Monday, July 23, 2007


I echo Jon's words below. Suffering is already so intense and we still have to cope with this absurd handling of the situation.

Disaster wrapped up in farce, Jul 23 2007
Jonathan Wheatley

It is hard to decide which of the government’s actions following the worst disaster in Brazilian aviation history most typified the inadequacy of its response to a crisis that has lasted for at least ten months.

Was it the failure of president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to appear in public until three days after the accident, or to issue any statement at all within the first four hours (his message of condolence arriving after, for example, that of president Néstor Kirchner of Argentina)? São Paulo state governor José Serra went to the scene immediately, following the rescue work and talking to the press. Surely, Mr Lula da Silva should have done the same.

Was it the repeated denial of responsibility by Walter Pires, the minister of defence who is in charge of civil aviation, who should have departed after last September’s mid-air collision between a Gol Boeing 737 and an executive jet in which 154 people died, but who has been kept in the job?

Was it the sight of leaders of Anac, the civil aviation regulator, being given medals for services to air travel by vice president José Alencar three days after the accident, instead of the reprimands or dismissals they deserve?

Or was it the spectacle of Marco Aurelio Garcia, the president’s special advisor, caught on camera celebrating the television news of a possible mechanical fault in the crashed aircraft, that potentially deflected some of the responsibility away from the government?

Whatever the true cause of the accident, it was a disaster waiting to happen. Aircraft have been slipping around on the runways at São Paulo’s city centre airport for months, before and after they underwent repairs this year. The dissatisfaction of air traffic controllers with their equipment and their military commanders is notorious. While passenger terminals have been smartened up around the country, passenger safety has been neglected. The desperate need in Brazil for more effective government has never been clearer.

Jonathan Wheatley is a FT correspondent in São Paulo

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