March 19, 2018
Millions of Brazilians and people all over the world are mourning the death of Marielle Franco, progressive council member who represented Favela da Maré, a poor community of mostly Afro-Brazilian dwellers. Franco was a member of the left-wing Party for Socialism and Liberty (PSOL, for its Portuguese initials), a broad umbrella organization that groups together several parties.
Marielle Franco’s senseless murder on March 14 led to mass mobilizations in Rio de Janeiro and other Brazilians cities. She was 38 when four bullets ended her life. Her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes also died from gunshots “after a car pulled alongside theirs and opened fire” according to Human Rights Watch.
Writing in The Independent, journalist Glenn Greenwald recounts her life:
A black LGBT+ woman in a country notoriously dominated by racism, sexism and traditional religious dogma, she was raised in one of Rio’s largest, poorest and most violent slums, the Maré complex.
She became a single mother at the age of 19, but graduated college, obtained a masters in sociology, and then became one of the city’s most effective human rights activists, leading often dangerous campaigns against pervasive police violence, corruption and extra-judicial murders that targeted the city’s poor, black residents with whom she grew up.
As she became increasingly political, Franco joined Brazil’s new left-wing party, the Party of Socialism and Liberty (PSOL), and quickly became one of its stars.
In 2016, she ran for public office for the first time as a candidate for Rio’s city council and was elected with a massive vote. The results stunned the city’s political class: as a first-time candidate, a black woman from Maré became the fifth most-voted candidate in the city (out of more than 1,500 candidates, 51 of them were elected).
That success solidified Franco’s status not only as a new political force to be reckoned with, but as a repository of hope for Brazil’s traditionally voiceless and excluded groups: its favela residents, its black and poor people, and women.
All over the world people are mourning her death and demanding justice. In Barcelona, Spanish State, about 200 people gathered in Plaza Sant Jaume to repudiate Marielle Franco’s murder, reports Em.com.br.
Referring to Franco’s murder, Pulitzer-prize winner and US-based Dominican writer Junot Díaz wrote on his Facebook account “This is a sickening travesty. Our greatest defenders are themselves often defenseless.”
In Chile, Gael Yeomans, a member of Congress from the Frente Amplio (Broad Front), condemned the murder in a statement and expressed her solidarity, reports El Desconcierto.
A Target of Political Corruption
Franco died for her ideas and activism. She has been hailed as a committed human rights defender who fought for black lives, LGBT people and poor Brazilians. In a short time, Franco became a target of political corruption and authoritarianism. Writing in The Intercept, writer and civil rights activist Shaun King believes that “Marielle was a threat to a very disturbing status quo in Brazil.”
Many commentators and activists in Brazil believe the murder of Marielle Franco amounts to a political assassination. An Amnesty International statement condemning the murder provides some clues that might have led to Franco’s murder:
In 2016, Marielle was elected to the Rio de Janeiro city council. Two weeks ago, she was appointed rapporteur for a special commission that the city council created to monitor the ongoing federal intervention in Rio de Janeiro and the militarization of public security.
Speaking to the O Globo news site, two Brazilian social scientists dissected the significance of Franco’s murder. According to Rubem César Fernandes, a Brazilian anthropologist, her murder was “a political attack that borders on terrorism.” Fernandes also argues that this was “a cruel attack on those who want peace in Rio [de Janeiro]. For sociologist Paulo Delgado, her murder showed that Brazil is facing “a dictatorship of crime.”
But crime and insecurity are not the only problems affecting Brazilian society.
The murder of this popular council member adds to the turmoil facing Brazil since the right wing coup d'état that brought down former President Dilma Rousseff under corruption charges. It was her opposition to the policies of the Temer government that brought her to the spotlight.
This is how People are Reacting to Marielle Franco’s Murder on Social Media