation into the sale of the Estelita land. Investigator Andrea Pinho said something there stinks.

But the city’s planning official, Antonio Alejandro, said it time for a change.

Urban activists, on the other hand, insist their fight isn’t just over how high the bricks go. It’s about people and life.

No one knows what will happen to Estelita now. But for the moment, with gentrification on hold, and a landmark spared, life is a party.