School children run for cover as Rio governor commands special police unit to take aim and fire on drug traffickers; target was actually group of church goers

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Note from BW of Brazil: This has got to be one of the must disgusting images I’ve ever seen. And with the ongoing violence in Rio, I’ve seen plenty of them over the years. I first became aware of the violence in which Rio’s police forces deal with the population when I came across several reports back in 2003 that showed just how many people were killed in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo by Military Police. To be honest, I was shocked. Year after year I was finding that police in cities such as RJ and SP were killing more people than all police forces combined in the United States! 

One report from December of 2009 hints at this:

The Rio and São Paulo police have together killed more than 11,000 people since 2003. In the state of Rio, alleged resistance killings by police reached a record high of 1,330 in 2007. While reported killings decreased to 1,137 in 2008, the number remained alarmingly elevated, as it was the third highest on record for Rio. The number of police “resistance” killings in São Paulo, while less than in Rio, is also comparatively high: over the past five years, for example, there were more police “resistance” killings in São Paulo state (2,176) than police killings of suspects in all of South Africa (1,623), a country with a much higher homicide rate than São Paulo.

Just for an example, in 2018, US police forces fatally shot 992 people. Police in Rio and SP, on the other hand, routinely kill between 1,000-1,500 people per year. Also consider that, as shocking as the situation is with the brutality of police forces, this doesn’t include murders involving death squads that are often off duty police. The same source cited above tells us that “some police officers are members of ‘death squads’ (grupos de extermínio) or, in the case of Rio, illegal armed militias, which together are responsible for hundreds of murders each year.” 

To put it bluntly, there has been a war declared on the black and poor population and with the help of poverty, inaccessibility of resources, mind boggling social/racial inequality and segregação à brasileira (Brazilian styled segregation), the population for which to target such genocidal policies has a location. I’ve only covered a fraction of a fraction of the endless stories in the media about innocent bystanders being killed in police actions, but when the photo of the school children running for their lives after bullets were being fired from a helicopter was released, I was literally speechless!

Needless to say, this isn’t the “postcard image” of Rio that most tourists have. 

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Children in the community of Maré run from shots fired on Monday.

The children who ran from the Wilson Witzel terror policy in Rio

Governor jokes about ‘Apocalypse Now’. Days later, the police he commands shoot from the above in the middle of school hours in the community of Maré. Who will set limits to his homicidal policy?

By Felipe Betim

It is no longer possible – I do not know if it was at any time – to use euphemisms to describe the security policy of the governor of Rio de Janeiro, Wilson Witzel. It is what it is: arbitrary, illegal, criminal and homicidal. If there were any doubts, last Saturday the governor boarded a helicopter of the Coordination of Special Resources (CORE) of the Civil Police and flew over a community of Angra dos Reis with the mayor of the municipality at his side. A video of the moment was posted on his Twitter profile. “We are going to put an end to the criminality in Angra dos Reis,” he said, while a police officer with a rifle in hand aimed at a populated area of the favela.

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Governor of Rio de Janeiro Wilson Witzel in helicopter above community of Angra dos Rios

It turns out that TV Globo obtained another excerpt from the video in which the police officer fired multiple shots against an area of the forest and struck a blue tent. Residents said it was an evangelical tent frequented by believers, while police said it had been set up by drug traffickers. Anyway, the episode is quite revealing. First, it confirms reports from residents, never publicly confirmed by the police, that in such operations officers shoot to the ground in densely populated areas indiscriminately.

As happened a few days later, last Monday, at Complexo da Maré, one of the most emblematic favela sets in Rio, in the middle of school hours. Images showed children running through the streets, escaping the shots fired at random from a helicopter, while others waited in the classrooms and corridors of the school for the end of the shots. It’s the old routine in the communities. Eight boys who were suspected of having a connection to drug trafficking died in a ground action of the agents.

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Special Resources (CORE) unit of the Civil Police take aim at community

Secondly, the scene from Apocalyse Now promoted by Witzel confirms that the governor is more than aware of what happens when police officers enter slums occupied by traffickers with helicopters and skulls. It is important to emphasize that the governor is the maximum responsible for the state police.

It was during another action in Maré with an armored helicopter that the boy Marcos Vinícius da Silva, 14, without any participation in trafficking, was executed on the way to the school during a police action. It is true that the death of Marcos Vinícius happened when Rio was under federal intervention and had nothing to do with Witzel. It is also true that the regime of terror to which slum dwellers are subjected daily is not a novelty of the Bolsonaro era. It’s enough to remember that in 2007, after an operation in the Complexo do Alemão that resulted in the death of 19 people, the biggest slaughter of the decade of Rio, the then President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (PT) irresponsibly supported the action saying that you don’t combat crime throwing “rose petals or rice powder”.

