Thousands have taken to the streets of Brazil’s largest cities protesting the execution-style murder of a popular Rio de Janeiro councillor. Marielle Franco was an outspoken lesbian politician fighting police killings of poor residents.
Investigators, prosecutors and even drug gang leaders said the shooting of Franco, 38, a rising star in the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), appeared to be a political assassination.
Franco, an activist for human rights and women’s causes, was killed along with her driver on Rio’s dangerous north side on 14 March. Her press secretary, who was traveling in the same vehicle, suffered minor injuries but was not shot.
Franco won the fifth-highest vote count of council members in 2015, defying the odds which were set against her as a black, gay woman.
She often spoke openly about the need to crack down on discrimination against minority groups, as well as police violence who she said exercised excessive force.
Police officials confirmed that two men in a car fired nine shots at Franco and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, 39, on 14 March.
“It is far too soon to say, but we are obviously looking at this as a murder in response to her political work, that is a main theory,” said a Rio de Janeiro public prosecutor.
Rivaldo Barbosa, head of Rio’s Civil Police, told reporters, “One of the possibilities in analysis is, yes, an execution.” He did not speculate on who may have been responsible.
An investigator with the city’s police force went further, saying the prime motive appeared to be Franco’s calling out police for allegedly killing innocents in their constant battles with drug gangs.
Political violence is common in Brazil but typically in smaller or more impoverished cities.