Slain Rio councilwoman was voice of favelas' voiceless

People cry on the sidewalk next to scene where council member Marielle Franco and her driver have where shot to death
People cry on the sidewalk next to scene where council member Marielle Franco and her driver have where shot to death
Author

16 March, 2018

A councilwoman and human rights activist was killed in a hail of gunfire in Rio de Janeiro, dealing a blow to President Michel Temer's efforts to use a high-profile military intervention to smother violence in Brazil's postcard city. "How many more will have to die for this war to end?"

She was active in organizations like the Brasil Foundation and Cesam (Maré Center for Solidarity Actions) as well as at Alerj (Rio de Janeiro Legislative Assembly) itself.

Franco, 38, was born and raised in a network of favelas, or slums, called Mare, one of the city's most violent areas.

One of Franco's last posts on Twitter called attention to police violence. She was shot at around 9:30 p.m. Thursday in Estacio, a downtown neighbourhood, as she was returning from an event about empowering black women in Brazil, a cause she passionately championed.

But Franco's party said she had not reported receiving threats of late.

On Feb. 16, Brazil's federal government handed control of public security in Rio to the military, the first such move since the end of the dictatorship here in 1985.

Franco was among the most vocal critics.

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"I was very happy because it was a reply, through the polls, to the people who want to keep us black women from the favelas away from the debates", she said at the time.

Her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes, was also killed, and an aide was injured.

A few days earlier she tweeted about a poor neighborhood, Acari, where she said the local police unit acted as a death squad.

"Marielle was smiling, strong, sure of herself and kept her feet on the ground", said Marcela Lisboa, a former fellow activist in the leftist Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL).

Two police officials told Associated Press that two men in a auto fired nine shots into the vehicle carrying the popular 38-year-old councillor and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes. She was advocate for gender, racial and educational equality.

State and federal law enforcement agencies have announced investigations into the killing of Franco.

The attack, coming despite army intervention to control Rio's soaring crime rate, sparked immediate outrage around Latin America's biggest country. He said no possible motive is being ruled out.


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