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[Brazil] Prestes Maia: largest urban area squat in South America faces imminent eviction
by imc-brasil
Friday Feb 16th, 2007 2:16 PM
Prestes Maia is the name gave to the building squatted by 486 families in downtown Sao Paulo, Brazil. For three years the families have been fighting against the eviction but since the beginning of the month a judge set up the deadline for the eviction for March 4th. Since them many social movements and groups have been supporting the Prestes Maia's families organizing solidarity actions in Sao Paulo and all around the globe. The last updated arrived from the families is that the military police will execute the eviction on February 25th, last Sunday of Brazil's carnival holidays.

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Since february 5th, the Movement Without Roof of the Center (MSTC) is camped in front of São Paulos's city hall, against the cut of the city hall's Rent Program and against the imminent eviction of the Prestes Maia's occupation, theo bigger vertical occupation of Latin America.

In a letter to the mayor Gilberto Kassab, the families reminded that the owners of the building have an debt in taxes worth of 5.800.000 Reais (around 3.5 million us dolars) with the city hall, which is almost the same value of the building, therefore justifying it's dispossesing and reforming into a popular dwelling. The movement was received by a few represents of the city hall, that promised to attend some families in housing programs as PAR, without however say when those families would be attended.

The Prestes Maia's Occupation shelters 468 families, a library with 15 thousand books, a cooperative of recycling, expositions of art, the Cineclube of Brazilian Documentaries and the Popular School Preste Maia, where is teached art classes, hair design, electronic and hydraulic. In 2005, historical occupations such as the one in Ouvidor Street (also in downtown), that would be completing 8 years, were evicted and until today those buildings are found empty and with it's doors sealed with cement, expecting the real estate speculation.

A publication of the Urban Development Secretary brings to light an intriguing fact: in Brazil, there are 6.029.000 empty residences. In São Paulo, capital, the number of empty property (254 thousand units) is bigger than the estimate housing deficit of the city (203,4 thousand units). There is a lot of desocupied and sub-utilizedi properties, but there is no dwelling.