Genivaldo in the gas chamber

Carlos Zilio, PRATO, 1971, industrial ink on porcelain, ø 24cm
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By JOÃO FILHO*

Reflections on the project of death that suffocates Brazil

In 48 hours, the Federal Highway Police, whose objective is to police and supervise federal highways, directly participated in 27 murders. In Vila Cruzeiro, Rio de Janeiro alone, road police officers helped to murder 26 people, many of them with no involvement in crime. Among them, a 16-year-old boy, stabbed to death. According to a previous investigation carried out by members of the OAB, there are strong indications of torture and execution. There was no confrontation. No police officers were shot. There was a massacre.

This was the second deadliest massacre in the history of Rio, behind only the one that took place in Jacarezinho last year, when 27 people were murdered under the same conditions. At the time, the President of the Republic applauded the massacre and congratulated the perpetrators of the crimes — a clear green light for the bandits who wear uniforms. Now, in the Vila Cruzeiro massacre, he once again congratulated the criminal action of the police.

In addition to being congratulated by Bolsonaro, the head of the PRF sector who led the crimes with Bope was promoted to the highest position in the corporation, which sounded like an award for services rendered. The president, who boasts strong political and financial ties to the militias in Rio de Janeiro on his resume, uses his power of influence among police officers to encourage and legitimize their criminal actions. In both massacres, the victims were black and poor.

The day after the massacre extolled by the militia-friendly president, we had the 27tha death commanded by road police. Genivaldo de Jesus Santos, 38 years old, father of two, was brutally tortured and murdered in front of several people in Umbaúba, on the coast of Sergipe.

The images recorded by cell phones of those who were there leave no doubt: Genivaldo, who had schizophrenia, was alone, unarmed, with no possibility of offering danger to two armed policemen. Even warned by Genivaldo's nephew that he had heart problems, the PRF criminals started a torture session in a public square, in the eyes of the population and the lenses of cell phone cameras.

Without the slightest fear of the consequences, the criminals put the victim in the car's van, closed the door and threw a gas bomb inside. They turned a police car into a gas chamber. Desperate, Genivaldo swung his legs until he was completely asphyxiated. He became yet another corpse on the back of a police whose function should be to monitor traffic on federal highways.

In the 90s, the chorus of a song by Marcelo Yuka, from O Rappa, said “every van has a bit of a slave ship”. After that sadistic torture session in Sergipe, we could add that “every police car has a bit of Auschwitz”.

It shouldn't be necessary to say that, even if Genivaldo was a criminal with several passages through the police, he would still be the victim of a crime. Any killing committed by the police that is not in self-defence is a criminal offence, beyond dispute. This time, the president did not congratulate the criminal road police officers, but kept silent and turned his back on the case when he traveled to Belo Horizonte to, among other things, conduct an election campaign. While the country was stunned by the images of a Brazilian agonizing in the gas chamber, a smiling president was riding his motorcycle.

Like the victims of the massacre in Rio de Janeiro, Genivaldo was also black and poor, of course. Also because, we know, a white man on top of a Harley Davidson would be treated as a good citizen. We live in a country where the president commemorates the murder of innocents and dehumanizes black people by weighing them in arrobas – the unit of measurement used to weigh animals.

the shameful note issued by the PRF shows that this type of corner guard approach is supported by the corporation. According to the document, Genivaldo “actively resisted an approach by a PRF team” and, because of his “aggressiveness”, “immobilization techniques and instruments of lesser offensive potential were used for his containment and the individual was taken to the police station city ​​police”. The note is a lie. Blatantly lying.

It was issued even after the country watched the images that absolutely contradict all the information contained therein. The text justifies the actions of bandits in uniform. For the corporation, improvising a gas chamber inside the van of a vehicle is just an “instrument of lesser offensive potential”. In a country where the president and vice president call a state torturer a “hero”, it is natural for an instrument of torture to be classified as “less offensive potential”.

After the lying note, the PRF reported that it removed the military and that it will open a “disciplinary process to clarify the facts”. It's as if the cameras recorded police officers committing a minor infraction like littering in the street.

In a racist country whose president was elected under the motto “a good bandit is a dead bandit”, murders of blacks earn votes. Both Bolsonaro and Bolsonarist governor Cláudio Castro, both seeking re-election, took advantage of the slaughter in an election year to retain the electoral base and attract new reactionary votes. They ignored the deaths of innocent people to convey the idea that they are ruthless against crime.

The governor of Rio de Janeiro can be proud of the fact that the two biggest massacres in the history of the state took place under his tenure, which barely completed a year. According to a survey of Instituto Fogo Cruzado and the study group on violence at Universidade Federal Fluminense, Geni, during that year of administration of the Bolsonarist government, 182 deaths were recorded in 39 massacres in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Disassociating these crimes committed by the state with the rise of Bolsonarism to power is impossible. Not that there was no abuse of police violence before Bolsonaro. The culture of hate and the practice of necropolitics have always been among us. But now crimes committed by public agents are legitimized, encouraged and publicly praised by a head of state.

To deny the resurgence of police abuse in recent years as a direct consequence of the triumph of Bolsonarism is to cover the sun with a sieve. The presence of a man who exalts violence, torture and who does not usually comply with the law in the presidency of the Republic authorizes the corner guard to act above the law.

Today, the culture of death is disseminated at all times by the president, whether by neglecting the fight against the pandemic, or by publicly extolling massacres committed by state agents, or by weighing blacks by arrobas. Bolsonarism became synonymous with dehumanization. Genivaldo is yet another victim of Bolsonarism. He died of suffocation in the country where the president imitates people with Covid suffocating to death.

*João Filho is a social scientist and journalist. Author of Wando Journalism.

Originally published on the website of The Intercept Brazil.

 

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