Standing alongside Rio de Janeiro State Security Secretary Jose Mariano Beltrame, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today praised Brazil’s aggressive efforts to spur economic revitalization, social re-integration, and job creation in its favela communities, long dominated by violent crime and joblessness. Boehner is the first U.S. House speaker in modern history -- and possibly the first speaker ever -- to visit one of Rio's favelas, symbolizing the progress being made toward bringing economic vitality to the communities.
"We came to see how Rio is modernizing its society and the city. I think what is happening here is a great example of how they can bring everyone into the society as a whole," said Speaker Boehner following a walking tour of Vidigal, the site of one of Rio’s latest favela renewal projects. "We came to Brazil because of the great progress Rio is making. When you go to a city, you want to get to know all of the city, to go to neighborhoods most people don’t get to visit. I'm glad we came."
“Now, as the government slowly ousts the traffickers [from Rio’s favelas] and regains the upper hand. . .companies are starting to understand that there is cash in what was once chaos,” wrote TIME’s Andrew Downie in a September 2011 story on Rio’s initiative to reclaim its favelas from crime and neglect. “Taking products, services and jobs back into the pacified favelas is the latest challenge facing a city hoping to reverse decades of neglect.”
The favela pacification efforts are spearheaded by Police Pacification Units (UPPs), a form of community-based policing in which law-enforcement teams work to clear neighborhoods of crime and pave the way for business investment and private enterprise.
“The reason the UPPs exist are to create a fertile ground where dignity can take root,” Beltrame, who today led Speaker Boehner on an extensive tour of the Videgal favela, told TIME late last year. The UPPs’ objective is to create a better environment for job growth that will encourage outside investment in the impoverished favela communities.
The favela pacification initiative – championed by Rio Governor Sergio Cabral and Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes, who are among Brazilian officials meeting today with Speaker Boehner and the congressional delegation – has been compared to the “broken windows” urban renewal strategies implemented by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani during the 1990s (Downie, Andrew; “Rio Finally Makes Headway Against Its Drug Gangs,” TIME, 26 November 2010).
Examining security measures being taken by Latin American countries to modernize their societies and create a better environment for jobs and economic growth is one of the objectives of the Speaker’s mission to Latin America.
Members participating in the Speaker’s bipartisan congressional delegation include Reps. Dan Boren (D-OK); Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the House Republican Leadership; David Camp (R-MI), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways & Means; Doc Hastings (R-WA), Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources; John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; and Devin Nunes (R-CA), a member of the Committee on Ways & Means and co-chairman of the House Brazil Caucus.