The problem blends with the transit of migrants who cross the region in search of the American drea...
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Times have changed in Cidade de Deus, a community in the western region of Rio de Janeiro that gained worldwide notoriety because of violence shown in Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles’ movie namesake.
After becoming the second slum to receive a Peacemaker Police Unit (UPP) in Rio, in February 2009, the shanty town was selected to house the first community bank in the city of Rio de Janeiro.
The bank, which opened on Sept. 15, has its own currency – the CDD – and those who use it receive a 10% discount on their purchases.
The goal is to support businesses around the community, leading to more income and jobs.
“All the wealth produced here ends up going to other neighborhoods,” says Marcelo Henrique da Costa, the municipal secretary of the Department of Fair-Trade Economic Development (Sedes). “This move will encourage residents to spend [money] inside their own region.”
The establishing of the bank is part of SEDES’ Rio Ecossol program, which promotes the principles and values of fair-trade economy in low-income communities with funds from the Ministry of Justice’s National Program of Public Security and Citizenship (PRONASCI).
The bank also formed a partnership with the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) and the Palmas Institute, which in 1998 created the country’s first community financial institution, in Fortaleza, capital city of Ceará.
Cidade de Deus’ new currency is comprised of five bills with values of 0.50 CDD, 1 CDD, 2 CDDs, 5 CDDs, and 10 CDDs indexed to the real, Brazil’s official currency. The bills feature the pictures of well-known figures in the community, as chosen by the residents.
“The bank will bring many benefits to our community,” says Geralda Maria de Jesus, 82, whose picture is shown on the 1 CDD bill. “I’m so happy because many things are getting better here.”
Illustrious citizens are honored
After leaving Morro do São Carlos, at Catumbi, in Northern Rio, Geralda practically founded Cidade de Deus, where she arrived in 1965 at the age of 36 accompanied by her eight children.
For more than 20 years, she and two of her children – Ana Regina, 50, and Nilo Sergio, 39 – have distributed food to pregnant women and poor children throughout the community.
Benta Neves do Nascimento, 78, whose picture is featured on the 5 CDD bill, has lived in the community for 45 years. She created the NGO Committee of the Elderly of Cidade de Deus, which has already trained hundreds of residents by offering them dressmaking, crafts and embroidery courses.
“I’m very proud,” Benta says. “I never thought at this age my picture would circulate [among the people].”
During the opening of the Community Bank of Cidade de Deus, Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor Eduardo Paes greeted Benta Neves do Nascimento, who for 45 years has lived in Cidade de Deus, where she founded the NGO Committee of the Elderly of Cidade de Deus. Benta, 78, is pictured on the 5CDD bill of the Community Bank of Cidade de Deus. (Renzo Gostoli/Austral Photo for Infosurhoy.com)
The other two honored residents are the late João Batista (2 CDD bill) and Dutch priest Julio Grooten (10 CDD bill).
João Batista, who died in January at the age of 78, arrived at Cidade de Deus in 1965, where he created the Associação Beneficente Obra Social Estrela da Paz (ABOSEP). The NGO helps malnourished children and teenagers, in addition to offering training workshops for youths.
Grooten started pastoral work in the community upon arriving in 1969. He established the area’s first day care center and built the local church, where he offered educational classes, organized summer camps and offered recycling and handicraft workshops. He died in 2003, at the age of 77.
The 0.5 CDD bill is the only one featuring the picture of a place – Casa do Barão. The land belonged to Francisco Pinto da Fonseca Telles, the Baron of Taquara, known as the benefactor of western Rio.
To prevent counterfeiting, the manufacturing of CDD bills follows the same process used in most countries, which is recommended by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) for the printing of security documents.
The new bank also offers local entrepreneurs access to its lines of credit – in reais – from R$150 (US$83) to R$5,000 (US$2,776) and offer much lower interest rates (1.5% to 3% compared to 5.6%) than traditional banks, according to Fundação Procon-SP.
Interest-free loans of up to 80-CDDs also are provided to the bank’s customers.
Another stimulus is that people can use the lines of credit even if their names appear on the Brazilian blacklists of credit records, which prevents them from getting a loan at a traditional bank. But customers must convince the local bank why they should have their loan application approved despite having outstanding debt.
The residents may exchange reais for CDD bills at the community bank office.
Merchants wanting to receive the new currency are being asked to register with the bank.
“More than 100 people have already registered,” says secretary Marcelo Henrique da Costa.
One of them is Ângela Baptista de Souza, who owns a small cafe.
“Our community isn’t as poor as some people say or try to show,” Ângela says. “But folks leave and go spend [money] at the shopping centers elsewhere.”
According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the 36,515 residents of Cidade de Deus also will be allowed to withdraw money, pay bills and receive payments from the Caixa Econômica Federal’s automated teller machine (ATM) installed inside the community bank.
A community entity, the Cidade de Deus’ Local Development Agency (ADL), manages the bank.
The Community Bank of Cidade de Deus is the 63rd in Brazil and the second in the state of Rio, according to SEDES. The first community bank in Rio state was opened in 2010, in the city of Silva Jardim, where the community’s currency is the Capivari.
Complexo do Alemão will be the home of the next community bank, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes said during the launch of the Community Bank of Cidade de Deus.
“We were tired of being marginalized. We wanted to be something different,” says Ana Lúcia Pereira Serafim, the current head of ADL. “[Now], this is becoming a reality.”