RIO DE JANEIRO – A Rio de Janeiro city councilor who was a staunch opponent of the deployment of the army into crime-ridden areas of that Brazilian metropolis has been shot and killed, officials said.
Marielle Franco, a well-known human rights activist who was the fifth-highest vote-getter in Rio de Janeiro city council elections in 2016, was gunned down Wednesday night while riding in her car on a downtown street after taking part in a political event.
The driver of the vehicle also was killed, while one of Franco’s advisers, a woman identified as Fernanda Chaves, was slightly wounded.
Gunmen riding in another vehicle carried out the attack, shooting indiscriminately before fleeing the scene without stealing anything, the Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro State said.
The attack came a day after the 38-year-old city councilor had posted a message on social media criticizing the deployment of army soldiers to Rio’s sprawling “favelas” (shantytowns).
Franco, who during her political career was a strong advocate for the human rights of Afro-Brazilian women like herself, had earlier posted other messages denouncing police violence in Rio de Janeiro.
The crime occurred nearly a month after Brazilian President Michel Temer issued a decree putting the military in charge of security in Rio de Janeiro state, a move aimed at combating a wave of violence there that dates back to the 2016 Olympics and left 6,731 people dead last year, including more than 100 police killed and 10 children who died after being struck by stray bullets.
In a statement Thursday, London-based human rights group Amnesty International denounced the “targeted assassination” and said it was “a sickening development” that must be fully, promptly and impartially investigated.
“This a chilling development and is yet another example of the dangers that human rights defenders face in Brazil. As a member of Rio de Janeiro’s State Human Rights Commission, Marielle worked tirelessly to defend the rights of black women and young people in the favelas and other marginalized communities,” AI’s Brazil director, Jurema Werneck, was quoted as saying.
The rights group noted in the statement that Franco had been named two weeks ago as rapporteur for a “special commission that the city council created to monitor the ongoing federal intervention in Rio de Janeiro and the militarization of public security.”