Opinion, by Samantha Barthelemy
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One month after a poorly maintained Santa Teresa bonde (trolley car) derailed and flipped killing five people and wounding nearly sixty others, Rio de Janeiro witnessed another avoidable tragedy.
On October 13th an explosion completely destroyed Filé Carioca, a restaurant in downtown Rio’s newly renovated Praça Tiradentes, killing three people and injuring nearly twenty more.
We now know that a makeshift gas fitting may have been behind the explosion (duct tape was found along the length of a gas hose).
We also know the tragedy could have been prevented: for the past three years the restaurant had been operating on a five-times reissued temporary license and had never been inspected by the fire department.
As the father of nineteen-year-old Mateus Maia Macedo de Andrade, the youngest fatality in the downtown explosion, told reporters, while our city is literally blowing up in pieces, authorities are focusing on the 2016 Summer Olympics.
And while “things like these” happen, we watch hundreds of thousands parading by Copacabana beach on October 9th in the 16th Annual Gay Pride Parade themed “All Forms of Violence Must be Crime.” Three days later, a very few thousand take to the street to denounce government corruption.
In order to deserve better, we need to fight harder and demand more. No more complacency or conformity. Accidents “like these” do not simply happen. Billions of reais in taxpayer money do not simply disappear. There are culprits and we must hold them to account.
I happen to believe the strongest fight against the enemies within our city lies in quality public education.
On this note, it saddens me to say that (for the time being) all of my energy will be devoted to this goal and I will no longer be writing my biweekly opinion pieces. As much as I wish I could do-it-all, my present commitments prevent me from dedicating the needed time and effort to my writing.
Since my return to Rio after seven years of living, studying and working between France and the United States, I have been working with UNESCO and the Secretariat of Education in the Schools of Tomorrow Program.
Some of you may have read articles where I praised the program as an efficient way of achieving equality through quality public education for Rio de Janeiro’s most neglected youth.
My belief holds true, only now it is strengthened by the experience of working alongside brilliant and inspiring individuals and encountering dedicated and brave teachers, principals, families and students who fight against adversity without losing hope and who teach me something new and exciting every single day.
To quote our Secretary of Education, Claudia Costin, during a speech at my alma mater in November 2010, “Yes we can, we can change education, we can give another kind of life, we can give a tomorrow to [Rio de Janeiro’s] children.”
All I can say now is, thank you for reading my words, for passing it along and for taking the time to comment and “Like.” It has been a real pleasure. I will miss you and I hope to be writing to you again soon…
A Belgian-Brazilian native of Rio de Janeiro and former United Nations journalist, Samantha Barthelemy is a dual degree Masters of International Affairs with Columbia University and the Paris Institute of Political Studies living in Rio and working in the Schools of Tomorrow Program. samanthabarthelemy.blogspot.com