Away from the presidential race, the biggest scandal in Brazil’s post dictatorship history may be taking place in the state of São Paulo, in its race for Governor. It involves a staged assassination attempt, the murder of an unarmed man, and secret service agents ordering the destruction of evidence.
São Paulo is Brazil’s most powerful state, with the GDP and population of a large European country. Yet ignored internationally, a shocking story is unfolding in the final days before the 2022 election runoffs which involves São Paulo gubernatorial candidate and Bolsonaro ally Tarcísio Freitas staging a fake assassination attempt during a campaign event in a favela, with one of his staff murdering an unarmed man as he rode by on his motorcycle.
Tarcisio, Bolsonaro’s former infrastructure minister, who hails from Rio de Janeiro and has never lived in the state he seeks to govern, has been linked with organised crime Militias that terrorise his home state. He has allotted a substantial amount of his TV campaign time to refute this accusation. Tarcisio has also promised powerful evangelical Universal Church a role in his state government if elected. He has also promised to privatise the massive state water company Sabesp.
Earlier his week, Folha de S. Paulo newspaper revealed audio recorded by the cameraman of a Freitas employee, who is on loan from Brazil’s Intelligence agency ABIN, ordering him to erase footage, which he said was of Freitas security officers shooting unarmed Felipe Lima, 28.
4 witnesses now say they saw Tarcisio Freitas’ security staff murder an unarmed man in Paraisópolis favela that day.
On Wednesday, human rights group Tortura Nunca Mais demanded that the police conduct an internal investigation of what they say has all the signs of an execution. Another of Tarcisio’s promises is to remove the requirement for police uniforms to carry cameras.
The day of the shooting, during their allotted television time, the Bolsonaro campaign ran footage of frightened Tarcisio campaign workers ducking for cover, and falsely insinuated that organised crime group PCC had attempted to kill him because it supports presidential candidate Lula. As more information came in, Tarcisio immediately started back peddling on his initial statements made on social media insinuating it was an attempt on his life.
After a spokesman for São Paulo military police announced that it was not an assassination attempt, cameraman Marcos Andrade went to Folha with his story of being forced to erase his video, saying that he fears for his life.
In the gubernatorial debate on Thursday 27th October, candidate Fernando Haddad (PT) asked Tarcisio why he had his staff destroy evidence of murder. Tarcisio claimed he was acting in “good faith” to protect those present. Haddad repeated, “Did your campaign destroy murder evidence or not?”. Tarcisio had no plausible response.
“Did you destroy evidence, Tarcisio?”
“It was in good faith”
“So you destroyed it?”
The makeup of Tarcisio’s team is another cause for concern. There were seven military police officers, one federal police officer and an ABIN intelligence agent working for his campaign on the day of Felipe Lima’s murder, and opponent Fernando Haddad has pointed out that he doesn’t have any such security detail. It is not normal for Gubernatorial candidates to have police officers of any sort working for their campaign. The Federal Police officer who was – bizarrely – working for Tarcisio that day also worked for Jair Bolsonaro on the day of the controversial knife incident in Juiz de Fora during the 2018 election.
The implications are staggering, especially given that ABIN agents were involved, overseen by Bolsonaro ally, head of institutional security and key planner behind the Military’s return to power, General Heleno. By his side at Bolsonaro’s press conference on Thursday night, Heleno was the only high profile military figure who is still accompanying the president in public. Even Bolsonaro’s own vice, General Braga Netto, has been almost invisible during the second round of the election.
Although Tarcisio has been leading in polls, the candidates were technically tied two days before the election. In the wake of this developing scandal, Tarcisio’s campaign fear it could cost him the vote, which would cause the Bolsonaro coalition to lose its chance at governing Brazil’s largest state. It may also result in Tarcisio or his staff being charged with murder.
That this grave story and others similarly damaging to Bolsonaro and far right allies’ chances of re-election have been ignored by anglophone media will be another serious question for the aftermath.