Because these five years of resistance have translated into record high compensations for those residents who have chosen to leave (only 50 of the original 500 families remain), Vila Autódromo has become an international symbol of the of the consequences of evictions and destruction wrought by the mega-events taking place in Rio. While the media, both Brazilian and international, has often use the plight of children to illustrate the conflicts between residents and the city government, forced removals are rarely understood as violations of the rights of the child.
According to the city's own numbers, over 20 thousand families or 67 thousand people, have been removed from their homes in Rio since 2009. Though there are no available statistics that break down these numbers in demographics, it is safe to assume that a large percentage of those removed are children and adolescents who live with their parents or extended family. Often the city government uses a safety or environmental pretext to urge people to move, claiming they are at risk.
Nearly half have been relocated to public housing units financed by the Federal program Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My House, My Life). The law mandates that people are to be relocated close to their original homes, however, many end up in Rio's West Zone. This area of the city lacks many public services and basic infrastructure, resulting in very long commutes. Parents who could once depend on neighbors and nearby family members to take care of their children while they work are left with few options in these new, unfamiliar apartment complexes. This disrupts, and when forced, may violate the child's right to family and community life guaranteed in the Brazilian Constitution and the Brazilian Children and Adolescents Act.
Militias, often composed of former military police officers, also control much of Rio´s West Zone and have directly profited from the construction of this public housing, making the lack of public security an additional threat to the lives of children and adolescents.
Most frustrating for residents has been the arbitrary nature of some of the removals. Children Win, a campaign launched in February 2014 by an International Federation of Terre des Hommes to document the positive and negative effects of mega-events on children, produced a video called "The Parking Lot" that showcased the life of 15 year old Felipe following the demolish of his home in Metro-Mangueira, a favela close to Rio's famous Maracanã soccer stadium. Officials had claimed that the area would be used for a parking lot, yet months after the homes were bulldozed, only rubble and rubbish had replaced Felipe's former home. Many of former residents have been moved to Cosmos, a West Zone neighborhood, over 60km away from Metro-Mangueira.
Rio's attempts to "revamp" itself in the run up to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics has had significant negative impacts on thousands on children through the city. In a city that already fails to provide quality education and health services to many communities, evictions have left many vulnerable children and their families in even more precarious positions. What's more, many children's rights activists warn that special care needs to be in place during these mega-events to protect children from child labor and sexual exploitation.
With some 50 families left, the destruction of Vila Autódromo seems like a painful inevitability. The president of the president of the residents's association, Altair Guimarães is determined to beat the odds. In his 60 years, Guimarães has been forced to move twice already, once at the age of 14 from his home in Ilha Cairaças in the South Zone as government officials sought to beautify the area and again at the age of 35 when the government build a high way through the Cidade de Deus favela, which, like the Minha Casa Minha Vida public housing, was originally set up for people removed from their homes. Guimarães fights so his 12 year old daughter, Naomi, doesn't have face the same challenges--losing a home and community--that he and thousands of others have gone through.