On March 14th in the Estácio area of Rio de Janeiro, Councilwoman Marielle Franco of the Socialism & Liberty Party (PSOL) was executed with 5 shots to the head. Her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, also died in the attack.
Witnesses say that they could not hear the shots, indicating that the excecution was committed with a silencer.
Franco, 38, was one of the city’s most outspoken critics of the military occupation and police violence. When, on the outset of the February 16 Military Occupation, General Braga Neto announced that he didn’t want another Truth Commission set up to investigate military human rights abuses, the city favela residents association federation set up a people’s committee to monitor the action, and nominated Franco as its rapporteur.
On March 10th she publically criticized the Rio Military Police’s 41st Battalion for a series of police excecutions of teenagers in Acari favela that had taken place the previous week.
Born and raised in Rio’s Maré neighborhood, Franco was a long time activist and the first black female Councilwoman from a favela. On the night of her excecution she was returning from an event on how young black women can change power structures.
This event, coupled with the rise in murders of leftist activists since the 2016 coup, the military takeover of Rio de Janeiro’s security apparatus, the violent crackdown on striking public sector workers yesterday on São Paulo and former President Lula’s impending imprisonment with no physical evidence are raising worries that Brazil is moving into a second, more repressive stage of the Coup, mirroring the clampdown of 1968. History teaches us that acts of governmental violence against the left are rarely revenge, they are tactical.
Whoever ordered the killing of Marielle Franco clearly thought they could do it with impunity, either despite or because of the military intervention in Rio.
Some have pointed to statistics and Franco will no doubt become an emblem of the wider struggle against the ongoing massacre of young black Brazilians. But statistics alone do not explain the targeted killing of a politician explicitly critical of military actions in her community.
As Brasil wakes up in horror, sadness and dismay at Franco’s killing, a wave of protests have been organised around the country. On Thursday afternoon crowds gathered outside Rio de Janeiro’s council chamber chanting “not one step backwards” ahead of a ceremony in honour of Franco inside. Many wept as her coffin was carried inside.
The day before her death, Marielle took to social media, about a boy killed as he was leaving church, asking “How many more need to die before this war will end?”.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the killings, while friends, colleagues and politicians paid tribute to Franco.
Franco was a gay black woman who defied the odds of Rio politics to win the fifth-highest vote count among council members when she was elected in 2016. She was an expert on police violence and had recently accused officers of being overly aggressive in searching residents of gang-controlled shantytowns.
She leaves behind an eighteen year old daughter.
With information from CSP-Conlutas, The Guardian and BrasilWire