Brazil evictions leave thousands homeless

SAO JOSE DOS CAMPOS, Brazil, Jan. 25 (UPI) — Amnesty International denounced Brazilian authorities for forcibly evicting thousands of people from a slum and urged the government to help the homeless.

“The Brazilian authorities must immediately address the needs of the thousands of people who now have been left homeless,” Atila Roque, director of Amnesty International, Brazil, said in a news release. The evictions, he said, violate “a raft of international standards.”

Brazilian police have removed an estimated 6,000 people since Sunday from the Pinheirinho settlement on the outskirts of Sao Jose dos Campos, about 50 miles from Sao Paulo, the BBC reported.

Police in riot gear, backed up by armored cars and helicopters, descended on the settlement without warning at 6 a.m. Sunday and used tear gas and rubber bullets, while authorities cut electricity, gas and phone lines and restricted access to homes, Amnesty said.

The human-rights group said about 30 people had been arrested after some residents resisted evictions by setting up barricades, burning cars and throwing rocks and sticks.

A judge had ordered nearly 2,000 police officers into the settlement despite a previous agreement to suspend the eviction while a peaceful solution was sought — possibly the federal government buying the land and making residents’ land titles legal, Amnesty said.

Some evicted residents of the settlement, formed in 2004 when groups of homeless people occupied land owned by a bankrupt investment firm, were staying with relatives, while others were being houses in a gym lacking adequate sanitation. The government made no provisions for alternative housing, Amnesty said.

The residents had been in a legal battle with administrators for the bankrupt company, and a residents association is appealing to the Superior Federal Court, asking the eviction order to be overturned.

The settlement includes churches, libraries, shops and football fields.

Amnesty says international law forbids Brazil to carry out forced evictions.

Col. Manoel Messias Mello, head of the region’s military police, told local radio “vandals” were responsible for violence and said police had seized a shotgun, a handgun and drugs, The Guardian of Britain reported. He said police were investigating reports one man had been shot in the back during a confrontation with officers, and several people were reportedly injured.


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