National and international entities demand investigation of children’s deaths during police actions in Rio de Janeiro
Five! This is the number of children killed during police actions in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas this year alone. Data from the Fogo Cruzado app reveal that eleven more were injured by gunshots.
Ágatha Félix, Kauê Ribeiro, Kauan Rosário, Kauan Peixoto and Jenifer Cilene Gomes were added to the statistics of people killed in Miltary Police (MP) operations. According to the Rio de Janeiro Institute of Public Security (ISP), between January and August 2019 there were 1,249 cases of people killed by state police. An average of five deaths per day. Recently, the Brazilian Public Safety Yearbook reported that the majority of those killed in these actions are black. Governor Wilson Witzel’s police set a record in the number the deaths of innocent people in slum operations.
After being questioned about the case of the girl Ágatha Félix, who was shot in the back during a police intervention in the Fazendinha community, the Rio governor said the case will be investigated. “And as the situation spilled over to make a platform on top of the fact, I preferred to bring our government together so that we could give a state explanation. Major Fabiana, Secretary of Victimization of the State, has been working quietly, along with Secretary Cristiana, to provide care to these victims,” he said.
I would be curious to know if in this “care”, compensation will be included. How many times have we seen police forces simply removed from street duty and then given administrative duties while the family of victims wait years for restitution? As should be expected, due to the use of police forces against civilians, including, in this and other cases, children, the governor was denounced to the United Nations (UN). The complaint came from the NGO Global Justice together with eight entities that work in communities of Rio de Janeiro.
The deaths of these children have drawn the attention of national and international institutions. Organs such as the Brazilian Bar Association, Unicef Brazil and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have urged the government to prioritize investigations into these murders. Amnesty International issued a note stressing that the function of public safety is to protect children and adolescents.
“The governor’s responsibility is to prevent and combat violence intelligently, considering that all lives matter. And not leaving a trail of victims that should have been protected by the state, such as Ágatha and more than a thousand people killed this year alone by a public security officer in Rio de Janeiro,” the statement concluded.
“Stop killing us”, residents in Rio act against the killing of 8-year-old Ágatha
Popular movements, civilians, leaders and residents of favelas (slums), high school and university students and teachers participated in a big protest in front of the Rio de Janeiro Legislative Assembly (Alerj), on Monday (23), against Ágatha’s death.
“We demand justice for Ágatha, let’s not let her become another statistic,” said Daniele Félix, the girl’s aunt, accompanied by a choir of people present at the act. Ágatha’s aunt was accompanied by other family members and said that the girl’s parents, who did not go to the act, “are destroyed.”
“We are victims of violence in the state of Rio de Janeiro. We repudiate the governor’s insecurity and terrorism against the communities. It is forcing us to live with this kind of policy. But we demand the right to live, we don’t want our children killed,” protested Luciano dos Santos of the Network of Communities and Movement against Violence.
Analyzing the figures being released by the state government, the president of the State Council for the Defense of Children and Adolescent, Márcia Gatto, said that Governor Wilson Witzel (PSC) is masking the reality. In recent weeks, the Palácio Guanabara (Guanabara Palace, Rio governor’s mansion) has been propagating the 20% reduction in deaths in the state of Rio, which according to Witzel is in “civilizing levels”.
One must stop and ponder what Witzel’s parameters are for “civilizing levels” of murders. Consider this very revealing figure. As reported above, Rio’s police forces alone killed 1,249 civilians just in the period between January and August of this year. In the United States, in the entire year of 2018, all police forces in the entire country killed 1,164 people. So, when I say these killings aren’t merely accidents, or the result of badly trained security agents, do you see the point? For me, such off the chart incidents of civilian casualties signals to me that the government of Rio, as similar to forces in the rest of country, is practicing a form of ethnic cleansing. Or do you think it’s a coincidence that the victims are usually black or at least non-white? Witzel, with his genocidal agenda very well knows this, which is why he can be seen posing with military weapons, speaking of police “aiming at the head” to kill , ignoring the cries of the people and then issuing misleading statements to disguise the agenda.
“It’s good to demystify the propaganda that homicides have fallen. In fact, these reported homicides are malicious, the death rates from police intervention, which are the highest in the last 21 years, are not being disclosed. There are more than 1,200 deaths here in Rio de Janeiro. Among these dead are children and adolescents,” criticized Márcia Gatto.
Ágatha’s death mobilized social networks and protests also over the weekend. In the streets, hundreds of people followed the girl’s funeral on Sunday (22) as they shouted “killer Witzel”, “killer police” and “we want peace”. In networks, the #ACulpaEDoWitzel (It’s Witzel’s fault) came in first in the most commented on topics on Twitter.
