Who had Marielle killed?

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By CARLOS TAUTZ*

Marielle still dies a little every day

After three years, three governors of Rio de Janeiro, two attorneys general, three delegates, three prosecutors and five changes in the state's public security leadership, the investigation into the murders of former councilwoman Marielle Franco (Psol-RJ) and his driver Anderson Gomes, on March 14, 2018, gives little indication as to whether the masterminds of the most repercussion political crime in Brazil since the Riocentro bombing in 1981 will be discovered.

But, despite the incredible succession of inexplicable errors, sloppiness, ineptness and leniency on the part of the Civil Police and the Public Ministry (MP) of Rio, also in charge of the investigation, the family, Marielle's supporters and human rights defenders believe that the crime will be resolved.

"The investigation has new information that I cannot reveal, but that makes me believe that we can, yes, reach the bosses", says federal deputy Marcelo Freixo (Psol-RJ), Marielle's political godfather.

“There were a lot of mistakes, a lot of suspicious things at the beginning of the investigation, a lot of uncollected evidence, a lot of interest. Crime is more sophisticated and certainly has powerful people involved, involving militias, either in execution or in command. But the reason (is) political. And they are not people of little influence in Rio de Janeiro”, completes Freixo.

“I continue to follow the investigations closely and I meet every week with the Homicide Police. Of course, three years is an absurd amount of time for any case to be resolved. A political group, according to the investigations themselves, which for a political reason, takes the life of a councilor. This is a crime against democracy.”

In 2008, the CPI chaired by him and assisted by Marielle denounced, for the first time, militias as criminal organizations in Rio. The result was the arrest of nearly 300 accused. Since then, Freixo has been constantly escorted by agents from the Rio security system.

“We still want to know who sent Marielle Franco and why. We don't care about any result other than this one”, attested the doctor Jurema Batista Werneck, executive director of Amnesty International in Brazil.

The list of police officers, prosecutors and governors mentioned at the beginning of this article is from Jurema. They all went through the Marielle and Anderson case, promising priority to the investigation, but noting the “complexity” of the crime.

“Authorities say it is a complex case, but why?” asked Jurema in an interview with BBC Brasil.

So far, only the material perpetrators of the crime have been identified by the Police and denounced by the Public Prosecutor's Office, whose denunciation literally ran across the entire planet, via social networks, seconds after the deadly shots were fired.

Two former military police officers, militia members known for decades by the Civil Police and the Public Ministry (MP) of the State, are imprisoned in the federal penitentiary in Rondônia and will go to the popular jury on a date yet to be scheduled by the Court of Justice of Rio.

Retired Military Police sergeant Ronnie Lessa, a former member of the Special Operations Battalion (Bope), is said to be the author of the shots. Ronnie would have triggered the shots, of high and rare precision, from inside the vehicle he was in (a Cobalt with cloned license plate KPA 5923) against the car also in motion where Marielle and Anderson were. Élcio Queiroz, former sergeant, expelled from the Military Police, Lessa's friend, would have been the driver of the Cobalt.

The expertise showed that Ronnie used an HK MP5 submachine gun, restricted to a few units of the Brazilian police and manufactured in Germany by Heckler & Koch. In August 2020, the company suspended arms exports to the country.

“With the changes in Brazil, especially the political unrest before the presidential elections and the tough action of the police against the population, the decision to not supply more to Brazil was confirmed”, he justified.

A member of the Scuderie Le Cocq, an old brotherhood of police officers who belonged to Esquadrões da Morte in the 1960s and 70s, Ronnie worked for years in various Civil Police stations as an attaché (a position now extinct) of the PM. His skill and willingness to kill was known and even admired by his peers.

“(Ronnie was) a serial killer. He was a real war soldier. Killing machine”, told a police officer to journalist Vera Araújo, from O Globo, and author (along with fellow reporter Chico Otavio) of the book They killed Marielle.

The work, released in early 2021, details the strangeness of journalists with the conduct of investigations by the Police and the MP of Rio (whose functions described in Chapter 4, Article 129 of the Federal Constitution are to control police activity and request diligences and the initiation of investigations)

Despite his fame among police officers, Ronnie had never been the subject of a police investigation until his arrest on March 12, 2019.

In addition to the long career of crimes inexplicably not investigated by the Police, nor by the MP, Ronnie has at least two other very special characteristics.

