Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco was the fifth most-voted candidate in Rio’s city council election in 2016. A sociologist, feminist, human rights activist, single mother, lesbian, and black woman from the favelas, the Brazilian politician spoke openly about minorities and their rights and reality. Therefore, it came as no surprise when she was appointed to play a key role on the council commission tasked with conducting supervision of the military intervention taking place in Rio, in order to prevent power abuse. It all started a month ago, when President Michel Temer used a constitutional provision to give the military power and make it their primary responsibility to restore order and stabilize security in the state of Rio de Janeiro. It was the first time a measure like that had been taken in the country since the return of democracy in the mid-1980s.

Not shying away from publicly expressing her disagreement, Franco said that it put the citizens in danger and increased bloodshed without addressing the root causes of violence. Having been, since way before the military intervention in Rio, a vocal critic of the truculent and militarised policing of the favelas, where residents live controlled by drug gangs and terrorised by the state, the councilwoman suggested that the death of a young man earlier this week had been the latest act of police brutality. “How many more must die for this war to end?” she wrote on Twitter.

In the field dominated by privileged white men, Franco was a voice of courage and hope for a country that is living through a dark period of corrupted and conservatory rooted politics. Having disturbed and wounded important people by leading campaigns against pervasive police violence, corruption and extra-judicial murders, Marielle was brutally killed along with her driver this Wednesday afternoon, after they left a black women meeting in downtown Rio de Janeiro. Four bullets entered her skull and three his back. It is believed that the assassinators had been following Marielle’s movements through her social media posts, and that the bullet casing found at the crime scene belonged to a batch stolen from the Brazilian federal police in 2007 by a former officer, and provided to “death squads” formed by police members throughout the country.

Her death has raised a wave of national and international criticism of the military intervention in Rio. The United Nations human rights officials expressed “profound concern” about Brazil’s democracy and called for an investigation into the crime “to be carried out as soon as possible.” “Governments must limit to the greatest extent possible the use of the armed forces to address internal disturbances, since the training that they get is geared toward defeating an enemy militarily rather than protecting and controlling civilians,” the statement said. On Thursday, thousands of Brazilians throughout the country gathered to mourn the loss of such a virtuous symbol of hope, and took to the streets in honour of Marielle Franco, protesting against her death and demanding a thorough investigation. Another thing the protesters had on their agenda was to show the government that Franco’s voice will not be silenced by her murder, and that her fight and work will resonate in every Brazilian’s voice until this violence and brutality are put to an end.

A victim of the brutal system in the country where misogyny and racism are still killing thousands, the Councilwoman was robbed of her life in a barbarous attempt to silence the voice that spoke for millions of poor, black, LGBT, and female citizens, who live in fear and do not have their rights respected and protected in their country. Franco was a ray of light in the darkness that the situation in Rio appears to be, and her violent murder can’t be forgotten. Her fight should not be ended along with her life! All the violence taking place in the country right now, can’t go unnoticed by the Brazilian people or the international public. To all Marielles out there — we are awake and your voices will not be silenced by truculent acts! Marielle, present!*

 

*A reference to the slogan “Marielle, presente!” exclaimed in Portuguese by the protesters this past Thursday as they marched the streets of the state capitals in honour of Marielle Franco, a warning that even though she has been taken away from them, her struggle remains very much alive.

Leave a comment