Sad first-world phenomenon spreads
A mentally disturbed shooter, possibly an AIDs patient, shot and killed 11 children this morning in a west zone Rio municipal school classroom today and wounded 18, four in serious condition. Wounded by a military policeman, he committed suicide.
The tragedy is a reminder that, even as the city emerges from the violence and difficulties of a third-world megalopolis, there will always be problems. Until now, Brazil had never experienced a school shooting like those that have occurred in the U.S. Analysts say better gun control and improved school security are needed. The killer, a former student who’d suffered bullying, entered the school saying he was going to give a talk there.
The moment is one of mourning, with the knowledge that much hard work lies ahead to expand and consolidate Rio’s turnaround.
“Now is the time to get things done,” VivaRio’s founder and executive director Rubem César Fernandes said recently, asked about how the pioneer NGO’s work has changed now that Rio boasts 17 police pacification units and has become a safer city than it had been for the last couple of decades. Fernandes explained that for years, VivaRio’s mission was to build consensus around the need for less violence in the city.
There is so much to do now. Last week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter criticized Brazil for being behind on its 2014 World Cup preparations, slower than South Africa. He reportedly attributed problems to political infighting, especially in Rio. “It’s tomorrow. The Brazilians think it’s just the day after tomorrow. What they shall do is to give a little bit more speed now in the organization,” he was quoted as saying. Brazilian officials denied that they are behind. Governor Sérgio Cabral attributed Blatter’s comments to internal politics at FIFA.
Public officials are investigating delays other problems with funding allocated for the victims of the mudslides in the mountains near Rio last January. A year has passed since the mudslides of Niterói, across the bay, where victims are reported to be homeless even at this late date. Many of Rio’s enchanting historic buildings are crumbling, with one, the Rio federal university’s 19th century palace in Urca, erupting into flames during remodeling late last month. Major favelas await police pacification units, and the Social UPP program is working to extend its reach in those that have been pacified, to meet residents’ needs and further integrate the city.
State and municipal officials rushed to the scene of the school shooting today. Governor Cabral has just returned from a visit to the U.S., where he negotiated a US$ 1 billion loan from the Inter-American Development bank. Of the total, US$ 130 million are earmarked for youth programs in pacified favelas and US$ 350 million will go to help clean up Guanabara Bay (which might have been cleaned up several times over, given the millions supposedly spent on this objective since 1994). The loan would also finance state road-building and preservation.
Municipal education secretary Claudia Costin, who tweets world news many times daily to teachers and school administrators as part of the city’s education reform program, found herself far from the news, about to give a speech in Washington, D.C. She immediately headed for the airport.
Click here for excellent Miami Herald reporting by Taylor Barnes.