Neilton Pinto remembers every detail from this Monday, May 18. The noise of the helicopter circling in the sky, around 2:30 p.m. The bursts of fire that echo in the distance. The frantic race through the favela of Salgueiro, in São Gonçalo, in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. And finally, this house, surrounded by security forces who thought they would find delinquents and riddled with bullet holes, where, moments earlier, played his son João Pedro. Killed by the police, aged 14.
“The police ended the life of a child, who was quietly having fun with his cousins in his uncle’s house! “, is moved by this 40 year old man, collapsed by the drama. He counted 70 bullet holes, housed in the walls. “They say they were looking for a criminal. The truth is that my black son was the victim of racist barbarism! The police would never have dared to attack the house of a white man from a wealthy neighborhood “, enraged Mr. Pinto.
Unlike George Floyd, who was killed during his arrest in Minneapolis, in the United States, the tragic death of João Pedro did not move the planet. Is it because it was not filmed? Or because, here, it is monstrously banal? The Brazilian police are the most violent public force in the world, with nearly 6,000 people killed in 2019 (five times more than in the United States, which has a much higher population). In 75% of cases, they are black men, most often young and from disadvantaged neighborhoods.
One victim every five hours
Barely believable figure: between 2015 and 2019, around 25,000 Brazilians were killed by their own police. A game of massacre, which did not interrupt the crisis due to the new coronavirus, on the contrary. In the state of Rio de Janeiro alone, 177 people were killed in April during police operations, carried out in full confinement, an increase of 43% compared to the same month in 2019. region, 606 police victims have been identified since the beginning of the year: one every five hours.
Law enforcement officials are quick to threaten embarrassing witnesses, cover up crime scenes, or have dead bodies disappear.
To understand the roots of this violence, it is necessary to look at a particular body: that of the military police (PM). Composed of 425,000 public security officers, it is on the front line in the face of violence. MP is a military force. This is not without importance here: “Its role was defined under the military dictatorship, at the end of the 1960s, at the worst hours of the regime’s repression”, recalls Jacqueline Muniz, anthropologist and professor at the Federal University Fluminense (UFF).
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