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Justice for Marielle Franco

By: 
Sean Purdy, PSOL, São Paulo

April 10, 2018

On March 14, Marielle Franco, a Rio de Janeiro city councilor for the left-wing Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) and her driver, Anderson Gomes, were brutally executed on a downtown city street as they left a meeting of Black women activists. A long-time activist in poor peoples`, Black, LGBT and human rights movements in the city, Marielle was elected to the city council in 2016 with the fifth-highest number of votes.

Marielle`s murder shocked Brazil, provoking massive demonstrations of solidarity around the country. It is likely that Marielle`s death was ordered by paramilitary militias led by current and ex-police officers who control many of Rio`s poor favela communities, organized criminals with connections to right-wing political parties whom she had long criticized. Yet it also highlights the depth of the severe political and economic crisis in the country.

The poor shantytowns (favelas) in all of Brazil`s major cities have long suffered from the absence of basic water and sanitation services, hospitals and schools as well as the organized violence of drug traffickers and, especially, the police. The police in Brazil regularly murder poor and Black people with impunity. Between 2009 and 2016, Brazilian police forces killed an average of seven people per day, making it one of the most violent in the world.

Just one month before Marielle`s murder, the illegitimate federal government of Michel Temer ordered a wide scale military intervention in Rio, sending in thousands of troops to supposedly solve the problem of public safety in the city. Marielle and PSOL have been firm opponents against intervention.   

Marielle, born and raised in the favela community of Maré in Rio de Janeiro, first became active politically in the early 2000s after the murder of a close friend. She worked in local community groups who organized against the violence of the police and drug gangs and for improvements in public services. She completed an undergraduate degree in social services, joined PSOL and was hired as an assistant to Marcelo Freixo, a state deputy in PSOL and her ex-high school history teacher.

Freixo, with Marielle`s assistance, led a high-profile inquiry into the paramilitary militias in Rio which led to the arrest of hundreds, including several politicians and dozens of current and ex-police officers. Yet in the context of the economic and political crisis since 2013 and their continued links with politicians and corrupt police, the militias have actually increased their influence, exercising more power in Rio than the drug gangs.

In the last few months before her murder, Marielle criticized both the brutality of the police and the militias and became a leading voice against federal government military intervention. Just a few years ago, she defended her Master’s Degree in Public Administration with a thesis criticizing police and military actions in Rio’s favelas.

Marielle`s execution provoked widespread public indignation and rage, but it also exposed the growing right-wing tide in Brazilian politics. High-profile judges, politicians and figures in the far-right spread malicious lies about Marielle, reflecting the growing racism, homophobia and reactionary politics in the country fuelled by the parliamentary coup against the Workers` Party president Dilma Rouseff in 2016 and a ultra-neoliberal political agenda by the illegitimate federal government. 

By all accounts, the police have bungled the investigation in the murders. The left, unions and social movements need to first demand that Marielle and Anderson`s murderers be brought to justice.

But to truly honour Marielle, we also need to demand an end to federal government military intervention in Rio. We need to demand an end to the murders of poor and Black people by the police and militias. And we need to unite the Black and LGBT movements with socialists and the unions to build a fight back against the entire racist, anti-poor, misogynist and homophobic politics of governments and the right wing at all levels.

Marielle and Anderson. Presentes!

Register now for Join the Resistance: Marxism 2018, a two-day conference April 27-28 in Toronto, including the session “How do we stop the far right,” “The fight against racism” and “Revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx.”

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