January 20, 2018
Monday, August 25, 2014

Shantytown residents left out in the rain

Former residents of Papa Francisco shantytown are seen setting up tents in the City neighbourhood of Villa Lugano yesterday.

Dozens of families set up tents next to razed shantytown, say they’ve got nowhere to go

A day after residents of the Papa Francisco (Pope Francis) makeshift shantytown were evicted, dozens of its residents yesterday set up camp in the area, saying they had nowhere else to turn and would wait for an opportunity to return to the area.

Buenos Aires City Deputy Mayor María Eugenia Vidal yesterday said most of the 700 families who were evicted from makeshift houses in Villa Lugano had accepted a social housing proposal made by the City — but also acknowledged most had to resort to their own contacts to find alternative housing.

“Most relocated through their own means in Buenos Aires, took their belongings to other shantytowns or went to shelters run by the City government,” Vidal said.

“We’re here resisting, because we have a better chance of receiving a solution,” a woman named Katherine told state-run news agency Télam.

“Many went to the warehouse with their stuff, but were denied entry and now want to come back because they’ve got nowhere else to turn,” the woman said referring to a warehouse owned by the City near the Parque Patricios neighbourhood. As she spoke to a Télam journalist, Katherine’s five and 10-year-old sons were sleeping on the other side of a tent she was sharing with four other families.

Katherine and several other families set up their tents on Pola street defying the hail storm that yesterday hit the City. There were few elements in the tent, besides mattresses and bed sheets.

“We were not allowed to take out any of our belongings before the evictions. We lost our beds, gas canisters, mattresses, the kitchen — everything we had,” said Katherine’s brother-in-law Pedro. “They entered violently, kicking down the doors and rushing us to get out (of our houses), so we left with the few things we were able to grab.”

Pedro is now living in the tent with two kids aged three and six.

The land located at the intersection of Pola street and Fernández de la Cruz avenue remained under the careful watch of Metropolitan police officers who prevented those who had been evicted from recovering metal sheets and other belongings that they thought could have been of use.

However, people from the neighbouring Villa 20 shantytown were able to wander about the land, sorting through the rubble and taking what they found — much to the anger of those affected.

Besides police cars belonging to Metropolitan forces, the City also had a van of the Buenos Aires Presente (BAP) social programme in the area. BAP employees walked through the tents and offered to take people to a temporary shelter. Few took them up on their offer.

The eviction process began on Friday night with an eviction notice issued by Judge Gabriela López Iñíguez. Hours later, 1,000 officers from the Metropolitan and Federal police forces, along with Border Guards, cordoned off the grounds and entered the shantytown in order to start clearing the area.

Confrontations between police and residents ended with several injuries as security forces fired teargas and rubber bullets on the protesters. Six people were arrested during the clashes, but most were released yesterday.

‘this is not the way’

Vidal blamed other people for the ousting.

“I’m angered by the political and economical benefits some are getting out of those in need,” said the PRO official, who also took aim at local judges who allowed the conflict to continue.

According to Vidal, magistrates refused to accept a criminal complaint filed by the City government against five people who had allegedly sold lands to families that were living in the Papa Francisco shantytown.

“This takeover was organized by a small group of people who sold lands contaminated with lead. They made a profit and judges failed to act as they should — and then criminals arrived in the land.”

Mauricio Macri’s second-in-command insisted that sit-ins of lands “was not the way” to have a home.

“Most of the people who don’t have a house don’t take part in sit-ins,” she concluded.

As she spoke, several families refused to be relocated and stayed at Villa Lugano demanding a permanent solution to their housing needs.

Herald staff with DyN, Télam

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