Marielle’s Assasination and Military Death Squad Tactics

by Carlos Tautz.

Diversionary tactics used by multiple teams: similarities between 1981 and 2018

A week has passed since the assassinations of Marielle Franco and the driver Anderson Gomes, but neither the Civil Police nor the corporate and alternative press have revealed the motives, the responsible parties or the engineers of this political crime.

However, the details we do know help explain the political underworld and urban violence which led to the political executions,  and connect the event to other political crimes that changed Brazilian history, such as the assassinations on Toneleros street and the bomb detonated in the National Lawyers Association headquarters building in Rio during the dictatorship era.

What draws special attention are the tactical similarities between Marielle and Anderson’s executions and the failed clandestine operation which resulted in the death of an army sergeant and injuries to a captain in Riocentro in 1981. The two were part of the first of four death squads sent to the convention center by the infamous Army National Information Service (Serviço Nacional de Informações/SNI) and the Departamento de Operações e Informações – Centro de Operação e Defesa Interna (Information and Operations Department-Center of Internal Defense Operations/DOI-CODI) secret police force . The SNI and the DOI-CODI were a key part of the Military-Business Dictatorship’s political repression apparatus.

The goal of this operation by the far-right was to detonate various bombs to spread terror among 18,000 people who were watching a show to commemorate International Workers Day. Aborted due to an accidental bomb explosion, the fiasco of this failed operation fractured the military government and accelerated the end of the dictatorship.

The techniques used in the assassinations of Marielle and Anderson remind us of this and other political repression operations, although we still can not confirm that it was the military and/or the military police who executed the councilwoman and her driver.

This is because the issues that she was involved in for years – investigations of paramilitary militias, arms trafficking and police violence against the poor population – in themselves, raise the possibility of revenge as an explanation for her death. But the fact that Marielle had transformed herself into an active councilwoman who criticized the military occupation of Rio head on, had national repercussions to the point that her name was suggested to run for Vice-Governor for the Partido Socialismo e Liberdade (Socialism and Liberty Party/PSOL)  in the October, 2018 elections and this is a central possibility for the motive of her assassination.

In this sense, the circumstances and facts of the assassinations suggest involvement of active military police and ex-agents of political repression and raise questions that still need to be explained..

The methods used

1. At least two cars (a Renault Logan and a Chevrolet Cobalt) and at least three people participated in the assassination. Police sources consider that a third, yet to be identified vehicle, could have provided coverage for the other two. The far-right wing operation in Riocentro also used several teams working together;

2. By deliberately leaving two traceable bullet cartridges at the crime scene,  Marielle and Anderson’s killers wanted to incriminate someone- we don’t yet know who. The press is treating it as fact that all the bullets came from a batch of ammunition that was taken from the Federal Police in 2006, although the examination hasn’t confirmed the origin of the  11 bullets found on the scene. The Riocentro bombing operatives also used a diversionary tactic. They painted graffiti from the Popular Revolutionary Vanguard (VPR), an armed resistance group which had already been dismantled by the military,  on signs and billboards around the crime scene;

3. The cartridges for the bullets that killed Marielle and Anderson could have easily been collected if the killers had used a simple piece of equipment similar to a plastic bag. If fastened to the pistol that the fatal bullets were fired from, it could have collected all the cartridges. Furthermore, the assassins could have shot from inside, causing the cartridges to fall into the vehicle that was used in the crime;

4. The technique of pulling up parallel to the vehicle shooting in from the side is old, but the killers avoided shooting Marielle laterally, preferring to shoot from a few meters behind the councilwoman’s vehicle. If they had shot laterally they probably would have killed the assistant who was sitting next to Marielle, who miraculously survived, and not the driver who was in the front seat who was hit because he was in the line of fire. The bullets used, 9mm, have great power and generally kill more people than the main target; and

5. The Civil Police who the Army recruited in the 1960s to train the military members of DOI-CODI in the fight against regime opponents taught that, in these types of operations, one should partially or totally use people from different cities to make it more difficult to identify the suspects. This may explain the Renault Logan allegedly used in the crime which was subsequently traced to the town of Ubá in Minas Gerais. However, the Ubá police chief quickly discarded the possibility that the owner of the car was involved and emphasized that the Rio Civil Police report, which will examine the vehicle, will have the final say on the matter.

Questions that Need to be Addressed

1. The  Rio de Janeiro City traffic control division (Companhia de Engenaria de Tráfico/CET-Rio) announced that they had 10 traffic cameras in the area where Marielle and Anderson were assassinated which could have helped solve the crime but that 4 or 5 of them were broken. The crime scene is located less than 1 kilometer from the Rio Mayor’s Offices Center of Operations (COR) where the Municipal Guard and the CET-Rio control hundreds of traffic cameras spread throughout the city. It is peculiar that up to half of the cameras would be broken so close to the headquarters, and that those cameras are the very ones that could have solved the crime;

2. Marielle and Anderson’s car was attacked directly in front of the Civil Police hospital, an institution that is integrated into the state security system and, due to this, has its own security cameras. There is a state vehicle department building next to the hospital which also has a closed circuit security TV system. There is an enormous car dealership directly across the street from the hospital which could also have security cameras. Therefore, in theory, there should be enough cameras to have recorded the movements of the criminals;

3. There is an unusual level of trust that the Civil Police will solve a political crime. The institution is a traditional supplier of specialized labor to the same militias that Marielle investigated when she worked in the Rio State Legislature. Until recently, the Civil Police was directed by Alvaro Lins, who was subsequently convicted for formation of an armed criminal gang.

