Ironically, the thousandth day since the assassination of Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes has fallen on December 8, celebrated as Justice Day in the Brazilian calendar. This brutal crime, striking down one of Brazil’s most remarkable councillors ever, has so far gone without a remotely satisfactory resolution. On every landmark date since these two deaths, a few scattered clues are presented, but what we want to know, plain and simple, is: Who was behind the killing of Marielle and why was she killed?
Today, we reach the end of a thousand-day cycle of resounding silence. With no Marielle or Anderson, and an excruciating immersion in injustice. We cannot allow another day to dawn without getting the answers to this crime.
One month ago, municipal elections were held across the country. This year, there were 1,758 candidates running for the 51 seats available on the Rio de Janeiro municipal council. One of which used to be occupied by the shining beacon who was Marielle, until her trajectory was cruelly cut short. In the 2016 election, she was one of the councillors who received the most votes in Rio – around 46,000 – but she was prevented from completing her term in office.
Marielle Franco is a beacon, not just for her life trajectory but also for the social, physical, and digital mobilization triggered by her assassination.
Fewer than one third of all the candidates in 2020 were women, and if we look at the proportion of black women, it was even lower. Fewer than 30% of the candidates put forward a manifesto that related to even one human rights issue, like health, education, employment, housing, transport, basic sanitation, fighting inequality, children and youth, culture, women’s rights, black rights, older people, LGBTQIA+, or the environment.
We reiterate: Marielle Franco is a beacon, not just for her life trajectory but also for the social, physical, and digital mobilization triggered by her assassination. A daughter, mother, activist, black LGBT woman who was raised in the Maré favelas complex (Complexo de Favelas da Maré), her whole life’s work was devoted to fighting on behalf of more marginalized population groups, people who survive in spite of the spaces denied them and the violence they experience. It is no surprise that in her work as a city councillor she galvanised the struggle for human rights, racial justice and gender equality, which is so necessary and should be at the top of the political agenda of the newly elected local representatives, shortly to take office.
We miss Marielle. She herself knew all too well the pain that is the loss of a loved one. She was 15 when she first engaged in human rights activism after a friend was killed in a shoot-out in Maré. She spent ten more years in activism and then coordinated the Human Rights Commission of the Rio de Janeiro state legislature.
Every two hours, a woman is killed in this country, and 68% of these are black women.
Every day, countless cases of human rights violations against the population, including against state law enforcement officers, would come to her attention. She always addressed them with humanity and an all-encompassing gaze.
Nobody can doubt that were she here, Marielle would have engaged fully with the 2020 electoral process. Clearly, we say this without knowing quite what directions her brilliant political career would have taken had it not been so brutally curtailed. The silencing of her mandate is the epitome of the kind of persecution faced by those who call for a truly just society. Not to mention the complete absence of answers or accountability.
It is just a few days until 2021 and a new political administration. We need our new representatives and all public authorities to commit to Marielle’s human rights legacy and help unearth the reasons behind her killing.
This year of 2020 has laid bare just how urgently we need social, economic, cultural, and environmental rights in order to tackle Covid-19 and its impacts. Most of the Brazilian population is black, and it is these people whose rights are infringed most. Brazil is the country where most transvestites and trans people are killed, and it is also a record breaker in violence against the LGBTQIA+ population. Every two hours, a woman is killed in this country, and 68% of these are black women, according to the Atlas of Violence (Atlas da Violência, 2020). From 2018 to 2019, there was a 150% increase in the number of reports of violence against indigenous and maroon populations (source: Conselho Indigenista Missionário, 2020).
Political representatives with grassroots anti-racist, feminist and LGBTQIA+ agendas and who defend human rights may be able to point a new way forward towards building a fairer, more decent world for everybody.
Amnesty International and Instituto Marielle Franco are sounding a rallying cry to the whole population. Violence against human rights defenders must stop. In these 1,000 days without her life, we want Marielle’s legacy to be a seed that rouses many voices to speak out against impunity.