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Sat May 8, 2021, 08:39 PM

A Deadly Police Raid in Rio Show How Bolsonaro's Policies Are Wreaking Havoc in Brazil

Miranda is a congressman for Rio de Janeiro state from Brazil’s Socialism and Liberty Party

When Jair Bolsonaro successfully campaigned for the Brazilian presidency in 2018, one of his central promises was to unleash the police in the favelas (slums) which are home to most of the nation’s poor and largely Black citizens. The long-time far-right Congressman, on the campaign trail, vowed greater violence in the name of fighting drug gangs and promised to provide even stronger legal immunities to police officers who kill innocents.

On Thursday, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilians once again witnessed the horrific and savage consequences of that approach, one that strongly echoes that of Filipino strongman Rogerio Duterte. Duterte has become globally notorious (and domestically popular) for championing extra-judicial police slaughter that kills drug dealers and law-abiding, working-class residents alike. Bolsonaro, an admirer of authoritarianism wherever it emerges, has for years been eager to import that model to Brazil.

In Jacarezinho—one of Rio’s largest favelas where I grew up and my family still lives—police entered at dawn on May 6 with the stated goal of arresting drug traffickers. The invading force resembled more an army at war than a conventional police operation. They used armored helicopters, tank-like vehicles, and around two hundred heavily armed officers.

By the time they left nine hours later, at least twenty-nine people were dead. One of the dead was a police officer, the rest lived in the favela. Bolsonaro’s Vice President, Gen. Hamilton Mourão, immediately claimed, without presenting any evidence, that all the dead were “gang members.”

It was the deadliest police operation in the city’s history. Two people riding a nearby subway were wounded by stray bullets. Many of Jacarezinho’s 40,000 residents spent the day locked in their homes utterly terrorized by police forces claiming to bring security to their lives as they invaded a home of a family unrelated to the drug trade, and shot in front of their 9-year-old daughter an unarmed man who had fled into the house.


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