Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Collor Urges Protection of Brazil's Street Children but Activists Say New Racial Attitudes, Not Just Money, Are Needed

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Collor Urges Protection of Brazil's Street Children but Activists Say New Racial Attitudes, Not Just Money, Are Needed

Article excerpt

RESPONDING to criticism that not enough is being done to curb violence against children, the Brazilian government is trying to implement procedures to enforce a national child protection law passed by Congress a year ago.

Earlier this month, on Oct.12, Brazil celebrated Children's Day and President Fernando Collor de Mello planted a tree in memory of "victims of violence," at the presidential palace. Together with 1,000 children, Mr. Collor announced several initiatives.

The measures include creation of the National Fund and Council for the Child and Adolescent, an organization funded by an optional income tax checkoff, and a job internship and literacy program for 5,000 teenagers. Collor also called on state and city governments to help implement the law with "S.O.S. Child" hotline programs to serve children at risk, offering federal funding for these. The president also asked the attorney general to help "undo the climate of impunity in relation to the violence that victimizes Brazilian children."

Meanwhile, a congressional investigatory committee last week wound up three months of depositions on the problem, taken from citizens in six different states. The commission plans to finish a report and action proposal by early December, and hopes to set up a permanent watchdog committee.

So far, the committee's representatives say they have collected a list of names and addresses of people known to have killed youngsters living on the street, a list largely provided by children whose lives have been threatened. New child laws

Passed last year by Congress, the child protection law provides a new legal framework for meeting young people's needs, including clearly establishing their constitutional rights, and society's duty toward them. The statute ended years of alternating between official charity or official repression, replacing this dual approach with a philosophy of community participation.

The president's measures, however, attracted little attention among most Brazilians. Beset by inflation, crime, and unemployment, most citizens are increasingly cynical about government's ability to solve problems. Still, some activists gave the recent initiatives a cautious welcome.

"Any real, implemented measure for children and adolescents, undertaken by people with the skills to take things forward, I think is valid," says Myriam Mequita Pugliese de Castro, a researcher at the University of Sao Paulo's Violence Studies Nucleus. "The president has shown he is interested."

Until last year, the Brazilian government had shown little concern for the nation's street children, estimated at 8 million youngsters by the National Movement for Street Boys and Girls, a nonprofit group. …

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