For many years, I reported about constant, almost daily slum fires in India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Vietnam, Nigeria, Brazil. They were usually blamed on pirated electricity, faulty cooking facilities, tinderbox building materials & on the surface that makes sense. But residents challenged those determinations often claiming it was arson for purposes of slum clearance & gentrification. It was difficult to do long-distance forensics on very flimsy reporting by local fire officials. But my conclusion, based on studying dozens of fires as well as I could, was that residents were almost certainly right to call it arson to prevent the spread of slums on prime urban real estate. If you think it farfetched, arson was also used in US cities in the 1970s to clear slums for gentrification. In all of these fires, many men, women, & children were burned to death. Fire & government officials cover for developers & there have been almost no cases of prosecution, even when people burned to death.

Along with ubiquitous fires, there are hundreds of pitched street battles, particularly in the Philippines, between slum residents & police using bull dozers, tear gas, truncheons to forcibly evict them to homelessness.

Now, there is concern that over one-billion slum residents in the world will be neglected in healthcare programs during the coronavirus pandemic. Of course they will be neglected because using a triage ‘culling the herd’ mentality, governments now have another strategy for killing off slum residents. With the removal of slums, developers can move in to build upscale shopping malls, tourist five-star hotels, golf courses. This is not a dystopian or cynical vision but the actual strategy employed by developers & governments around the world.