Note from BW of Brazil: We first reported this story about a week and a half ago and, unfortunately, there is still no good news to report. An Italian tourist was brutally murdered in northeast Brazil, the police have no motive or clues, and a black woman, Mirian França de Melo, a Ph. D candidate from Rio, remains imprisoned. Police have revealed their reasons for holding her, but her legal representation is crying foul. It really does look as if the image of the region’s tourist industry is the most important thing to authorities at this point. No one has any certainty of who committed this murder, and if the police never come across any leads and Mirian is indeed innocent, how long should she remain behind bars? This is a very ugly situation. But as ugly as this is, another question still looms in the background: if Mirian were a white woman, would she be in jail right now?
by Rogério Daflon
The Italian Gaia Barbara Molinari, 29, loved to travel the world and always made friends easily. Heir to a factory of orthopedic shoes in northern Italy, she lived in Paris, where she was public relations of a multinational. On Christmas Eve her life came to a tragic end. Around 3pm of December 25, Gaia’s body was found in an area of environmental reserve next to Jericoacoara beach, in the city of Jijoca of Jericoacoara, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Fortaleza (capital city of Ceará). The report from the Civil Police of Ceará says she died the day before, strangled, her face disfigured, arms and legs injured to the extreme. Such a shocking death, however, is still shrouded in mystery after two weeks. The Italian was not robbed, there were no signs of sexual violence and no clear evidence of what the motivation of the crime would have been. For now, the police have only revealed the identity of a suspect: the Rio pharmaceutician Mirian França de Melo, 31, arrested on December 29th.
The commissioner in charge, Patrícia Bezerra, of the Bureau of Tourist Protection, requested 30 days temporary imprisonment for Mirian (for dealing with the case of heinous crime) and the Courts of Ceará welcomed the request. “She lied repeatedly about people, times and locations in her two statements and her statements were not sustained in the face of confrontations,” she says, with more than 15 witnesses being heard. According to the commissioner, Mirian said, for example, that she had last seen Gaia at 1.45pm on 24 December at the hotel in Jericoacoara, but the two were seen at the inn around 6.30pm. It was at this time, moreover, that witnesses last saw the Italian woman. Patrícia says that there are other suspects, but doesn’t disclose the names because, she said, it would hinder the investigation. The case, however, seems complex. Coordinator of Legal Medicine of Ceará, Sângelo Abreu told ISTOÉ (magazine) that the post-mortem report suggests that the Italian woman didn’t have only one perpetrator. “At least two people must have participated in this murder, as the level of violence was extreme,” stressed the coroner, who is responsible – or those responsible – must have marks due to Gaia’s attempts to defend herself.
The conduct of the police has been widely questioned. The Public Defender of Ceará, responsible for the defense of the pharmaceutician, said her imprisonment is irregular. “Mirian is illegally imprisoned. It was an absurd response to the great repercussions of the case. Her contradictions are not evidence for imprisonment,” the public defender Emerson Castelo Branco, who, with two colleagues, filed for habeas corpus. “She cooperated with the investigation and provided testimony as a witness. She wasn’t oriented by lawyers and is not required to remember everything.” Among the people interviewed, the Uruguayan Rodrigo Sanz also complained about the police approach. He and his fiancée, a French woman, were arrested and taken by police car to the police station in Fortaleza where investigators insisted that they confirm the existence of a romance between Miriam and Gaia, according to what he said. Two messages from Sanz’s fiancée were found on Gaia’s cell phone, which also led police to think of a love triangle. The couple ceded material for DNA testing. In a statement to ISTOÉ, the police denied arbitrariness: “The Civil Police of the State of Ceará inform that the foreign tourist couple, as well as several others, were taken to the Delegacia de Proteção ao Turista (Deprotur or Tourist Protection Police Station) under condition of witnesses, where they provided testimony and make themselves available for the collection genetic material.” The Uruguayan disputes this: “It’s inadmissible for a witness to be handled with a paddy wagon and psychological pressure.”
