Brazil will help bury the bodies spread through the streets of Port au Prince, Haiti’s capital. Thursday, in a meeting with the country’s president, Rene Preval, Brazil’s Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, asked him to designate a field where hundreds of bodies can be buried.
Brazil’s ambassador in Haiti, Igor Kipman should see to it that the bodies are buried following the religious traditions of the country where there are Christians and adherents of voodoo.
According to Jobim, Brazil is authorized to recruit Haitian labor so that the bodies of the voodoo followers be handled only by voodoo faithful observing all the proper rituals.
The Haitian president, according to Jobim, assumed the commitment to indicate an area to begin the burial as soon as possible.
The Minister of Defense of Brazil, Nelson Jobim, who has just returned from Haiti, said he was impressed by the resilience of the Haitian people who have suffered so much pain. He pledged a continued and strong commitment by Brazil in international efforts to aid victims of the earthquake.
“What Brazil has to do at this moment, a moment of so much grief, is show that we can organize and coordinate in a rational manner. And this cannot be done alone. We must lead a multilateral assistance effort, coordinating with other nations and the United Nations,” said the minister.
During his brief stay in Haiti, Jobim met with the president of Haiti, Renee Preval, and they discussed a delicate subject: what to do with dead bodies.
“Everybody was in a state of shock, but we managed to have a thoughtful discussion of the matter. It is a local custom to not allow foreigners to touch Haitian bodies. So, our engineers will work with locals. The bodies must be removed quickly. This has to be done for reasons of public health. There is a bad smell and danger of disease,” explained Jobim.
As for Brazilian deaths in the earthquake on January 12, Jobim declared that he now believes the total will reach 17. He said there were 14 dead Brazilian soldiers from the stabilization mission (MINUSTAH), the doctor and activist Zilda Arns, along with Luiz Carlos da Costa, a Brazilian who was the second in command of the United Nations mission in Haiti (who is still missing, but presumed dead) and another person he did not name. Jobim said he expected the bodies of the soldiers to be back in Brazil this weekend.
Luiz Carlos da Costa is a Brazilian who has worked at the UN since 1969. For many years he has held administrative positions in UN divisions of Peacekeeping Operations.
He was previously stationed in Kosovo and Liberia. He was born in 1949, studied at New York University (international business and political science). He is married and has two daughters.
Two Brazilian Air Force (FAB) planes, C-130s, left Galeão airport in Rio yesterday. One was carrying 12 tons of equipment, including a field hospital. The other, 46 FAB medical personnel with equipment.
The field hospital can be set up and operational in 48 hours anywhere in the world. The unit being sent to Haiti is what is called a “complete configuration,” that is, it includes an intensive care unit, x-ray facilities and laboratories.
Brazil has already sent 60 firemen with search dogs to Haiti, along with two airplanes carrying food and water. A number of NGOs in Brazil have opened bank accounts that can be used to deposit donations for the Haiti earthquake victims.
Among Brazilian civilians killed in Haiti is Zilda Arns, 75, a prominent activist in reducing infant mortality and improving basic sanitation not only in Brazil, but in eleven other countries through the organization she founded, the Child Pastoral, which was linked to the Brazilian Catholic Bishop’s Conference.