Protests planned across Brazil after Rio councillor shot dead

Marielle Franco, known for criticism of police tactics, was killed in apparent assassination

Protests are planned across Brazil after a popular Rio city councillor and her driver were shot dead by two men in what appears to have been a targeted assassination.

Marielle Franco was a groundbreaking politician who had become a voice for disadvantaged people in the teeming favelas that are home to almost one-quarter of Rio de Janeiros population, where grinding poverty, police brutality and shootouts with drug gangs are routine.

Richard Nunes, Rios head of public security, said there would be a full investigation into the deaths, which came despite the military taking charge of policing the city last month after a surge in violence.

Two police officials told Associated Press that two men in a car fired nine shots into the vehicle carrying Franco and her driver, Anderson Pedro Gomes. A press officer in the back seat was injured, but survived, the officials said. Both officials said it appeared Franco was targeted.

Franco was a black woman who defied the odds of Rio politics to win the fifth-highest vote count among council members when she was elected in 2016. She was an expert on police violence and had recently accused officers of being overly aggressive in searching residents of gang-controlled shantytowns. A member of a leftist party, Franco was also known for her social work in slums. She was in her first term in office.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemned the killings, while friends, colleagues and politicians paid tribute to her.

Daiene Mendes, 28, a journalism student and an activist from the Complexo do Alemo favela, said: More than a friend, Marielle was a symbol of our biggest conquests. A woman like us, black, from the favela, who had a lot of strength to face the institutional challenges of the politics that always kept us distant.

Marcelo Freixo, a member of the Rio legislative assembly from Francos Socialism and Liberty party, said he went to the crime scene in the Estcio area as soon as he heard his friend had been killed.

The scene is clearly of an execution, he said. The shots were all directed at her. They were all from a professional.

Brazils former president Dilma Rousseff described Franco as a tireless social warrior. Sad days for a country where a human rights defender is brutally murdered, she said in statement.

Redes da Mar, a non-profit group based in the favela where Franco grew up, described the killing as an irreparable loss.

Ricardo Ismael, Francos teacher and course tutor for a social sciences degree she took at Rios Pontifical Catholic University, said Brazil had lost a capable politician at a time when it needed political renovation.

She had a very promising future, he said. She was already standing out in terms of debate, leadership capacity and intellect.

In February, the state of Rio was placed under a federal intervention that put Gen Walter Braga Netto in charge of public security and has seen soldiers carrying out operations in gang-run favelas in a controversial attempt to curb rising crime.

On Thursday, the government said Brazils new public security minister, Raul Jungmann, had spoken to Netto and made Brazils Federal Police agency available to work on the investigation.

One of Francos final posts on Twitter called attention to police violence. Another homicide of a young man that could be credited to the police. Matheus Melo was leaving church when he was killed. How many others will have to die for this war to end? she wrote.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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