Editor’s Note: This letter addresses the death of Rio de Janeiro City Councilwoman Marielle Franco. A rising bi-sexual, Black politician from one of Rio’s favela communities before her death, Franco became a symbol for the political potential of Rio’s marginalized communities. Her sudden death coincided with an unusual federal military intervention in Rio de Janeiro, and her role on an oversight committee related to that intervention, and evidence that weapons from the federal police were used in her killing raised further suspicions about the motivations surrounding her death. Her political and intellectual trajectory, including her participation in a community college prep course run by Center for Studies and Solidarity Actions,speaks to the difficulties and opportunities that come with seeking to combat marginalized communities’ stigmatization, violence, economic precariousness, and social indifference. Frei David, the director of EDUCAFRO, was a key figure in negotiating the first PUC-Rio scholarships specifically for pre-vestibular students. The full letter is translated below and can be accessed em português here.
São Paulo, March 28, 2018
From: The EDUCAFRO Family
To: Raquel Doge, General Prosecutor of the Republic (PGR),
Fourteen days after the killing of our sister Marielle Franco, scholarship recipient in the PUC-RIO walking through doors opened by EDUCAFRO, Brazilian warrior that also received her Masters from the Federal Fluminense University, social leader, and an exemplary City Councilman, we are going to drastically lower our expectations for getting to the bottom of yet another crime against Black bodies.
The Rio City Police have consistently failed in the process of collecting evidence for solving crimes when they involve Black bodies. It is a national, not just local problem. For each 100 persons assassinated in Brazil, only 6.7 percent are even investigated by the state Public Ministries according to FENAPEF. No one carries out quality forensics to find the criminals and discover the motivation of the crimes, because they involve, in large part, the poor and Black bodies. Whose interest is it to invizilibize the extermination of Black youth?
The day following her martyrdom, around 8:45 AM, we sent a message to the Madame Prosecutor:
Dr. Raquel Doge, by way of the Vice Prosecutor Dr. Luciano, requesting the immediate federalization of the criminal investigation (before it is to late). This request is made considering that this very own Federal Ministry of Justice warned the nation that almost the entire Rio City Police was infected with organized crime. We were very happy when the Prosecutor, around 1PM made the decision to federalize the investigation. We were once again apprehensive when, around 6PM, after her meeting with the intervening military force [in Rio], she backtracked on that judgement.
The intervention in Rio and those planned for Ceará and the rest of the sates could be so much more efficient and with far less expense. It’s enough to first intervene in the barracks, keeping and rewarding the police that do not let themselves become corrupt and getting rid of those that align with crime. Community problems are merely consequences of the lack of control within the barracks. The Police and Public Security External Review Committee of the CNMP is structured to not work. It needs to be given teeth.
Even though we asked for it, ObservaRio-a mechanism created by the current Ministry of Justice- did not permit the participation of Black Movement entities in issues related to the extermination of Black youth.
Fourteen days have passed…Marielle Franco cannot be one more of “today’s death squad killings”, falling under “unsolved crimes” carried out by “invisible” power whose victims are in large part Black and poor. We do not yet see any effort on the part of those responsible for solving this crime. Where is the intelligence work of the Rio State Public Ministry now?
Given what has been stated above, we once again tell the National Prosecutor General to:
- Federalize all of the investigative work related to the solving of this crime.
- There is a severe problem in all 27 states of the nation, not just in Rio de Janeiro.
- Request of the National Council of the Public Ministry, CNMP- that it expand its taskforce working with the Police and Public Security External Review Committee, that operates under its auspices. In all of the meetings that our team has had with representatives of this commission, the response has always been the same: Lack of human resources and tools for external oversight along with the insubordination of the state police regarding the rules promulgated by the CNMP.
- The 2017 Violence Atlas, launched by the Applies Economics Research Institute (IPEA) tells us that white deaths have decreased by 12.2 percent and has risen 18.2 percent among Black youth at the national level. The PGR and the CNMP must demand an official report, written by the police in each state, suggesting the causes that generate impunity for crimes committed against the Black population throughout the nation.
It is our expectation that, with federalization, this crime will be solved and that the culture of public security agencies throughout the country will change.
Friar David Santos, OFM