Brazil: even with the coronavirus, no truce in the favelas

Brésil: même avec le coronavirus, pas de trêve dans les favelas

The inhabitants of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are struggling with multiple plagues: the coronavirus, the economic precariousness, but also the shootings, that the pandemic has not stopped.

Police operations-muscled against narco-trafficking continues to make many victims, including during the distributions of food and hygiene products meant to enable people to remain at home and abide by the rules of detachment physics in these poor neighborhoods densely populated areas.

In April, the security forces of the State of Rio have killed 177 people, 43% more than in the same month last year, according to the latest official figures.

And the incursions of police deadly have continued unabated in may.

“If you do not die of hunger or due to the virus, you will be killed by a rifle assault, in the name of public safety that we exclude “, launched on the social networks the activist Raull Santiago.

This message is dated may 15, when 13 people were shot dead during a police operation at the Complexo do Alemao, a complex of favelas in northern Rio.

The police justified these deaths by claiming that they had reacted to an attack from narco-traffickers, heavily armed.

Killed in 14 years

Only three days later, it was the turn of Joao Pedro Mattos Pinto, a black teenager of 14 years old, killed in the house of his grand-father, during operation of the federal Police with agents of the elite of the civil Police in Sao Gonçalo, a poor suburb of Rio.

According to his relatives, the police broke into the house where the teenager was playing with his cousins by firing in bursts and throwing grenades, while they were in pursuit of suspects.

More than 70 bullets were found on the walls, windows, or appliances.

The police are said to have transported Joao Pedro by helicopter to try to rescue him, but without telling his family, who was found dead 17 hours later, at the morgue.

“The authorities must be consistent, because the public is asked to respect the containment, but at the same time the police operations continue, causing more tension,” says AFP Joao Luis Silva, a member of the NGO Rio de Paz.

Two other young Blacks were killed by gunfire during incursions of the police in the favelas, at a time when NGOS distributed basic necessities to the families deprived of income due to confinement.

Each time, the police gives the same version: the agents have to react to defend himself from an aggression of criminals.

At least five distributions of food or campaigns for the prevention of coronavirus have been interrupted by the incursions of the forces of order, between 28 April and 21 may, according to the association Fogo Cruzado, which identifies the shootings in Rio.

Governor Wilson Witzel, known in particular for having advocated the use of snipers to shoot down at a distance any individual carrying an assault rifle, said “deep regret” the death of the young Joao Pedro and announced the opening of an investigation.

It is also committed to “promote dialogue” between the police and officials of NGOS and neighbourhood associations ” to avoid operations during the humanitarian actions “.

– Strategy of war -For Silvia Ramos, a researcher who coordinates the Observatory of Public Safety, it is the whole strategy of fighting the drug trafficking that should be rethought.

“The police of Rio insists to carry out this strategy, which does not give convincing results, and especially is very deadly “, she says.

Emphasising the use of force on the in-depth investigations for operations that are more targeted, the police ” fails to weaken the armed factions rooted in the favelas for years “.

“On the contrary, after these operations, once the police goes, they get new weapons (illegally) and continue to sow terror among the people,” she concludes.

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