Brazil: As World Cup Nears, Homeless Fear ‘Social Cleansing’

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A homeless man sleeps on the street in Brazil (Photo from Flickr user Henrique Vicente)

The National Centre for Defence of Human Rights has expressed concern of a possible “social cleansing” in Brazil, as more than 195 homeless people have been killed in the last 15 months.

The organisation suggested that the government may be trying to clean up the image of cities that will host matches in the world cup next year by removing people from the streets through violent means.

National Council of Attorney General (CNPG) has stated similar fears, and both organisations have contacted the secretary general, Gilberto Carvalho, expressing concern that the euphemistic “sanitisation” is being used to cover up violent human rights abuses, as many of the homeless people who have died were anonymously burnt to death.

The disappearances and murders are happening throughout the country. The most recent such crime was on Sunday, when Jorge Affonso, 49, was killed in Jacupiranga, 280 kilometers from São Paulo. The Ministry of Human Rights has been sent to Goiânia, the state capital of Goiás located 200 miles from Brasilia to investigate 29 recent murders of homeless people.

According to official statistics from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), 1.8 million homeless people live in Brazil. In Sao Paulo alone it is estimated that 15,000 are homeless, 5,000 more than ten years ago.

Although President Dilma Rousseff recently launched a national anti-poverty program, it is estimated that only 25% of cities in the country have policies or programs to help the homeless.

In addition to researching the deaths of the homeless, the Human Rights Centre is pushing for the reform of policies to avoid extreme “social cleansing” actions and other human rights abuses.

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