  1. I am currently flying over one of the most dangerous areas of Angra dos Reis, where we started an operation of the CORE team. Beside me are Mayor Fernando Jordão and the state secretary of the Civil Police, Marcus Vinícius. pic.twitter.com/vSXqzswMdg

– Wilson Witzel (@wilsonwitzel) May 4, 2019

But if police brutality has always been, at the very least, tolerated within public security policies, we have reached a situation in which it is now publicly encouraged. A dangerous line was crossed, thanks in part to this negligence of the authorities against police abuse. And if before the residents and social movements of the favelas were able to embarrass authorities and make compromises, today this space seems to be getting smaller and smaller.

None of this comes as a surprise if we consider that Witzel won the 2018 election by promising to “aim at the head” of armed criminals and shoot them down. A speech that was not restricted to the campaign and repeats itself as if it were a mantra, with concrete results. There were 434 deaths caused by agents of the State in the first three months of the Government, according to the Instituto de Segurança Pública do Rio (Rio Public Safety Institute), linked to the State Government. An absolute record for the first quarter since the counting of this index began in 1998. There are almost five deaths a day caused by police officers.

After at least 15 suspected people were executed in the hills of Corona, Fallet-Fogueteiro and dos Prazeres in February, subjected to long minutes of torture inside houses, according to the indications, Witzel appeared next to the secretary of the Military Police to support “a legitimate police action to combat narco-terrorists.” Days later, at a ceremony, he said that “any PM action, before any discussion, is legitimate.” Last Monday, when helicopters and armored personnel entered the Complexo da Maré, eight other young men were killed. According to witness reports for the Public Defender’s Office, they were executed after surrendering, as had happened in February. Residents also reported that the youth no longer offered risks, with two of them raising their hands and saying “I lost”. They had the following response from the police: “My order is to kill.” Apparently, the Witzel doctrine also extends to those who, even if they are unarmed and without risk to police officers, should answer in court for their crimes.

There is a direct relationship between the two cases. Both police officers acted with the certainty of impunity and that they would receive approval from the chief. Many will argue that, after all, they were criminals. It should be remembered that the laws, the Constitution, and the international treaties signed by Brazil are not mere details: they prohibit any kind of death penalty, summary execution or torture, the last two crimes against humanity. Policemen are the armed wing of the state and possess firepower, but must obey strict protocols to use it. All this should be obvious, as well as the fact that the violence on the part of the State does not end with the violence of criminals against the citizens. On the contrary, it only brings more suffering and increases insecurity.

It should also be pointed out that the repression of organized crime in the favelas does not take into account the inhabitants living in it at any time. Most of them are black and poor, undergoing a regime of daily terror, with bullets flying in the sky, schools and closed businesses, and a police truculence that destroys homes and ends the lives of innocent children as well. Witzel only reinforces this cruel dynamism, while the largest weapons seizures continue to be made in distant places, at airports and luxury homes, as a result of good police investigations and without the need for exchange of shots. Just how it should be.

And where are the state prosecutors and the judiciary to control the actions of the police and oppose the governor’s discourse? In a recent past, the Public Defender’s Office and the Prosecutor’s Office even filed an action to prevent the use of aircraft, but the Courts preferred to cynically reject the demand. It was now up to the Attorney General’s Office to open a preliminary investigation, preliminary to the opening of an investigation, on the policy of slaughter promoted by the governor, after four representations made since April by the National Council of Human Rights, federal deputy Marcelo Freixo (PSOL) and State Representative Renata Souza (PSOL).

Souza, who is the president of the Human Rights Commission of the Assembly of Rio de Janeiro (ALERJ), also denounced Witzel to the UN and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) this week. The document highlights that the current public security policy “is increasingly militarized with the use of drones, helicopters and armored cars, as well as the sniper technique”, which has considerably increased the time of operations, according to the document: if before they lasted on average 5 hours, they now last up to 14 hours and can reach more than 24 hours of shooting. In response, Witzel called for the annulment of Souza’s term, something his party, the PSC, has already requested in the Assembly.

This week, a photo that ran in social networks gave the dimension of the civilizational retrogression that is lived. In the image appears a plaque where you can read “School. Don’t shoot.” In the complaint to the UN and the OAS, there is no possibility that the governor will be personally prosecuted by these agencies. For example, the Brazilian State could receive warnings and even be condemned to apply changes that guarantee an end to police abuses and impunity, among other measures. It is, at the very least, a call for the world to know the escalation of terror promoted by the new leaders in power.

Source: El País Brasil

About Marques Travae 3225 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. Brazil is in the midst of a much needed Civil Rights Movement but this is going to take an effort of all Americas Descendants of Slaves and that push needs to be amplified here to African-Americans that your black Brazilian sisters and brothers are being persecuted, oppressed, and executed with extreme prejudice.

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