Brazilians Mourn The Assassination Of Rights Activist & State Critic
March 19th, 2018
A popular Rio city councillor, Marielle Franco, and her driver were shot dead by two men in a targeted assassination after which thousands of Brazilians took to the streets across Brazil. Franco’s press secretary also suffered minor injuries but survived, according to Reuters.
A Rio city councilwoman and was shot dead in her car Wednesday night along with her driver, in what human-rights groups fear was a politically motivated execution in retaliation for her criticism of police violence.
Marielle Franco, 38, was a prominent defender of Afro-Brazilians who had advocated for the people in the teeming favelas, where one-quarter of Rio de Janeiro’s population resides. Poverty, police brutality and shootouts with drug gangs are routine in these areas.
Rio’s head of public security, Richard Nunes said that there would be a “full investigation” into the deaths, which came weeks after Brazil’s president Michel Temer gave the military the charge of policing in Rio’s sprawling favela last month after a surge in gang violence. According to Reuters, 13 political candidates were slain in the lead-up to 2016’s city council polls when Franco was elected
Officials told Associated Press that two men in a car fired nine shots into the vehicle carrying Franco and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes.
While friends, colleagues and politicians paid tribute to Franco, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also condemned the killings.
Ahead of Brazil’s presidential elections, her death threatens to become a rallying point for protests over violence and racial inequality in Brazil, exacerbating the Latin American nation’s volatile political situation.
Ahead of a ceremony in honour of Franco, crowds gathered outside Rio de Janeiro’s council chamber chanting “not one step backwards”. The spontaneous demonstration brought together union members, leftists, feminists, and the city’s poorer communities.
Franco, a popular local LGBTQ and a member of a leftist party was a gay black woman who rose to political prominence by denouncing economic inequality and police brutality in Rio to win the fifth-highest vote count among council members when she was elected in 2016. She was the only black female representative and one of seven women on the 51-seat city council. An expert on police violence, she had recently accused officers of being overly aggressive in searching residents of gang-controlled areas. Franco was also known for her social work in favelas. She was in her first term in office.
Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s former president described Franco as a “tireless social warrior”. “Sad days for a country where a human rights defender is brutally murdered,” she said in a statement.
Franco had criticised police killings. 154 people were killed in January by the Rio police. A 57% increase from January 2017 according to state government figures.
In February, an army general, Walter Braga Netto, was put in charge of public security after the President Michel Temer signed a decree putting the military in charge of security in Rio de Janeiro. After which soldiers have carried out operations in gang-run favelas in a controversial attempt to check on the rising crime.
One of Franco’s final posts on Twitter called attention to police violence. “Another homicide of a young man that could be credited to the police. Matheus Melo was leaving the church when he was killed. How many others will have to die for this war to end?” she wrote.