Until he was arrested, two days before the emblematic first year of the investigation, the retired Military Police sergeant and business owner operating in areas controlled by militias in the West Zone of Rio Ronnie Lessa rented two terraced houses in Condomínio Vivendas da Barra – medium and high middle class – in front of Barra da Tijuca beach.

Until December 2018, former Army captain and President of the Republic Jair Bolsonaro (without party) also lived there – and where his son, Rio councilor Carlos Bolsonaro (Republicanos –RJ) still lives.

In itself, the residence of a militiaman in the same condominium as a President proves nothing. But, as noted by journalist Luis Nassif, there is at least incompetence on the part of the Institutional Security Office (GSI, commanded by retired general Augusto Heleno and responsible for Bolsonaro's security) in failing to identify that the presence of a hired assassin posed a serious threat to the president. from the country.

What actually raises a huge doubt about whether or not there were links between Bolsonaro and Ronnie is the very poorly explained visit, before the murder of Marielle and Anderson, by Élcio, the driver of the murder, to Vivendas da Barra, where he would have asked the doorman of the condominium to go to house 58 (Bolsonaro's).

This is an intricate episode. It starts with the uncertainty about whether the doorman would have communicated with Bolsonaro himself; it goes through his order, already as President, for the Federal Police to collect (without inquiry) the worker's testimony; and an alleged expertise carried out by non-MP experts on the testimony of the doorman and on the access system to the houses in Vivendas da Barra.

In short, a disastrous intervention by the Rio Public Ministry. At the end of the imbroglio, which occurred at the end of 2019, the MP guaranteed that it would investigate the expertise made by the non-expert, but has not yet released the result of the investigation.

The other surprising characteristic of Ronnie is his “net worth”. On the same day he was arrested in Barra, the Police in the Méier neighborhood, North Zone of Rio, also seized parts of 117 rifles belonging to Ronnie and imported from the United States.

The rifles, incomplete, were at a friend of Ronnie's house. At the time, the Federal Police considered that it was the biggest seizure of rifles in history, which promoted Ronnie to the status of a major international arms dealer.

The circumstances that tell the story of delay in investigations

In the lines that follow, you will read some of the main circumstances in which the investigation, until now inconclusive and strange, took place.

These circumstances, some of them very little known, seem to indicate why Marielle, until today the victim of attacks on her honor on the internet, in Parliament and in the Big Brother , still dies a little more every day that the masterminds and reasons for his murder and Anderson's are not discovered.

I interviewed some characters very close to the case, but not all. For example, the Civil Police and MP received several requests for an interview and did not respond. But I talked to people who, in their work parallel to the official investigation, and others directly involved in the case, produced so many elements to prove a list of sloppiness, that it is time to suspect: would they be “only” a product of lack of interest?

The journalist who discovered two witnesses

Days after the murder and the completion of the investigation, the journalist and lawyer Vera Araújo returned several nights to the exact time and place of the crime, and starred in one of the main (and few) positive moments of the journalistic investigation into the double murder.

Its objective was to discover any witnesses – until then, not investigated by the Police – of the moment when Marielle and Anderson were shot down and, by a miracle, one of Marielle's advisors, the journalist Fernanda Chaves, who was also in the car, was not hit by Ronnie's shots. .

The deadly attack took place at the back of the Civil Police Policinic, at the intersection between Joaquim Palhares and João Paulo I streets, in the Estácio neighborhood on the edge of the Cidade Nova neighborhood, in the expanded center of Rio, where the headquarters of the city government is also located. .

The place has, until today, the same precarious lighting and is somewhat deserted. Thousands of cars and few people pass through there – most of them going to or from the Estácio Metro station, a few meters away.

There are no residences on this stretch of street. The buildings in the area attract little public at night: a Detran-RJ station, two car dealerships, the Union of Heavy Construction Workers. All of them have surveillance cameras that, according to the Police, recorded nothing of the crime.

Without cameras there are other properties: a huge vacant lot, a state government agency for the reception of minors and, strangely, the Police Polyclinic, an institution that, due to the nature of its area of ​​activity, needs to be watched and protected day and night. .

After nights of investigation, consulting the few passers-by, Vera arrived, alone, from where the Police had not been able to leave: two eyewitnesses to the crime, whose names and ages are still kept confidential in the investigations. One was a homeless person – who subsequently disappeared. The other was a lady who got off the Metro on her way home from work.

Thus Vera and Chico Otávio registered in They killed Marielle this discovery: “The man who fired the shots was sitting in the back seat. I saw his arm as he aimed the gun, which appeared to have a silencer. The guy's arm was black and very strong (…) It had a silencer, yes. The sound was muffled”, said the man on the street who had witnessed the murder and who at the time of the crime was just four meters away from the deadly approach.

