“Hygienist War” begins in Porto Alegre

By Paulo Muzell:

The idea of ​​banning the circulation of human-powered carts (HPC) and animal-powered carts (APC) is old in Porto Alegre. Some attempts to limit its circulation had already been tried decades ago, fortunately without success.

The government Fogaça-Fortunati (Fo-Fo, a conservative coalition: 2005-2016), however, finally succeeded. Even though on winding lines, it is true. In September 2008 the bill was approved, proposed by the city councilor Sebastião Melo (present vice-mayor), creating the program “Gradual Extinction of Human and Animal Powered Carts in Porto Alegre”. A project with procedural defect: creating programs is exclusive attribution of the executive. Mayor Fortunati signed it and the law 10,531entered into force. There were several reasons for initially restricting and from 2016 prohibiting HPC and APC circulation, all inconsistent.


Protest against the ban in front of City Hall – September 2013

The most likely echoed claim is that carts made​​ the chaotic city traffic even slower. Well, everybody knows that the circulation of automotive vehicles is precarious and it will get worse because the urban space is saturated. We have too many cars. Seven thousand automobiles for a 1.5 million people city and the number of cars grows exponentially each passing year. The public transport works badly: the bus is increasingly expensive and the service still worst. There is no public control on timetables assuring compliance and quality of service. Investments in improving the public transport system creep: Bus Rapid Transit, BRT, faces five years delay and walk to a snail’s pace, officially postponed to after 2014 Fifa World Cup. The subway does not even have the final design ready, is a chimera. And the municipal government does not have the courage to give bitter medicine: restrict the movement of cars – according to plate numbers, as in São Paulo – and/or restricting parking on public streets. Not to mention an efficient control of loading and unloading timetables. It is much easier to blame the carts and waste collectors.

The second thesis is: “stopping the carts represents the end of maltreatment victimizing horses.” This supposedly desirable and humanitarian thesis provided it is not used with the pretext of protecting the animals to, in practice, harm humans. In its front line appears the “Porto Alegre First Lady” Regina Becker, now municipal Secretary of Animals Defense. Her husband, mayor Fortunati, had the kindness and “generosity” to create an office especially for her.

However, the real reason is that concrete waste collectors and carters symbolize an undesirable poverty and backward society. The naked thesis is: they are ugly, dirty, hindering and shaming us: so we need to get rid of them. As that traditional family, conservative, that hides their “shame” from society: the gay children or mentally disabled. It is the “hygienist” behavior. The law calendar itself establishing the program makes this clear: from 2014, the year of the Fifa World Cup, speeds up the ban and the total ban, originally scheduled to September 2016, was anticipated in fifteen months, to June 2015. So far, it is guaranteed the “full cleaning” for 2016, the Olympics year.

Fast in banning, government Fo-Fo is extremely slow in running. To regulate the 10,531 law, it took eighteen months; the decree 16.247 was signed only in March 2010. However, the program started executing, in fact, just this year, in 2013. Just in late 2012, the City Hall assured resources for the so called “Program for Collectors and Cart Drivers Productive Inclusion “, after signing an agreement around 8 million dollars with BNDES (National Bank for Economic and Social Development). So far, scheduled for March 1, step 1 of the ban was postponed to this September 1. Yet how to explain that a program, created in 2008, with initial forecast to be deployed in eight years, has actually started only in early 2013? And even so anticipates the ban originally scheduled for September 2016 to June 2015?

The conclusion is obvious: the City did not and will not do their part. It did not even manage to assemble a complete register of the program “beneficiaries”. How many are there? Where do they live? What are their age, education level, income, and number of children? How the problem of those who do not accept, who cannot be recycled or adapt to new activities will be solved?

Sul21 article published last Tuesday makes it clear that not even a complete registration exists. One of the program coordinators states that eighteen hundred cart drivers were registered. He is claiming that after five years of the law, just over half (55%) of the target public is known. Admittedly it is very little, is a true confession of incompetence. A cart driver’s leader claims that they are nine thousand in Porto Alegre. How many are them actually? How many were recycled? Monday morning I spoke with the carter drivers during a demonstration in front of the City Hall. They complained about the paltry compensation proposed by the City, offering just six hundred dollars by cart and horse. They also complained about the 300 dollars per month offered to work in Garbage Recycling Units, considering they actually make at least the double as cart drivers.

A proof that the program is not being carried out properly and responsibly is that investment in Garbage Recycling Units – the basic program support – registers considerable and inexplicable delay. The 2013 budget foresees the application of 1.2 million dollars in the implementation and expansion of these units through DMLU (Municipal Department of Urban Cleaning). Consulting the Budget Expenditure System of the Municipality, we found that up to this early September only 180 thousand dollars were applied, but there is no settlement or payment, suggesting that at least one contract was signed, but no stage work was completed. The program is in place only on paper and is not being put into practice. Collectors and cart drivers will be thrown into poverty.

Translated from Portuguese by me, Sergio.

Portuguese version at Sul 21

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