Buenos Aires Times

latin america ASSASSINATION OF ACTIVIST

Brazilian official: Marielle Franco 'killed by militia' behind favela land grabs

Brazilian councilwoman assassinated in Rio de Janeiro in March was killed by a militia looking to protect its interests controlling land in unregulated slums, Brazilian official says.

Monday 17 December, 2018
This photo released by Rio de Janeiro's Municipal Chamber shows Marielle Franco, leading a session at the Municipal Chamber in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 21, 2017.
This photo released by Rio de Janeiro's Municipal Chamber shows Marielle Franco, leading a session at the Municipal Chamber in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on February 21, 2017. Foto:AFP-Renan Olaz-Rio de Janeiro Municipal Chamber

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Marielle Franco, the Brazilian councilwoman assassinated in Rio de Janeiro in March was killed by a militia looking to protect its interests controlling land in unregulated slums, a Brazilian official has said.

Franco, a high-profile lawmaker and black rights activist who was critical of police violence, was gunned down with her driver on March 14 in what looked to be a professional hit. She was 38.

Her death triggered demonstrations and outrage across Brazil. 

Some suspects have been arrested but there has been no major progress in the murder investigation, triggering a federal probe to see if local police were trying to thwart the process.

However, in an interview on Friday, the head of Rio de Janeiro state's public security secretariat said that Franco's death was related to her work in favelas.

General Richard Nunes, head of the state security authority, told the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper that the councilwoman was active "in a certain area of Rio controlled by militia, where they have economic interests of all sorts."

The militias are composed of members and ex-members of Rio's security forces, effectively becoming well-armed gangs displacing street gangs they were trained to fight.

Nunes said: "What led to the councilwoman's murder and her driver's, was the perception that she was putting those interests of these criminal groups at risk."

Franco's work to make people aware "about land ownership caused instability and that's what we ended up seeing," he said.

The comments came a day after a confidential Rio police report was leaked saying that a plot had been uncovered to assassinate a state lawmaker, Marcelo Freixo, who was Franco's political mentor and also a critic of the para-police militias.

- TIMES/AFP

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