Rousseff leads Brazil in mourning Rio shooting

10 Apr

The sad events that unfolded in Realengo, a working-class district of Rio de Janeiro, on Thursday not only stunned Brazil’s very Catholic, very moral population, but also presented a test to their newly incumbent president, Dilma Rousseff.

Relatives mourn 14-year-old Luiza Paula da Silveira Machado

The shooting of 12 children, all aged between 10 and 13, at the Tasso Silveira school by a former pupil, 24-year-old Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, was a crime of unprecedented proportions in Brazil. The media captured the panic and anxiety of relatives as they waited outside the school gates for news of their loved ones. A sense of their grief was shouldered by the whole of Brazilian society, seen in the mass funeral for the victims, attended by hundreds of mourners, when rose petals were released from a military helicopter flying overhead.

Rousseff addresses the nation after the shooting

Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, who has been in government since January, reacted to the tragedy both as a statesman and as a mourner. In a position where her femininity could easily be criticised, she still allowed herself to show emotion when addressing a grief-stricken nation. Her eyes flooded with tears, she said: “This kind of crime is not usual here in our country and that’s why I think that everyone here, all of us, men and women, must unite to condemn this act of violence, to condemn this violence against unprotected children.”

Her key message is nationalistic, implying this sort of crime might occur elsewhere, but not in Brazil. The message is furthermore effective because, without overstatement, it warns that reactionary violence is not the answer, not in Brazil. And with gang violence a problem in Rio, Rousseff’s warning is necessary. This subtlety is absent in Pope Benedict XVI’s reaction, telling “all Cariocas [residents of Rio de Janeiro]… to say no to violence.” Rousseff allowed her gender to become an asset in the wake of the tragedy, showing herself capable of mourning alongside the nation.

Image 1: kansascity

Image 2: daylife

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