Last Friday, the Brazilian Military Police (MP) killed 13 people after a shootout in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This happened as President Jair Bolsonaro and Rio governor Wilson Witzel escalate their “drug war” rhetoric, Democracy Now reports.
Glenn Greenwald, a Pulitzer-winning Journalist, and husband to Rio city politician David Miranda, quoted Brazilian newspaper Folha in saying that several of those killed were executed after they surrendered.
“The police laughed and told the frightened residents that the next time it will be 20 people who are dead. So, this is just the beginning of what is certain to be a very frightening climate.”
MSN reports that the police said they conducted the operation because of “shoot-outs in the area caused by the dispute between rival criminal groups,” with two rival gangs engaging in a turf war since Wednesday.
Rio de Janeiro has registered a record 63,800 murders, 126 of which were members of the MP, per the New York Times.
Greenwald doubts the official statement, however, noting that Bolsonaro was elected on a promise to unleash the police on the “favelas” (the poorest neighborhoods in Brazil), giving the police, in his view “immunity for when they engage in indiscriminate slaughter.”
While running for president, Jair Bolsonaro said “a good criminal is a dead criminal” and vowed to intensify the war on drugs.
“He is using the Duterte model in the Philippines of just going in and indiscriminately killing poor people, killing drug dealers but also innocent people. And the governor of Rio de Janeiro is, on some level, even more extreme.”
Rio’s new governor, Wilson Witzel, pledged to authorize city security forces to shoot suspects and proposed a Guantanamo-Bay-like prison to house criminals, whom he labels as “terrorists”.
Hoje foi dia de prestigiar os novos cadetes da Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras, com muito orgulho meu sobrinho é um deles. pic.twitter.com/YxthMlSnBE— Wilson Witzel (@wilsonwitzel) February 9, 2019
Witzel is a former federal judge who won the governorship in October. He is part of the wave of far-right, “tough on crime” politicians led by Bolsonaro.
Security researcher Ignacio Cano told The Guardian that Witzel’s policy proposals wouldn’t work and that they could have “dire consequences,” as drug traffickers aren’t likely to be discouraged by death threats.
He also denounced Witzel’s policy proposals as “unconstitutional” and a distraction from the real issue, corruption.
“His discourse is as if sternness were the issue when the real issues are corruption and a lack of efficiency and intelligence in investigations.”
It’s worth noting that both Witzel and Bolsonaro did win the elections fair and square, and their victories are attributed largely to their extreme drug war rhetoric. Most residents of the crime-ridden Rio city voted for these drastic measures.
For “favela” residents like Renata Souza, however, Witzel’s rhetoric is far more alarming than comforting.
“We already live in an alarming, insecure situation and now we have a governor who’s saying to kill freely in favelas without any accountability. It’s practically giving a death penalty for the favela.”