Oriented by the attorney Humberto Adami, Mirian’s mother, Valdicéia França, believes her daughter is suffering racism. Adami – who defends, for example, quilombola causes – said it was “feasible” the hypothesis that Mirian is a victim of prejudice for being black, a possibility denied by the police of Ceará. “There is institutionalized racism in Brazil,” says the lawyer. The Movimento Negro (Black Movement) is also following the case. Adami argues that although the medical examinations of Gaia have not found traces of rape, such as semen, this possibility can not be ruled out. Four years ago, the Ceará authorities received a dossier on the proliferation of this type of crime in the region from the Conselho Comunitátio de Jericoacora (Comunitarian Council of Jericoacora). Born in Austin in Nova Iguaçu (Rio de Janeiro state), one of the poorest places in the metropolitan area of Rio, Mirian is in a cell alone for having a college degree. Beyond graduation in pharmacy, she has a Master’s and is a Doctorate candidate at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). She lives on a post-grad scholarship and now lives in an apartment in Bonsucesso (Rio) with two other students.
After 12 days, the body of the young Italian was transferred to Italy to be buried in Piacenza, the city where she was born. Gaia knew Mirian on the internet, on a travel site. As Mirian’s mother backed out of traveling with her daughter, she was then looking for someone to split the cost of the hotel in Jericoacoara. The two met on the 17th in a hostel in Fortaleza and, on the 21st, departed for the beach in Ceará, where the story of the two would change forever.
It’s prohibited to speak of racism in Ceará. The newspaper O Jornal of Forteleza decrees in editorial: It’s a hard blow against turism in the states, they allege.
Courtesy of Mamapress
We at Mamapress and SOS Racismo Brasil, have warned of the growing editorial wave of major newspapers, trying to hide institutional Brazilian racism, particularly against black women and black youth. Daily violence against black women, and more than 700 young black men murdered per month in Brazil, only deserves a footnote in police sections of newspapers.
The inelegant and cynical editorial of O Jornal do Povo, says that only because of “Mirian is black”, has a public outcry arisen. When, to the contrary, it was how the commissioner proceeded and proceeds to treat the pharmaceutician Mirian França, calling her “a liar” all the time, which caused the indignation of society.
Now the insistence of the Movimento Negro (black movement) and Brazilian society in order that Mirian respond in freedom, the charges that perhaps exist, is precisely because of the fact that she is black, young and a woman, neither the delegate, or the judge took into account her record and threw her in a common prison, without access to lawyers or family contact, until her friends in Rio were willing to go to Fortaleza and scream for help, looking for the public defender.
The fact is that, until now there has been no national and international mobilization to legally help a white tourist, Brazilian or foreign, it’s because no one we know has learned that this arbitrariness has been committed against some of them, that every year thousands go the Ceará and are not thrown in prison, just because a commissioner thinks this way.
The fact is that Mirian França is a black tourist and not a white tourist.
This is not the only thing her mother is thinking, which she said in an outburst to the press: “My daughter was arrested and charged because she is black” The whole society is suspicious of the unprofessional interviews, and beset with personal and evasive opinions given by the commissioner Patrícia Bezerra. If it’s not racism, what is it there to hide then?
Suspicions of corporate racism to defend the tourism industry in Ceará only increase when we read a puzzling editorial, that wants to throw racism under the carpet, in a time when the whole society wants truth and justice for Mirian França and justice for the memory of Gaia Molinari.
The Movimento Negro and civil society are concerned and compassionate with the tragic fate of two young women, one black and one white. Human rights and civil rights are for all. This tragic event needs to be clarified within the rule of the law.
We received the editorial with a short comment from Professor Alex Ratts.
Hypocritical and cynical editorial of the Jornal o Povo de Fortaleza on 01/07/2015.
“Mirian is black. This was enough to mobilize a movement for the liberation of the carioca (Rio native) under the following argument: the prison was given only on the basis of skin color. By this reasoning, if Miriam was white neither the request for imprisonment nor the judicial decision that heeded it would be in effect. Thus, the commissioner as well as the judge that heeded the request of temporary detention would be racist.”
