Rio De Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel orders use of helicopter snipers in poor communities and police break 20 year record for killing civilians.
On Sunday, May 5, a video appeared on the internet, showing Rio de Janeiro’s right-wing extremist governor, Wilson Witzel, addressing the camera: “Hello people,” he said, “we are starting today, in Angra dos Reis, along with the mayor Fernando Jordão, an operation, with the CORE (Civil Police special forces), with the Military Police, the Civil Police to end, once and for all this banditry that is terrorizing our marvelous city of Angra do Reis. We are starting our operation today. We are ending this mess. We are going to put our house in order. Let’s go!”
The video cuts to Witzel inside a helicopter and footage of police helicopter flying low over a favela in the southern Rio de Janeiro city of Angra dos Reis with the sound of gunfire.
On Monday a new video began circulating on the internet, showing another police helicopter flying extremely low over slain city councilwoman Marielle Franco’s former neighborhood, Maré, shooting downwards, in a police operation which took place as local schools were getting out, that left 8 maré residents dead. Photos taken on the scene show terrified school children running from the scene. Residents said all the deaths were caused by helicopter gunmen.
In all, 13 people have been killed by the Rio de Janeiro police in the last 72 hours, which represents the highest number of police killings in this amount of time the last 20 years – this in a state where police killed over 1000 civilians in 2017. Although specific data on victims has not been released yet, it is safe to assume, based on patterns of police killings in Rio de Janeiro, that most victims were Black.
Shortly after Wilson Witzel, a member of Jair Bolsonaro’s neofascist PSL party, surprised Brazil by coming out of nowhere to win last year’s Rio de Janeiro gubernatorial elections, he announced that he was going to encourage Rio police to use snipers to kill anyone “suspected of carrying a weapon”. When Amnesty International and human rights lawyers warned him that this is illegal he said, “I will personally defend them in court if necessary.”
It now appears that he has ignored all warnings and is moving ahead in a year which is already proving to be one of the worst in terms of police killings in Rio de Janeiro history.
“He is not a normal person,” said Brazilian journalist Luis Nassif. “He has the instincts of an assassin. He will eventually be condemned by international courts for crimes against humanity, but until this happens there will be people dying on the streets at his hand.”
Bolsonaro’s Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who was clearly awarded his cabinet position in exchange for removing former President Lula from the elections last year, has announced a new anti-crime bill, which if passed, will enable police to shoot anyone who makes them “feel afraid”. If it is ratified in Congress, the genocide against Afro-Brazilian youth, already increasing in intensity in Rio de Janeiro, is expected to exacerbate nationally.