During the dictatorship Army looked to the Civil Police (experts in investigations and arrests), the Fire Department (experts in bomb building and disarmament) and the Military Police (experts in all types of shameful behavior) for personnel to compose the state’s DOI-CODI organization. Rio’s DOI-CODI department worked out of the army barracks on Barão de Mesquita street in the Tijuca neighborhood.

When the dictatorship ended, part of the DOI-CODI operatives entered into organized crime. Another part started working as bodyguards for the Jogo do Bicho gambling mafia and the rest returned to the Civil Police where they created the CORE (Coordenadoria de Recursos Especiais/Special Resources Unit), which is a kind of special forces unit and the Civil Police’s answer to the BOPE; and

4. Fantástico, the most watched television program in Brazil,  dedicated almost 20 minutes of programing (an eternity in the world of TV) on March 18th, to the assassinations of Marielle and Anderson.

For this special report, Globo TV released a video (illegally leaked by someone involved in the investigations) from a security camera installed on Inválidos street in downtown Rio at a point that enabled perfect filming of the Marielle’s car as well as two others that were involved in her assassination, minutes before she was killed.

The video was narrated by the ex-chief of Rio’s Civil Police, now a “security consultant” for Globo,   Fernando Veloso, who ended his analysis with the following observation: the killers were professionals and used professional techniques and equipment. They could, therefore, be members of the police or military. It was the words of someone who understood.

Then, a live feed came into the report (something rare in Sunday night programing) with a reporter standing in front of the presidential palace in Brasilia, saying that the federal government was allocating more money for the army occupation in Rio.

The report on the double assassination ended, but later on, Fantastico interrupted its programing with an improvised speech without a pre-prepared text (another thing that rarely occurs in the highly produced Fantastico program), to make a statement.

According to the reporter, the security consultant did not precisely mean to say what he precisely said: that it was probably the police or the military or both who were involved in the assassinations.

This incident suggests that some high ranking military or police authority – at the top level- directly contacted Globo to demand an immediate retraction.

We remember that during the dictatorship Globo and O Dia newspapers maintained direct hotlines with the SNI director in Rio, installed in the Departmento Estadual de Estradas de Rodagem (Rio de Janeiro State Roads and Highways/DER-RJ) headquarters, located on Presidente Vargas avenue in the heart of downtown Rio. There, the police and military maintained a dedicated phone line to dictate what should be covered on sensitive subjects to reporters from the two newspapers.

Furthermore, since at least the beginning of the February 16 military occupation the DER-RJ headquarters has resumed its hosting of people in military uniforms. It’s not an accident. The DER-RJ monitors important roads like Avenida Brasil and the Rio-Niterói bridge (and the video cameras installed on them), which are strategic for accessing the city.

The Political Impact of the Execution

This crime will have repercussions for the presidential election and the Rio state gubernatorial election.

The execution of Marielle and Anderson seems to have dropped Michel Temer’s popularity to nearly zero, which previously was around 3%, despite the fact that he is planning on using the military intervention to help his reelection. Another politician who could be affected is the President’s Chief of Staff  Moreira Franco. It was his idea to order the Military occupation. Moreira, from the PMDB party, has been fighting with the current party leaders in Rio de Janeiro (jailed ex-governor Sergio Cabral and state congressman Jorge Picciani), apparently to help his campaign for Congress in October so that he can get parliamentary immunity if he is charged with corruption.

On the state level, the commotion around Marielle’s death brought thousands of people to the streets, many of whom were not traditional members of her political party, the PSOL, which could result in its candidate councilman Tarcísio Motta, making it to the second round in the governor’s race in October. Elected to the city council with the second highest number of votes in 2016, Tarcisio came in 5th place in 2014 when he ran for governor for the first time, with 9% of the votes.

The media companies that have set the tone on the Marielle case are moving in a way to show that her and Anderson’s deaths had motives that are not related to the immediate issues she was involved in. But the questions remain: Why Marielle? What were the motives? Who pulled the trigger? Who ordered the assassinations?

The more time that goes by before the case is solved, the harder it will be to answer these questions.  And the old system for “burning records” will further evolve, resulting in more suspicious police and military deaths in alleged cases of urban violence

This article was translated by Brasil Wire. It can be read in its original Portuguese here

Carlos Tautz is a Rio de Janeiro based Journalist who has worked for 30 years in NGOs, communications firms and as a press attache for private companies and the Federal Government. In 2011 he and a group of historians, social scientists and economists formed the Instituto Mais Democracia (More Democracy Institute) which works for increased transparency and citizen controll over governments and corporations.