Lawyer Humberto Adami, who is defending pharmaceutical Mirian was to submit to the Court on Wednesday (7) an application for habeas corpus for his client.
“Contradiction is not guilty plea. The person may be afraid of being in a police station because the country’s police stations are not comfortable for any black person,” says Adami, highlighting Mirian’s skin color. “She left here [Rio de Janeiro] with a scheduled round-trip and did her duty in contributing to the investigations.”
Adami recalled that Miriam had no access to a lawyer or defender during her arrest and the taking of her testimony, in addition to being incommunicable. “We see no evidence that the police of Ceará found to keep her imprisoned and there are many straight lines of investigations followed, including those raised by the international press, which has followed the case from the beginning,” said the lawyer, who has a history of acting in cases involving racism. Adami’s expectation is a relaxation of the imprisonment.
In Rio de Janeiro, relatives and friends are mobilizing to demand the release of young carioca. On Facebook, the page Liberdade para Mirian França Justiça para Mirian Justiça para Gaia Freedom for Mirian França, Justice for Mirian, Justice for Gaia has brought together about 4,000 supporters and a petition with 1,200 signatures.
Black women of Ceará and Brazil release note against Femicide and Institutional Racism
by Instituto Negra do Ceará
For Miriam, for Gaia, for us and for our people: Black Women against Femicide and the Institutional Racism
We black women of Ceará and Brazil, activists from different social movements, express our deep indignation with violence against women. The brutal and cowardly murder of Gaia Molinari in Jericoacoara, on 12/24, adds to the more 265 women murdered in Ceará in 2014. Compared with the 2013 numbers, when 214 women were murdered, the femicide rate has risen 25%. That number puts Ceará in 6th place in the country. The increasing murder of women denounces our sexist culture and the inability of the state authorities to adopt effective actions to end the femicide and other forms of violence against women.
The crime against Gaia has generated national and international commotion, differently from the other 265 women killed, because of the fact of her being a European foreignor. This puts pressure on the civil police and the courts of Ceará to speed up investigations, identify and punish the perpetrators. In seeking to do justice for the death of Gaia, the state is commiting an injustice against the pharmaceutician Mirian França de Melo, accused and imprisoned by Ceará police on suspicion of having committed such a crime. Although there are 15 people suspected, without any evidence or legal reason, Mirian who is a black woman, finds herself since the 26th of December detained in the Delegacia de Capturas/CE.
This state’s attitude is part of a well known story for black people in general and black women in particular: a history of institutional racism and violence that directly affects our people. Dehumanized by the racist logic that judges us by our color, women and black men have been violated and exterminated by the police and legal violence that prejudges, condemns, imprisons and denies the basic right of defense. Crowded into jails and prisons black people of Brazil of the XXI Century are reliving the old slave ships, subject to the lashes, disease and death.
As Miriam, we are also outraged by the racist and sensational daily media discourse that transforms our suffering into a spectacle: the protagonist rejected from cop shows and pages, the deal for our people is: “shoot first, after that no one asks questions.”
No, we black women do not silently accept this situation, we always denounce and fight for our freedom and our people, for the right to defense against violations. We therefore call for public authorities to immediately release Mirian França de Melo, and that the justice system does itself justice, is remaking itself from its violence and racism! We believe that a court and police and competent and committed to public safety cannot, along with the mainstream media, mask the fact that, Jijoca de Jericoacoara is an unsafe place for women, where in 2012, was considered the 32nd municipal of Brazil to have the highest number of cases of violence against women Centro de Atendimento à Mulher – Ligue 180 (Center for Assistance to Women – Dial 180).
For our part we are in solidarity with the family and friends of Miriam and Gaia and with all victims of such naturalized violence, and more than ever, we will be vigilant and attentive!