At the scene and on the night of the crime, the police would have asked him if he had seen anything. The man denied it and that was all.

The second witness, a resident close to the place who even helped Fernanda call her husband, was found by Vera a few days later. She agreed to talk and confirmed the street man's version.

Neither was initially questioned by the Police and the MP did not ask for their entries into witness protection programs. And, contrary to what one might expect, Vera's skill in researching the existence of witnesses did not receive any praise from the Police, who had promised priority to the case.

She recalls that the then Chief of Police, Chief Rivaldo Barbosa, chosen about a month earlier for the position, called the reporter and, screaming, complained about the discovery that the Police did not make.

“I was outraged. Then the press officer called, said that the boss had a hot head…”, he recalls.

From the outset, Rivaldo and other authorities – such as the then governor Pezão, who is under house arrest – insisted that the investigation of the Marielle case would be an “attack on democracy” and that, therefore, the Rio Police would have all priority in the investigation. .

“The priority only arose after the entry of Gaeco”, says Vera, mentioning the Special Action Group to Combat Organized Crime, from the MP. “Everything was very difficult (in the investigation), as if Brazil had never managed to break information from Google or Facebook. It seemed that mountains had to be removed to achieve such a break... When prosecutors Simone Sibilo and Letícia Emile joined, they set up a task force within Gaeco and the coordinator herself (Simone) took over the case”, he adds.

Simone later moved away from Gaeco and only a few days ago, on March 4, 2021, the MP redid the Marielle case task force, and again with Simone and Letícia. At the time, Rio's attorney general, Luciano Oliveira Mattos de Souza, said that the Marielle case was a priority.

I asked if Vera, an experienced reporter covering the area of ​​public security and with legal training to boot, was not surprised by the fact that the police had never raised the possibility that military personnel or people with military training had participated in the crime.

“At first they said it was drug trafficking, but that was a little smoke that soon went away, because the crime had a lot of planning. At no point did they say they could be military – that is also awkward,” she noted.

“We had very little information (from the Police). There was no press conference to discuss the case. The police only held a press conference after the arrest of Ronnie Lessa and Élcio Queiroz. They closed. It was a common thing (for) a federal intervention. The security secretary was General Richard (Nunes) and the intervenor, (General Walter) Braga Netto, current Minister of the Civil House”, commented Vera.

Talking little and hiding a lot is characteristic of the military – and since February 16, 2018, less than a month before the murders of Marielle and Anderson, the government of Rio de Janeiro was under financial and military intervention decreed by then President Michel Temer .

Apart from the crime itself, the intervention is the main circumstance that explains the succession of controversial facts in conducting the investigations into the deaths of Marielle and Anderson.

Military promised to uncover killers and masterminds by December 2018

An atmosphere of chaos was created in Rio during Carnival 2018. The evangelical bishop and mayor Marcello Crivella (now under house arrest for corruption) left the city during the biggest popular festival on the planet. TV Globo insisted again with images of trawlers on the beaches of the South Zone (a device used in 1992 against the then PT mayoral candidate, Benedita da Silva) and the governor, named Pezão, from Temer's PMDB, said that crime was uncontrolled by the state.

Later, the Public Security Institute, a study and statistics body of the State Public Security Secretariat, would show that the number of crimes in that Carnival had been lower than in previous years.

Temer (who also responds to corruption proceedings) responded to an alleged request from Pezão and decreed that army general Walter Braga Netto would be the intervenor, supported by military legislation, of the Government of Rio.

Braga Netto, today a Minister, summoned General Richard Nunes (current commander of the Army's Social Communication Center) to be the Secretary of Public Security and both chose delegate Rivaldo Barbosa to head the Civil Police.

In less than a month, Rivaldo would be in charge of the Marielle and Anderson case, and had promised to give priority to investigations. At that time, he had already been harshly criticized by human rights organizations when, as head of the Homicide Police Station, he investigated the deaths of residents of Favela da Maré, the largest in the city, by BOPE soldiers on June 24 and 25, 2013. The investigation of the site, for example, took years to be carried out.

In the episode, a PM died when he was hit by drug dealers in the area. In retaliation, a Bope commando, without informing their superiors, invaded the favela and killed, including stabbing, a number between nine (according to the Police) and 16 people (according to residents).

Meanwhile, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH, an independent body of the Organization of American States – OAS) and the Office for South America of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) affirmed that the Brazilian government had “deep concern” about the intervention.

