Renato Cinco has been involved in politics since he was 12 years old, agitating for change during the last days of Brazil’s military dictatorship. His grandfather was part of the Brazilian Socialist Party, and tortured under orders of the country’s longtime dictator Getúlio Vargas. Politics was always a part of his life.
In 2014, he entered politics in the movement to legalize marijuana. Cinco had been organizing the Marijuana Marches for years and faced decades in prison on the accusation of of “being an apologist for drug trafficking.” After being cleared of all charges, Cinco won a seat on Rio’s city council as a member of the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL). He has since become a leading campaigner on a host of issues, from LGBT rights to reproductive freedom to anti-racism.
He has been a leading critic of Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics and is currently running for reelection. I sat down with him to discuss the politics of the Rio Olympics (translation provided by Stephanie Reist).
Dave Zirin: How has the Olympics played out as a campaign issue for you?
Renato Cinco: Even before the World Cup and the Olympics, we were part of a group that was called the Social Forum Against the Pan American Games [held in Brazil in 2007] that united different social movements and members of universities who were defending the rights of people who would be most affected by the Pan American Games.
When the country put in the bid for the World Cup, immediately in all the cities where there were going to be events, they formed popular committees against the World Cup. In Rio it was both the World Cup and the Olympics. I was the representative at the national level for the State of Rio when there was the first union of all these different committees.
We had many criticisms of the Olympics as a project, especially because they followed this logic of expansion away from the city where there’s very little infrastructure and continued this historical pattern of rich occupation of the Atlantic coast of Rio. So it uses public money to finance this expansion into these zones and very rich real-estate speculators benefited from this use of public funds.
For example, the Olympics park, the golf course, and the Olympics village were all built in [the neighborhood of] Barra—originally a very green area. It was a public space and the territory was sold to these construction consortiums at under market value. We just marched before the opening ceremonies against these priorities. Unfortunately, it ended in violence where the police threw a type of tear gas that I hadn’t ever experienced before.