BRAZIL: Rio Police Set Record for Killings in 2019

Photo: Military Police walk through a favela on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro

By Felipe Vera

According to a report from the Institute of Public Security, in the first 10 months of 2019 the police in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil have been responsible for the death of at least 1,546 people, surpassing 2018’s count of 1,534, and making it the highest since the state started recording this data in 1998. That’s a rate of five murders per day.

Governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro Wilson Witzel has continued to push a policy of terror against the poor masses in the favelas (large slums) at an alarming rate. Revolutionary organizations like the Popular Revolutionary Student Movement (MEPR) have denounced him regularly, taking up the slogan “Witzel, Murderer and Terrorist,” in the form of graffiti actions throughout the city and slums.

Witzel_assassino
“Witzel, Murderer and Terrorist! -MEPR (Popular Revolutionary Student Movement)”

Although the death count exceeds previous years, the reactionary old state remains the same one that had terrorized the people over the past 60 years. Following the era of the military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985, the Brazilian state still retains many of the same murderous, anti-people policies in this current era of so-called “democracy.”

For instance, in 1969 the “act of resistance” classification prevented the arrest of officers, allowing them to wipe their hands clean after murdering and torturing political prisoners. Today there are near-daily reports of the military police and other law enforcement agents of the old state engaging in summary executions and facing no consequences as long as officers claim that they acted in self-defense.

Today, Governor Witzel and the administration of fascist Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continue a policy of indiscriminate terror and violence against the poorest sections of the masses. When questioned about the lethal force utilized by the military police Witzel responded that they were “just beginning,” and has described the increasing rate of police killings as “normal.”

Several high profile cases of police murdering innocent civilians have sparked popular rebellions in the favelas. On April 7, the Brazilian army fired at least 80 rounds into a car suspected of belonging to criminals, murdering the musician Evaldo dos Santos Rosa who was driving his family, including small children. Luciano Macedo was also shot by soldiers while attempting to render aid to other victims. Mass protests in Rio used the slogans “80 Shots” and “Killer Army” in graffiti, defacing a reactionary monument to the genocidal Duke of Caxias.

80tiros
“80 Shots, Killer Army!”

There is also the case of 8-year-old Agatha Felix who was murdered by the Pacifying Police Unit on August 20 after police opened fire on her grandmother’s van while they drove home through the Complexo do Alemão favela. In response, the poor masses in the favela staged a combative march for her funeral procession, with blockades to keep police out of the slum and another large protest in the center of the city.

In another case on October 10, military police the shot and killed 17-year-old Kelvin Gomes and injured four others while they were waiting inside a barber shop in the Para-Pedro favela in north Rio. In response, the masses created a burning barricade of tires and lit a bus on fire, blocking police from passing through the road. On the day of Kelvin’s funeral, the military police assaulted and shot live rounds at those attending.

Para-Pedro
Residents of Para-Pedro favela erect burning barricades after the murder of Kelvin Gomes

As the crisis of bureaucratic capitalism continues to deepen throughout Brazil, especially in the slums of megacities like Rio de Janeiro, the reactionary old state has no answer to problems other than more violence and repression.