“We are concerned that this decree (of the intervention) does not sufficiently specify its scope and execution, nor the conditions that justify an exceptional measure of this nature. Without these safeguards, its execution may result in serious violations of human rights, in particular to life and personal integrity”.

The IACHR and the OHCHR were correct in their suspicions that the military acting as police officers would conduct human rights violations. Among the first of these were the registration of residents and searches (both illegal) of residents of Vila Kennedy, Vila Aliança and Corea, all poor communities in the West Zone of Rio.

Fifth most voted councilor in the 2016 municipal elections, Marielle had been chosen as rapporteur for the monitoring that the City Council of Rio would do about the intervention.

After the death of the parliamentarian, the intervening military promised priority in the investigation. In an interview with Veja, in February 2019, Braga Netto said that “he could have announced the solution of the Marielle case, but there was not enough evidence. If there is continuity in the investigation, a result will be reached”, he assured.

It was an obvious retreat. Before, to the newspapers The Globe e Extras, he had stated, on August 31, 2018: the Marielle case will be resolved by the end of the intervention (initially scheduled for December 31 of that year).

It wasn't, and General Richard Nunes, although he doesn't give an interview about the case, just told me not to rule out the hypothesis that Marielle was murdered at the behest of also Rio councilor Marcelo Siciliano (PP-RJ), in a kind of dispute for votes in the region of Jacarepaguá, dominated by militia groups.

Richard is one of the few to maintain such distrust, which has already been dismissed by the police and Marielle's supporters. In 2018, when the hypothesis was raised, I spoke with one of Marielle's advisors, whose duties included checking on-site visit of allegations of serious human rights violations arriving at her office. “Never heard of it. I don’t believe it,” the advisor told me at the time.

(At this point, it is worth resuming news that goes almost unnoticed. The financial intervention in the government of the State of Rio continues to this day and involves the military. On November 20, 2020, Bolsonaro extended it until December 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic. , the mandate of the Federal Intervention Office in Rio de Janeiro, scheduled to end last December.)

Would international monitoring have changed the course of investigations?

About 10 days after the crime, a large meeting took place at the headquarters of Amnesty International Brazil, in Rio. Representatives of Freixo's cabinet, members of groups of victims of violence and residents of favelas, specialists in public security and members of human rights organizations were present.

The agenda of the meeting, held still in fear and deep sadness, as one of the participants recalls, included two controversial points: the federalization of investigations, provided for in the Federal Constitution, but decided on a case-by-case basis by the Superior Court of Justice at the request of the Attorney General's Office of the Union; and the creation of an international commission of experts to monitor the case, following the example of what happened in Mexico in 2014.

There, 43 students disappeared in the state of Guerrero, and the Attorney General's Office immediately found the usual culprits: traffickers allegedly murdered and burned the boys, without the places where their bodies were hidden being even identified.

Dissatisfied, family members and social movements pressured the government to accept an international commission of experts from the IACHR, which raised the necessary evidence until the experts and investigators admitted the truth and arrived at one of the bodies.

The final act was provided by two journalists who recorded the Attorney General, in person, forcing a drug dealer to falsely admit guilt for the 43 murders. In fact, state agents – municipal and state and federal police and police guards – were responsible for the massacre, which also involved illicit drug trafficking.

Here in Rio, the decisions of the meeting held at Amnesty were tense, as recalled by political scientist Beatriz Affonso, who at the time was director of the Center for Justice and International Law (Cejil) for the Brazil Program, based in Rio.

“We had a favorable situation to ask the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to create an international commission of investigation, like the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts that investigates the case in Mexico”

The IACHR had just expressed to Temer its fear of serious human rights violations occurring in Rio during the intervention. At the same time, the Court held the Brazilian State responsible for the 26 summary executions and sexual violations committed in two massacres that took place in Complexo do Alemão (in 1994 and 1995). Both were perpetrated and investigated by military and civilian police.

'Another alternative that we defended was the federalization of investigations, as we were aware of the reality of investigations into the execution of human rights defenders in Rio,' recalls Beatriz, who later worked on cases of the same type in Nicaragua and Mexico.

In the end, the group gathered at Amnesty headquarters rejected – with the exception of Amnesty itself and Cejil – the proposal to support the federalization of investigations and request the creation of an independent international commission to monitor the case.

*Carlos Tautz is a journalist at the Arayara Institute.

Originally published on the website of Arayara Institute.

 

 

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