Throughout the previous weeks, fear has taken hold of the Brazilian population, but particularly in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, where a security policy has been adopted that is very much in line with the current federal government’s guidelines.
It is based on the idea of eliminating those considered “dangerous”, causing a spike in the number of homicides at the hands of state security agents. What’s more, the new security package proposed by the Ministry of Justice has ensured that murders carried out by state security agents remain unpunished.
However, massacres are clearly not taking place on the sandy beaches of Leblon. The war against organised crime has been used as a justification to attack the black civilian population that inhabit the favelas and the peripheries.
If we examine official data regarding lethalities, the main targets are black youths. To put the situation into some more perspective, in only the first three months of this year the number of people murdered by the police in the state of Rio de Janeiro was 434, according to the Institute for Public Security of Rio.
Of all 6000 homicides committed last year, 1542 were committed by the police. This means that 25% of those murdered last year were killed by security forces
Of all 6000 homicides committed last year, 1542 were committed by the police. This means that 25% of those murdered last year were killed by security forces.
As though this wasn’t frightening enough, the governor of Rio de Janeiro recently published a video on social media on the 4th of May alongside the governor of Angra dos Reis, where they both took part in a police operation in helicopter.
In the video clips transmitted by the press, taken from the helicopter and also by inhabitants of the city, the gun shots fired towards civilians could be heard.
Two days later, the security forces of Rio de Janeiro shot from a helicopter against civilians again leaving 8 dead and hundreds terrified to leave their homes.
Marcos Vinícius, a child of only 14 years old and the son of Bruna, was brutally shot in one of these operations and to this day, his mother keeps the school uniform he was wearing the day he was murdered
In a similar vein last year, Marcos Vinícius, a child of only 14 years old and the son of Bruna, was brutally shot in one of these operations. Up until this day, his mother keeps the school uniform he was wearing the day he was murdered by the police.
The security package, which proposes amplifying what is considered as acting in self-defence, allows for judges to stop applying the law in cases where the police acted with excess, but out of ‘justified fear, surprise, or violent emotion’, becoming a license to kill based on the radical and violent discourse of the government.
It is this discourse that has been directed against those who live in a vulnerable situation or those who are perceived as different to those included in the government’s current national strategy. We musn’t forget the famous declaration of the president that the only error of the dictatorship was “to torture rather than to kill”.
The homicide rates are terrifying and point to a potential extermination policy of the black civilian population, or at the very least, a policy that values the life of certain groups over others.
The international community and local civil society groups must continue raising their voices to protect and promote human rights of those who find themselves on the wrong side of these backslides.
It’s important to point out that the Inter-American Court determined that structural racism permeates through the Brazilian police force and the State, who must take steps to reduce police violence and fatalities, especially in the state of Rio de Janeiro, according to the case Favela Nova Brasilia, litigated by CEJIL and ISER.
However, at this moment, Brazil appears to be taking significant steps backwards. Security operations carried out by Brazilian police are not only against domestic law, given the death penalty is currently illegal in Brazil, but they also violate human rights and international humanitarian law.
We must understand ‘Black Lives Matter’ as a battle cry, from Brazil, across the Americas and beyond, and must not forget about the many lives unnecessarily lost due to the brutal actions of the Brazilian police.