By Jakob Stein
The military police have released a violent onslaught against the masses over the past several years that has only continued to escalate in 2019. Over the course of Jair Bolsonaro’s first six months as president of Brazil, he has received the lowest approval ratings of any president in their first year, been met with massive demonstrations across the country, and presided over the most police killings in Rio de Janeiro ever recorded.
The following is only a brief account of the crimes against the people perpetrated by the government of Bolsonaro and the High Command of the Armed Forces over the past two months, it should be noted that this violence is primarily directed toward the poorest masses in the favelas (slums) and especially Black youth.
On May 26, 55 inmates were hanged in prisons across the state of Amazonas, as reported by revolutionary and political prisoner Igor Mendes. Prisons in Amazonas are run by a private company named Umanizzare, which has received over R $836 million (Brazilian Reals) over the past four years from the government. Brazilian prisons are overpopulated, and there is a huge problem of mass incarceration in the country, which seems to grow worse ever year. The massacre was carried out supposedly to send a message to gang members in prisons in order to keep them in line. However, it can also be interpreted as a desperate act on behalf of the government to retain control of a prison population that grows more overcrowded and rebellious with each passing day.
On May 19, 11 people were massacred in the Guamá neighborhood of Belém, capital of the state of Pará. The murderous act was supposedly carried out by seven hooded men; several days later four police officers were arrested in connection with the brutal murders. The current suspicion is that the gang was formed to arbitrarily murder residents of the neighborhood, the most populous in Belém, in retaliation for two police that had been killed.
On May 6, residents of the Maré Complex, also in the Northern Zone of Rio, woke up to shots fired from armored vehicles and police helicopters, which went on for hours into the late afternoon. At least eight people were killed over the course of the police operation. A teacher from a nearby school described the fear felt by the young children:
“At about nine o’clock we began to hear the shots and the sound grew closer and closer. Then we heard the noise of the helicopter, which is scary. It was very fast and the children who were outside were unable to enter. They were sixth grade students. They ran desperately to seek shelter from the outside. The younger children were taken into the hallway and wept a lot. Even with fear, we do what we can to keep the kids calm, but it’s very difficult. We had lunch in the hall because that panic stretched out until lunchtime. When a truce was established, an official arrived and said that the school would be evacuated. So we got out of there with a lot of fear, because the shots were coming and going very fast …”
Reports also note that the target of the operation, a drug trafficker named Thomaz Jhayson Vieira Gomes, was not found. Maré Complex, one of Rio’s largest favelas, is no stranger to indiscriminate police violence; in June 2018 seven people were killed during a similar raid, including a 14-year-old boy on his way to school.
On April 7, the Army opened fire on a family’s car in Guadeloupe, West Rio de Janeiro, discharging over 240 shots and hitting the car at least 80 times. The driver of the car, Evaldo dos Santos Rosa, was killed instantly; his father-in-law, Sérgio Gonçalves de Araújo, was also struck by a bullet and was hospitalized. Luciano Macedo, a passerby who attempted to render aid to the victims was also shot and died several days later in a hospital.
Rosa was driving to a baby shower with his wife, child, father-in-law, and a friend when soldiers began shooting. Their initial claim was that people in the car shot first at the soldiers. When no weapons were recovered from the vehicle the military changed their story to say that the soldiers mistook the Rosa’s car for a similar one that was alleged to be transporting criminals.
Eleven soldiers were arrested in connection with the cold-blooded murder, but on May 23 the Supreme Military Court released nine of the accused. The investigation and criminal proceedings are controlled by military courts due to a law passed in 2017 by then-President Michel Temer, which places the military murder of citizens outside of the jurisdiction o civilian courts and is handled entirely by the military.
On April 30, Military Police initiated a raid in the Complexo do Alemão community in the Northern Zone of Rio, causing a 17-year-old girl to go into labor prematurely when her residence was hit with a grenade. The police refused to render aid or call help, even when her mother pleaded for assistance. They cursed at her and the family was prevented from reaching an emergency room for three hours. One resident of the neighborhood said, “We cannot go out and enter our favela, because the state kills us anyway.”
In another police raid on the Complexo do Alemão on May 14, police murdered a local teacher named Jean Rodrigo Aldrovande. He was just arriving to school when police came firing, they shot him in the head and he died instantly.
Igor Mendes, named as the “son of the Brazilian people and fighter of the international proletariat” by his supporters, wrote that the cold-blooded attacks on the people and the vicious prison dungeons will not fall on their own. He summed up the reactionary state’s war on the people perfectly in his article on the prison massacres:
“… Now, the greatest and truest crimes against the people and the nation are organized and implemented from the highest summits of this old reactionary state. Most of them, with the approval of legality … This ‘prison democracy’ – or incarcerated, as they please – is of no use to us. We demand democracy as well, but a new democracy, because of its class content and the revolutionary institutions that it will have to found, on the rubble of our old and irreformable bastilles.”