No arrests made one month after Rio councillor’s murder

A month after Brazil’s black councillor Marielle Franco (pictured) and her driver Anderson Gomes were killed by gunmen after a town meeting on racism, Rio police are still clueless about the killers.

Marielle’s supporters held quiet memorials in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday and hailed the extraordinary politician who fought for the rights of blacks, women, homosexuals and the poor and denounced organised crime and police brutality during her short tenure. Participants at the memorials wanted to know who ordered Marielle’s assassination-style killing.

Public Security Minister Raul Jungmann said the bullets used for the killing were stolen from police “years ago” in an area over 2,000 kilometres away.

The federal authorities believe the murder was planned. Security footage show two vehicles following Marielle’s car. The shooters knew where she was seated when they fired the shots after pulling up beside her car. Four of the nine shots hit Marielle’s head in a gangland-style slaying.

As a member of the socialist party PSOL committed to certain ideals, she was bothering some people who must have hired the assassins.

Marcelo Freixo, a Rio state legislator, called Marielle’s killing “a revenge and a message.” In local politics dominated by white men, few thought a black woman from a slum would win election. Marielle surprised everyone with a tally of votes which was the fifth highest among some 50 councillors elected.

Amnesty International have urged Brazilian authorities to prioritise Marielle’s  murder case and bring the killers to justice. People have the right to know who killed Marielle and why, said Jurema Werneck, executive director at Amnesty International Brazil.

The murder of the 38-year-old councillor, who had just completed 18 months in office, highlights Brazil’s rising crime especially in its favelas or slums controlled by drug traffickers and other gangs with police support.

Marielle was raised in one such crime-ravaged favela, Mare. She grew up watching rifle-wielding criminals roaming freely, taking protection money from locals and using children as drug dealers. The poor in the slums were caught between organised crime groups and police who often supported the groups and even indulged in extra-judicial killings.

After Marielle got elected as a councillor, one of her priorities was reining in drug gangs terrorising the slums and campaigning against police brutality.

While police investigation seems stalled, Marielle’s brutal murder has galvanised the blacks in Brazil to mount pressure on the government to bring her killers to justice.