SAO PAULO – The new mayor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, got dressed this Monday in a pair of trash collector’s overalls to “clean up” Latin America’s largest city, whose historic center still awaits refurbishing.
Though the sun had not yet risen in the east, Doria appeared at 6:00 am at 14 Bis Plaza, a visibly rundown section of downtown Sao Paulo where many beggars gather every day.
The wealthy entrepreneur, 59, wore spotless overalls, as did the secretaries of his Cabinet, for the launch of the “Beautiful City” program, which at least up to now has been more words and media coverage that action.
“As public servants, we have to get up early, work hard and put the city in order,” Doria told the dozens of photographers, cameramen and reporters waiting to see the new mayor grab a broom and sweep the streets of the Sao Paulo state capital.
The powerful image was repeated just once at the urging of photojournalists who asked to see him sweep the paving again and pick up some of the waste paper on the street.
“We’re all dressed as trash collectors as a demonstration of equality and humility,” said the new millionaire mayor, who won last October’s municipal election in the first round with close to 8.5 million votes.
Nonetheless, a short distance away from the cameras was Carlos Alberto Domingo, who has lived 40 of his 57 years on the streets, and complained that “no mayor” has offered them a real way out of their deplorable situation.
“I only ask for healthcare, education and a place to live – it’s a question of dignity. I’ll never ask for anything more than that,” Domingo said.
In his opinion, Doria “only offers dreams and illusions, and people can’t live on wishful thinking all their life.”
“He hasn’t started working yet, I haven’t seen him collecting trash in the street, I’ve only seen his photo ops there. I don’t have great expectations and I won’t have until I see him at work,” he said.
Homeless people have for decades occupied several points around Sao Paulo, a city of 12 million inhabitants, which like other Brazilian cities has serious housing problems.
Asked about that situation, which has significantly increased in recent years, Doria said that “soon” he will launch a special program to “improve the quality of life” of the homeless and which will include professional training.
“We’ll treat them with humanity,” the governor said a few yards (meters) away from an improvised camp of destitute citizens.
According to data of the previous Cabinet, close to 16,000 people live on the streets in Sao Paulo, some 82 percent more than in the year 2000.
The historic downtown district of Sao Paulo, while a tourist attraction, looks abandoned and gives a feeling of insecurity.
On the long list of Doria’s promises for the next four years, is the improvement of communications among security forces, “restoring parks, lighting and signposting,” and making Sao Paulo “a more agreeable city.”
The millionaire mayor has also promised to periodically help clean the city and will take to the streets with collectors of recyclable trash.
The new governor
of the center-right Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) gained fame and fortune in business and television, and when he presented his candidacy declared his wealth at some $55 million.
On Monday, after speaking with workers about cleaning the city, signing some autographs and taking a few selfies with his followers, Doria got in the official car for a ride to his office, while a passer-by pointed at an imaginary watch on his wrist and yelled that the mayor had been “cleaning” the streets for only one hour.