Across the world, people have responded with outrage, sadness and grief to the assassination of Brazilian pro-poor activist Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Pedro Gomes in Rio de Janeiro on March 14.
Franco was a Rio city councillor from the Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) and an activist who opposed the militarisation of poor neighbourhoods.
Franco was a Black lesbian from Mare favela (a poor neighbourhood). She was an ardent defender of the rights of women, Blacks, LGBTQI people, the working class and the poor. Her identity and political actions threatened the project of the Brazilian government and oligarchy.
News of Marielle’s assassination reverberated across the world, with protests held in many cities. Demonstrators demanded justice for her and Gomes, and called for an end to the militarisation of the city of Rio.
Reports released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have characterised the Brazilian military and police forces as the world’s most violent.
In February, during the annual Carnival, there was a drastic rise in crime in the city and three Military Police (PM) agents were killed. In response to the growing crime problem, Michel Temer, the acting president since the 2016 coup, authorised a military intervention in the city. This mostly targeted poor neighbourhoods.
The PM has been involved in many cases of human rights violations and the execution of young people, mostly Black and from the favelas.
The deployment of military forces — which are trained to combat “foreign enemies” rather than to “protect the public” — has unleashed violent repression in these areas.
Franco was one of the first to speak out against Temer’s measure, saying that it would bring “a false sense of security to the upper class”, who think that “things will get better with the soldiers”.
She said there will be more young Black men assassinated and pointed out that abuses by the armed forces would be judged by military justice, whose tribunals are made up of other military members.
Her death is the expression of the extreme racist, sexist, homophobic and violent ideology that has gained currency, not just in Brazil, but across the world.
[Abridged from The Dawn News.]