Brazil's federal police arrest men suspected of ordering 2018 killing of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman

Brazil’s federal police arrested on Sunday the men suspected of ordering the killing of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco in 2018

Gabriela S. Pessoa,David Biller
Sunday 24 March 2024 13:28 GMT

Brazil’s federal police arrested on Sunday the men suspected of ordering the killing of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco in 2018, a long-awaited step after years of society clamoring for justice.

The brutal assassination of the 38-year-old Black, bisexual Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman in a drive-by shooting shook Brazil profoundly and reverberated across the world.

Two federal police sources with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that congressman Chiquinho Brazão and his brother Domingos Brazão, a member of Rio state’s accounts watchdog, were detained on suspicion of ordering the hit against Franco. Both have connections to criminal groups, known as militias, who illegally charge residents for various services, including protection.

The sources didn’t make clear what their suspected motive was.

On Wednesday, Brazil's Justice Minister Ricardo Lewandowski said the country’s Supreme Court had validated a plea bargain for the shooter who confessed to Franco's murder after his arrest in 2019. His confession led to Sunday's arrests.

Rivaldo Barbosa, the head of Rio’s police when the murder took place, was also arrested for alleged obstruction of the investigation, the sources said.

Franco, the councilwoman, worked as an assistant to then-state lawmaker Marcelo Freixo in 2008, as he presided over a special committee investigating militias in Rio’s state assembly. Freixo’s final report indicted 226 suspected militia members and politicians and government employees, including Domingos Brazão.

Political violence isn’t uncommon in Rio, and such killings are often linked to territorial and political disputes. But they typically go unsolved and never elicit the same level of outcry as Marielle’s death did. She had been a rising political star, making her name by exposing police abuse and violence against residents of working-class neighborhoods known as favelas.

Known universally by her first name, Marielle grew up in a favela herself, the Mare neighborhood near Rio’s international airport. She became a human rights activist there after her friend was killed by a stray bullet in a shootout between police and drug traffickers. She worked for a state lawmaker investigating organized crime, then went on to win a seat in Rio’s city council in 2016. She kept receiving and sharing complaints of police abuse until days before she was killed.

She stood out as one of the only black women on the council and, while her assertiveness and mere presence ruffled some, she remained unbowed.

On the evening of March 14, 2018, she left an event to empower young Black women when a car pulled up alongside hers and opened fire. Marielle and her driver, Anderson Gomes, were killed on site.


Sá Pessoa reported from Sao Paulo. AP journalists Eleonore Hughes and Mauricio Savarese contributed to this report from Rio and Sao Paulo, respectively.

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