Note from BW of Brazil: Although because of the exploding numbers, Covid-19 cases and deaths are not the only things happening in Brazil these days. But unfortunately this reports doesn’t present any news that the country can be proud of. I’ve said for years that Brazil has a deeply ingrained disdain for blackness or anything connected to the African continent. That includes its near four centuries of debt to free African labor due to the brutality of the slavery era but also its population of African descent that continue to be treated as if they aren’t citizens of the country of which their ancestors built. And if Brazil treats its own black population with a certain level of disgust, how is it that recent immigrants from the African continent are treated? Considering past reports of the experiences of African and Haitian immigrants, it shouldn’t be hard to guess. The first time I covered the brutal assassination of an Angolan immigrant in Brazil, it was back in 2012, a little more than six months after the debut of this blog. In 2020, appears things haven’t changed that much as the murder of yet another Angolan seems to suggest this.
A 47-year-old Angolan citizen was stabbed to death on Sunday, May 17, in Itaquera, in the East Zone of São Paulo, Brazil.
At the time he was attacked, two other immigrants who tried to prevent the attack were injured, reveals the G1 website.
Witnesses say the suspect is a mechanic assistant that escaped.
“Military police officers were called in because of the incident and, at the address indicated, found a fallen man, with stab wounds. Nearby were two men, 28 and 29, also wounded,” said the Public Security Secretariat, who confirmed that the case was registered in the 24th Police District (Ponte Rasa) and that investigations to find the suspect continue.
The attack, according to the same sources, was xenophobic and came after an argument about the payment of federal emergency aid for immigrants.
The two injured men were taken to the Ermelino Matarazzo Hospital for medical care and have already been discharged.
In an interview with G1, one of the injured men, an immigrant who prefers not to identify himself, says he moved from the neighborhood where he lived for fear of reprisals after the death of his colleague.
He says that when the argument started, he was talking to João Manuel who was going to lend him 50 reais to buy disposable diapers for his daughter.
“I wanted to defend my brother. It was racist, he made it clear that it was racism, because he was saying he was going to kill my brother, but laughing, like he was going to kill an animal,”he says, adding that the Angolan citizen was wounded by three stabs in the chest and died a few minutes after the attack.
“When we said it was racism, the Brazilian came out with the knife and stabbed Manuel in the chest for the first time. We went to defend our brother and I tried to take the knife out of his hand. I escaped from the movement of the knife, but then it entered my belly, on the left side. Then he ran away, with the knife still in his hand,”says the immigrant, who was admitted to the Ermelino Matarazzo Hospital, got stitches in his belly and was discharged on Sunday night.
“We didn’t know that guy was that angry. Our brother didn’t do anything, he did nothing. He didn’t say anything to die like that,” he concluded.
Unemployed for four months, he was on the street because he went to meet Manuel who would lend him money. The argument began when the mechanic’s assistant said “the foreigners only wanted to receive money from the government, while the Brazilians are suffering,” reports the survivor.
Xenophobia in São Paulo
The Congolese woman Hortense lived in the neighborhood where the crime took place for five years until she moved in February, after cases of violence against immigrants. She left behind furniture and much of what she had gathered since arriving in Brazil because she feared the threats she and her family received in the neighborhood.
Cidade Antônio Estêvão de Carvalho is located in Itaquera, in the East Zone, and is known for having a large community of African immigrants, among Congolese, Angolans and Cameroonians.
“I left there running from insecurity because my husband was the target of death threats. I realized that hatred was born in the neighborhood, people were saying to their faces that we have to return to our country,” Hortense says.
“Even the bus drivers showed this prejudice. There’s a line that leaves the Arthur Alvim subway station called Conj. A. E. Carvalho, it’s number 2727-10. Sometimes we signal and they pass the buses straight,” Hortense says.
According to Hortense, the situation worsened after her husband was robbed on the street where he lived. He was followed on his way back from work. In January, an immigrant attending the same church as Hortense was beaten up after leaving the scene, shortly after he distanced himself from the group.
“I lost almost everything from my house, I took only what was necessary. It was difficult for us to find an emergency house because I needed a deposit for the rent. We still don’t feel safe, but at least it’s better to come back at night,” he says.
Karina Quintanilha, human rights lawyer at the Fórum Internacional Fronteiras Cruzadas (International Forum of Crossed Borders) at the University of São Paulo says it’s, not uncommon to receive reports of immigrants and refugees who have had to move because of xenophobic threats from neighbors, as was the case in Hortense.
“Before the pandemic, surveys already showed that reports of racism and xenophobia are frequent in public services and the work environment. This is now intensifying, there are reports of this type of discrimination in the health services as well, but it is still a very invisible situation,” says Quintanilha.