Fortaleza, January 9, 2015
Signing this note:
1 UIALA MUKAJI Sociedade das Mulheres negras de Pernambuco
2 Alessandro Antônio Lopes Nunes – Agrônomo – CE
3 Articulação de Mulheres Brasileiras – AMB
4 Articulação de Organizações de Mulheres Negras Brasileiras – AMNB
5 Associação Cultural de Mulheres Negras – ACMUN – RS
6 Associação Franciscana de Defesa de Direitos
7 Bamidelê – Organização de Mulheres Negras na Paraíba
8 Blogueiras Negras
9 Cecília Feitosa – Presidenta do PSOL Ceará
10 CEDENPA – Centro de Estudos e Defesa do Negro do Pará
11 Central Sindical Popular – CONLUTAS
12 Cícera Barbosa – Professora e Historiadora – Comitê Impulsor no Ceará da Marcha das Mulheres Negras – 2015
13 Coletivo Feminista Luiza Mahin (Rio de Janeiro)
14 Coletivo Negrada – ES
15 Conselho Comunitário de Defesa Social do Crato – CCDS – Crato
16 Conselho Municipal dos Direitos da Mulher Cratense – CMDMC
17 Coordenação Nacional das Comunidades Quilombolas – CONAQ
18 CRIOLA – RJ
19 Fórum Cearense de Mulheres -FCM
20 Francisco Nonato do Nascimento Filho – Independente militant of the Movimento Negro Ceará
21 Francyslene Pereira Neves Pedagoga e Presidenta do Movimento Negro de Rondonópolis/ MT
22 Frente de Mulheres dos Movimento Sociais do Cariri
23 Geledés – Instituto da Mulher Negra
24 Grupo Cactos, Gênero e Comunicação – PE
25 Grupo de Mulheres Negras Mãe Andresa do Estado do Maranhão
26 Grupo de Mulheres Negras MALUNGA
27 Grupo de Valorização Negra do Cariri – GRUNEC
28 GT Mulheres de Axé da RENAFRO Ceará
29 IMENA – Instituto de Mulheres Negras do Amapá
30 Instituto AMMA Psique e Negritude
31 Instituto Búzios
32 Instituto Negra do Ceará – INEGRA
33 Instituto Patrícia Galvão
34 Ivanilda Gentle – Secretária Nacional e Estadual de Mulheres Negras da Paraíba – PSB
35 Leticia Bezerra de Lima – Professora de Sociologia da Rede Estadual – RJ
36 Lúcia de Fátima Júlio – Professora
37 Luciana Araújo – Jornalista do Portal Compromisso e Atitude
38 Marcha Mundial das Mulheres no Ceará
39 Margarida Marques – Setorial de Negras e Negros do PSOL Ceará
40 MARIA MULHER – Organização de Mulheres Negras/RS
41 Maria Ozaneide de Paula – Secretária das Mulheres da CUT
42 Maria Rita Py Dutra – Escritora e pesquisadora – RS
43 Mayara Evelyn Oliveira da Silva – Estudante de Publicidade
44 Mirt´s Sants – Militante do Movimento Negro e de Direitos Humanos
45 Movimento de Mulheres em Luta – MML
46 Mulheres Negras Capixabas – ES
47 OLPN/MNU De Lutas, Autônomo e Independentes
48 Pastorais Sociais do Regional Nordeste I
49 Pretas Candangas – Coletivo de Mulheres Negras do Distrito Federal
50 Quilombo do Sacopã
51 Rede Afro LGBT Mineira
52 Rede das Mulheres de Terreiro de Pernambuco
53 Rede Fulanas – Negras da Amazônia Brasileira
54 Rede Nacional de Advogadas e Advogados Populares – Ceará
55 Rede Rádio Mamaterra
56 Regiane Nigro – Independent militant of Economia Solidária – SP
57 Rita de Cássia Hipólito – Sociologist and History Professora of São Paulo
58 Rosana Paulino – Visual artist, researcher and professor
59 Samiris Fraga Peixoto – Estudante
60 Sindicato dos Trabalhadores of UNICAMP – STU
61 Soraya Vanini Tupinambá – PSOL CE
62 SOS Racismo Brasil
63 Tambores de Safo
64 Tiago Neto da Silva – Student and militant of the Articulação de Esquerda (PT)
66 União da Juventude Comunista
67 Vilma Reis – Sociologist e activist of the Movimento de Mulheres Negras na Bahia