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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Authorities moved in early Tuesday and bulldozed the home of a slum dweller whose fight to stay in her residence near Rio's Olympic Park came to symbolize the fight between the city and residents of the Vila Autodromo shantytown.
A court order authorizing the demolition had been issued last week, and talks between the city and Maria da Penha, an unofficial spokeswoman for families that refused to leave the slum, broke down over the weekend.
Residents and activists gathered outside the state parliament building downtown to protest the move as Rio de Janeiro's mayor held a news conference promising that those wishing to stay in the area would be allowed to do so.
Mayor Eduardo Paes set out his plans to resettle holdout families in new housing units on the same site in time for the start of the Olympic Games on Aug. 5.
Residents of Vila Autodromo expressed skepticism about the proposal, which differs substantially from a plan put forward by the community itself last week.
The favela originally was home to 700 families, and most left under pressure from the city or for offers of compensation or resettlement in a nearby housing complex. Activists say about 50 families remain, but the mayor's office says the number is closer to 30.
Most of the properties in the area have been bulldozed. Those still living there say they have only sporadic access to electricity and running water, and charge that they are being intimidated into leaving by representatives of the city.
Much of Olympic Park is due to be transformed into housing developments after the Games, and Paes told reporters the city plans to build 32 new homes for families still living in the favela. He said the homes would be built in that area at a cost of cost 3 million to 3.5 million reais ($800,000 to $930,000).
"We have always said that those who want to stay can stay," the mayor said. "We are not going to make victims out of those who are not victims."