They were teenagers, mainly — bright young things studying medicine or agriculture, out to blow off steam before school started.
But before the night was through, they would die in their hundreds, choked by a toxic yellow fog and crushed by their peers as they groped blindly for an escape.
“It was worse than a scene from a horror movie,” said Murilo de Toledo Tiecher, 26, who survived the blaze that killed 236 people in a nightclub in southern Brazil in the early hours of Sunday morning. “People screaming, crying, lots of injured people without their skin and with burned bodies.”
President Dilma Rousseff said Monday that the government had made strides in stemming the flow of drugs, arms and other contraband through Brazil’s long and porous border. During the past year and a half, 360 tons of drugs, 2,200 guns, 280,000 rounds of ammunition and twenty tons of explosives have been seized, she said, in her weekly program “Coffee with the President”.
New research shows nearly three-quarters of Brazilians are in favor of continuing the Bolsa Família, an anti-poverty program that gives cash to families in return for ensuring their children attend school and are vaccinated. Most Brazilians, sixty percent, would rather pay more taxes and have better universal health and education, the research showed.
São Paulo police are no longer allowed to give first aid to victims who have been hurt in violent crimes or police clashes. A statement from the São Paulo State Public Safety Department says that as of Wednesday police are prohibited from moving victims from the scene and only emergency response teams and paramedics may treat victims at crime scenes.
For the first time since 2002 Brazil may be forced to introduce power rationing, as high temperatures and a relentless drought in the Northeast have severely diminished reservoir levels. President Dilma Rousseff has called an emergency meeting to discuss energy shortages on Wednesday in Brasília, reported Folha de São Paulo.
Following power cuts last month that plunged large swathes of the country into darkness, including Rio de Janeiro’s airports, Rousseff sought to allay fears over energy shortages, dismissing the risk of power rationing as “ridiculous.”
Yet surging consumption during a particularly hot and dry December has put extra strain on dwindling resources.
From municipal elections to the mensalão, from dams to deforestation, for the slowing economy and the booming middle class, 2012 was big for Brazil. The year began with devastating building collapses in Rio de Janeiro, and ended with a farewell to world-renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer.
In between, Brazil saw Rio+20, gay marriage in São Paulo, a battle over oil royalties and one enormous corruption trial. Murders were up in São Paulo, deforestation was down in the Amazon, and President Dilma Rousseff was declared the world’s third most powerful woman.
Here are five of the year’s biggest political stories:
A prison in the state of Minas Gerais will be the country’s first public-private partnership (PPP) jail when inaugurated in January. The Ribeirão das Neves penitentiary, along with another PPP prison in Pernambuco under construction, have rekindled the debate about private sector involvement in Brazil’s beleaguered prison system.
At least fourteen São Paulo police officers have been detained since Saturday on suspicion of killing or attempting to kill civilians. The arrests are likely to raise questions over police brutality in the wake of a wave of murders in São Paulo that some experts have partially attributed to extrajudicial killings.
Brazilian working mothers earned, on average, eleven percent less than women without children in 2009, according to new research. The ‘motherhood penalty,’ as sociologists call it, has increased considerably in recent years: in 1992 working mothers earned four percent less than their childless peers.