'Ecobarriers' Wall In Rio's Poor

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2009 12:15 PM CDT
A worker builds a wall at the Dona Marta slum in Rio de Janeiro, Tuesday, March 31,2009.   (AP Photo/Eduardo Naddar)
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(Newser) – They’re called “ecobarriers,” but critics say the walls being erected in Rio de Janeiro aren’t there to protect trees. The 10-foot cinderblock walls are supposed to prevent Rio’s favelas, or shantytowns, from expanding into the rainforest, but critics say they’re really a means of segregating the poor people who live there, buffing the city’s image and Olympic hopes. “They want to cage us like animals,” says one favela-dweller.

The UN has asked Brazil about “geographic discrimination,” and the city’s Union of Civil Engineers has called the walls a “tremendous attack on people’s right to come and go.” Rio’s governor, who ordered the barriers’ construction, calls that argument a “great cowardice.” But he’s also been a noted critic of the slums, calling them “a factory for producing criminals,” where abortion should be legal.