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Political Negligence Exacerbates Natural Disaster in Duque de Caxias

Negligence by state and local officials has led to deteriorating conditions in Duque de Caxias, a municipality in the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region just north of Rio itself, only to be brought to a pinnacle of disaster when a tropical storm descended on the region last week. Ongoing issues with waste collection had reached unbearable conditions for citizens when the storm hit. By the time the storm came, 50,000 tons of waste lay on the city’s streets. The intense storm has left areas of the municipality flooded, filled with trash, and uninhabitable.

The city of Caxias began having issues with trash collection about 6 months ago when the Gramacho landfill was closed. Trash collection became rare and irregular. In October the situation worsened when then-mayor José Camilo Zito lost reelection, stopped collecting trash and failed to pay municipal workers, leaving office with extremely low popularity.

With infrequent trash collection, the streets of Caxias began to fill with trash until every corner, park, front yard, traffic round about, essentially every inch was filled with trash. Every inch but the area surrounding the mayor’s house, reported G1. Pigs, horses, and insects began to gather around Caxias, putting residents in a dangerous position of catching serious diseases caused by unsanitary conditions. 50,000 tons of garbage lay rotting in the streets of Caxias in the final weeks of 2012.

The new mayor, Alexandre Cardoso too office in January and has attempted to clean up the problem by organizing an effort to collect the garbage, however the company responsible for removal failed to pick up the trash, citing faulty payment from the previous mayor.

The residents of Caxias responded with a backlash. Fed up with the mayor’s neglect and unable to go on in filth and contamination, residents have attempted to reach out to politicians through letters, petitions, photos, and Facebook. This photo and others were widely shared on Facebook, the caption begging for support in the cry for attention for relief in Caxias: “Help the residents of Caxias, share this photo! Who will take care of this Mr. Governor, Sergio Cabral? This is an intervention. Now with Mayor Zito gone, where is the change? This is a public calamity! The people of Caxias are not rats!”

The situation reached extremes when excessive rain pounded the city late last week, leaving Caxias to be not only filled with garbage, but also completely flooded and in many areas, destroyed. Mayor Alexandre Cardoso declared a state of emergency on the morning of January 3rd, catching the attention of both the state governor Sergio Cabral and the minister of National Integration, who came to Caxias to asses the situation and possible solutions. The garbage seriously exacerbated the situation, plugging up points of drainage and in turn causing areas to be flooded with up to four meters of water. Thousands are now homeless.

Currently, the image of Caxias is nothing short of ruin. Combined with a brutal natural disaster, poor politics led to the devastation of thousands.