Note: In Rio de Janeiro, there seems to be a never-ending spilling and flowing of Black blood in the streets. It’s not a topic that I like to cover, and it may alter your view of the tourist paradise that comes to mind when you think of the city, but it is of absolute importance in our understanding the situation of our people regardless of what country we live in. The sheer numbers of Black bodies falling to the ground in Rio and Brazil as a whole are shocking in themselves, but behind these figures are histories, and the pain and suffering of families that will never see their children grow up. Other children and grandchildren that will never come to be because of the young lives that were brutally taken away with the excuse of a “war on drugs”.
If I were to never cover another story showing the real risk of a Black man, woman, teen or child leaving their homes and not returning, the number of articles in the archives would suffice to demonstrate the war zone of which the Black community lives in the periphery of many Brazilian cities. But even with past violence, this year, Rio’s security forces are on a record-setting mission of blood spilling, breaking its own astounding record of violence.
Violence in Rio kills 6 young people in just 5 days; killing 5 per day, Rio Police break record under Wilson Witzel government
In 5 days, 6 young people die in Rio de Janeiro
The Government of Rio de Janeiro refuses to acknowledge the failure in police operations that end with the death of innocent people. Over the past five days, the state has reported the deaths of six young victims of what police call ‘stray bullets’, but that they have had a certain destination. In four cases, the Military Police were involved in the shootings, either during operations or on patrols.
Since Friday, Gabriel Pereira Alves, Lucas Monteiro dos Santos Costa, Tiago Freitas, Henrico de Jesus, Margareth Teixeira and the above mentioned Dyogo Costa Xavier de Brito have been killed. According to police, at least three of them are suspects, which would not justify the execution, but the families deny this.
Dyogo Costa Xavier de Brito, just 16 years old, was killed during a military police operation that ended in a clash between the military officers and alleged traffickers the day before yesterday in the Grota community of Niterói. Gabriel Pereira Alves, 18, was hit in the chest by a bullet at 7 am on Friday while waiting at a bus stop in Tijuca, of Rio’s North Zone. On Friday night, at a party in Encantado, in the same region of the city, army soldier and parachutist Lucas Monteiro dos Santos Costa, 21, was killed while criminals stormed the scene shooting. Lucas’s friend, Tiago Freitas, 21, was shot in the head. On Monday, 19-year-old Henrico de Jesus Viegas de Menezes Júnior was also hit in the head during a shooting in the Terra Nova Community. He was going to pick up a moped that he left for repair in a garage. Margareth Teixeira, 17, was killed with her son, a 9-month-old baby, in her lap during a PM operation on Tuesday night (13) in the Quarenta e Oito community of Bangu, in Rio’s west zone.
According to Rio’s Security Observatory, the number of clashes in the state grew by 25% in 2019 compared to the first eight months of last year, killing 151 people.
Rio de Janeiro recorded 1,452 clashes between police and suspects between January and August of this year, according to the Fogo Cruzado digital platform. This number represents six exchanges of fire involving state agents per day.
“In the first half of this year there were over 4,000 shootings identified by Portal Fogo Cruzado, which means 23 shootings per day. People are in the middle of this disastrous public safety policy” – Melina Risso, Director of the Instituto Igarapé
Even with the deaths of six innocent youths, the state secretary, Cleiton Rodrigues, defended the state’s security policy:
“The governor (Wilson Witzel) and the state government deeply regret all these deaths. These and all others that might happen. We are working every day so that they don’t happen,” said the secretary.
Rodrigues dares to say that there is no confrontation with the way it is being done: “We’re fighting narco-terrorists and mafias. People who have no qualms and use society as a human shield. The police have been playing their part. Public safety is not just on the sidewalk in confronting these narcoterrorist cowards. In the Civil Police for example, we have a strong investigation into money laundering. We already have over BRL 50 million (reiais) seized from potential money launderers,” said the secretary, adding that there is no intention to kill innocents and that after the investigations the real culprits will be punished.
Melina Risso, Program Director of the Instituto Igarapé, classifies Wilson Witzel’s government’s security policy as ‘disastrous: “What happened is a tragedy, but it is not a fatality, it is a chronicle of a foretold death. We follow stories like these (murder of young people) in Rio that are the result of the option of confrontation as a form of public security. We observe the number of shootings that take place in the city, whether in police operations or by confrontation of armed groups. In the first quarter of this year there were over 4,000 shootings identified by Portal Fogo Cruzado, which means 23 shootings per day. People are in the middle of the crossfire, in the midst of this disastrous public safety policy.”
OAB Considers These Deaths Inadmissible
The Brazilian Bar Association (OAB) in Rio de Janeiro said on Wednesday (14) that it has deep concerns about the state’s public security policy. According to the agency, the recent death of six young people is “inadmissible and cannot be treated as an acceptable side effect.”
The agency called the policy adopted “without intelligence and respect for the rights and guarantees of the population.” The statement goes on to say that “no indicator of violence or ‘peaceful purpose’ justifies police raids that disregard human life, with such eloquent race and class slant.”
The OAB also said it is studying measures against this “state of affairs” and will provide legal support to the families of the murdered youth.
Murders By Police Forces Sets Record In 2019
Governor Wilson Witzel’s (PSC) carte blanche for the snipers resulted in the deaths of 434 people in the first quarter of 2019, the highest since the start of the historic series 21 years ago.
The carte blanche given by Governor Wilson Witzel (PSC) to Rio police snipers set a record in the first three months of his administration.
According to data from the Instituto de Segurança Pública (ISP-RJ), 434 people were killed by military soldiers or Military Police in the first quarter of 2019, a record in the statistical series, which began 21 years ago.
The figures reveal that nearly five (4.82) are killed by state police every 24 hours. The information is from Fabio Grellet and Marcio Dolzan, in this Tuesday’s edition of the newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo.
Only in four days of May, from Friday the 3rd, to Monday the 6th, at least 13 people were killed by police action: four in morro do Borel (north), one in Rocinha (south) and eight in the favelas of the Complexo da Maré (north zone).
“We were already in a crescent, especially last year, from the federal intervention led by the military,” said sociologist Ignacio Cano, coordinator of the Laboratory of Analysis of Violence of the State University of Rio de Janeiro (LAV/UERJ).
“Now, with the new policy of official extermination by the Witzel government, what we should have expected was just that. The opposite would be a big surprise.” The increase was 18% over the first quarter of 2018, when there were 368 deaths in alleged clashes.