Too bad that three families had their shacks set up on the sidewalk of John Baird Street, in the south side Brooklyn neighborhood, in São Paulo, and right on the way of the American president George Bush's motorcade.
The 15 people, who lived and had a little business at the place for over 5 years were unceremoniously removed so that Bush won't see them when he goes from the International Cumbica airport in the Guarulhos neighborhood to his suite at the Hilton Hotel in the upscale Morumbi community.Â
The shack's residents had just one day notice before the City Hall employees accompanied by the civilian police and traffic workers showed up to start the demolition job.
"We had been told that we would have to leave the place one day,"said Maria da Cruz, 51, one of those living on the sidewalk. "But City Hall officials had promised us that they would not take us out before they found a new place for us to move to.
"With the arrival of the United States president the whole process went faster and we now have no place to go. We have always lived here and never caused any kind of problem. We are no terrorists and there was no reason to take us out from here in a hurry."
Maria used to live in her shack with her husband, two children and a few grandchildren who used the spend the afternoon with her after coming back from school. She also used an attachment to the house to sell fruits and vegetables. Even though the construction was irregular, the woman is hopeful that she will be able to rebuild her house as soon as Bush leaves, after his 20-hour visit.
Bush will stay in a suite that has already received among others Paris Hilton and the Chinese President, Hu Jintao. The president's place with an area of over 3,000 square feet and a US$ 58,000 daily rate is on the next to the last floor of the 28-floor hotel and comes with a view to the Pinheiros marginal, and the Morumbi bridge.
From his suite he can also see the Favela da Espraiada, a shantytown planted in the middle of an area which contains the richest mansions Brazil has to offer. Ironically, that's whereÂ Maria da Cruz is living with some friends since authorities brought down her shack.
While used to daily painful traffic jams Paulistanos (residents from São Paulo city) are bracing for an even worse scenario while Bush is in town. The Brazilian Army, the military police and American security agents plus elite sharpshooters posted in strategic positions will be patrolling the streets and avenues Bush will drive through.
Some are betting the closing of streets and whole neighborhoods will bring chaos into the city.Â The 25-mile route between the airport and the Hilton will be covered by car.
"The air space is more vulnerable in terms of security," said the Federal Police Chief Luiz Flávio Trivella, in charge of security. "That's why we suggested that all transportation be made by land."
For days now the places through which Bush's motorcade will pass are been swept for possible bombs. Brazilian authorities have to worry not only with the usual suspects like international terrorist as Al Qaeda, but also the homegrown terror such as the PCC (First Command of the Capital), a prison gang that has been terrorizing the city by burning buses, killing cops and attacking police stations and banks.
Bush's people, based on a 1978 plan drawn for a visit of then president Jimmy Carter, asked that São Paulo close its Marginais (the Pinheiros and Tietê Marginais are São Paulo's main thoroughfares) and the 23 de Maio Avenue, which links downtown to the south side of town. Impossible, the municipal authorities told the president's men. That was 30 years ago when São Paulo had a mere 6 million residents. This number has almost doubled now.
On Friday, Bush should start the day meeting American officials who work in Brazil. A little later he goes back to Guarulhos to meet Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and then visit with him the state-controlled Petrobras oil company's Transpetro facilities.
Both presidents should be back to the Hilton for a lunch hosted by São Paulo governor, José Serra. In the afternoon, the American leader is scheduled to visit the social project Meninos do Morumbi (Morumbi Boys). Bush should leave for Uruguay by the end of the day.