The governor, however, only spoke three days after Ágatha’s death. In a press conference after meeting with President Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), Witzel lamented the incident but defended his government’s security policy, saying “it is on the right track.” On the right track? For what? 1,900 victims of police actions? Because at the rate of civilian casualties up to this point, by year’s end the number of victims would reach just short 1,900 people.
Witzel’s public safety policy is characterized by clashes, which has resulted in increased civilian deaths. The month of July this year recorded the largest number of people who died in police interventions in the state of Rio since 1998, when the statistics began to be counted. There were 194 in total, according to data released by the Institute of Public Security (ISP). This number represents more than six people killed by police officers a day.
The numbers and the death of Ágatha led Witzel and the Brazilian state to be denounced by Rio’s favela movements at the United Nations (UN) last Saturday (21). The movements want the Brazilian and Rio government to be charged for the death of the child, in what would be another episode of “black youth genocide in the communities”. In addition, the organizations claim that the assassination of Ágatha is “a direct consequence of Witzel’s policy of ‘slaughter’ ‘underpinned by the Bolsonaro administration. President Jair Bolsonaro has not yet publicly commented on Ágatha’s death. And to tell you the truth, I’d rather not even hear what he has to say. The fact is that we already know where Bolsonaro stands on these types of issues.
Besides the fact that Bolsonaro has given the red light for the murder of more favela civilians, the president who believes Brazil’s 21-year dictatorship errored by not killing more people, we also know that he advocates a civil war in the country. In a video from 1999 that recently re-surfaced and made the rounds in social networks, the then deputado federal (Congressman) stated that voting wouldn’t change anything in Brazil”. He further expounded on his opinion, stating, “It will only change, unfortunately, when we start a civil war, doing a job that the military regime did not do. By killing about 30,000, starting with FHC (former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso), we won’t leave him out, no,” he said.
For the then congressman who build a reputation for making outrageous statements, mass murder is what would solve the country’s problem. Justifying his position, he continued, “Some innocent people are going to die. All right. In every war, innocent people die. I’m even happy if I die, but as long as some 30,000 with me.”
This is the man who is now Brazil’s president. Does this sound like a man who would want to put a halt to the violent actions of the police? Hardly. In his own words, he advocates the elimination of innocent people.
Ágatha’s death reflects Witzel’s extermination policy, says researcher
According to experts, Ágatha’s death at the hands of Rio’s police is not an isolated case. Researcher Daniela Fichino of the Human Rights Organization Global Justice assesses that the scenario of violence has intensified in the state.
For her, Ágatha’s death, as well as that of other victims of armed clashes, especially in poor communities, are the result of a policy of extermination of black youth implemented by the government of Wilson Witzel (PSC).
“This is a characteristic that we see being exacerbated in these months of the Witzel administration, which shows that the governor is committed to implementing his campaign proposals, ‘aiming at the head,” said the researcher in an interview with Rádio Brasil de Fato, this Monday (23).
“It is the deepening of a genocidal policy. And in that sense, it is the state policy and the extermination of black youth,” she said, clearly in reference to the fact that non-whites are the overwhelming victims of violent deaths in Brazil.
Another point highlighted by the researcher is the demilitarization of the police. She says it is a structural problem that is “in the genesis” of the corporation and affects not only the population but also the security agents themselves. She cites the increase in suicide cases among these professionals.
The 13th edition of the Brazilian Public Security Yearbook released this September indicated that 104 police officers took their lives in 2018 – more than police officers killed during working hours. Cases of confrontation with crime amount to 87.
“It’s a police force that was trained for extermination. Starting to change is a historical journey that will take a long time. But the debate on the demilitarization of the police is central for us to think about the lives of these agents,” she points out.
Fichino classifies the stance of the governing authorities regarding the demonstrations as “shameful and at the same time eloquent”.
“For them, who are figures so present on social networks, especially on Twitter, saying only protocolarily that they mourn the girl’s death is further evidence that this government’s action is not for life’s sake. It is a government of death that is turning its area of public security to extermination,” she adds.
Six military police officers from the Fazendinha Pacifying Police Unit (UPP), who were at the location where Ágatha Felix was shot on Friday, testified at the Capital Homicide Police Station (DHC) on Monday. The Civil Police also conducted forensics in the van where the girl was at the time she was hit.
In the city of Sao Paulo, entities of the black movement are planning an act in protest against the murder of Ágatha on Friday, September 27.
The demonstration is scheduled to take place from 6 pm on Paulista Avenue, in front of the free space of the São Paulo Art Museum (MASP). The date was chosen as the seventh day of the child’s murder.
With information from Brasil de Fato and Notícia Preta