Obstruction in Franco Murder Under Review

A crowd of protesters chants in honor of Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro. ( Flickr )

A crowd of protesters chants in honor of Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro. (Flickr)

As her last act in office, Brazil’s Attorney General, Raquel Dodge, initiated another investigation into the murder of Marielle Franco. Franco was a prominent human rights activist and politician who was murdered in March 2018. 

A black, openly bisexual, single mother from the Maré favela, Franco worked to become the voice of the people, especially the most marginalized. As Amnesty International reported, “For more than ten years, she served as a political activist and as coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of the Legislative Assembly of Rio de Janeiro, where she helped dozens of victims.” 

In fact, on the night of her death, March 14 2018, Franco was returning home from an event in Rio titled “Young Black Women Who Are Changing Power Structures,” when a car pulled up next to hers, from which the perpetrators fired nine shots. Franco was shot in the head four times.

Although the motive behind her murder remains unknown, the federal prosecutor’s office in Rio managed to link the evidence to two corrupt police officers, who were arrested for the crime in March 2019. This was unsurprising to many, as Franco’s master’s thesis criticized police brutality in primarily Afro-Brazilian favelas in Rio.

A photo of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with one of the police officers gained popularity on social media in March. After learning that one of Bolsonaro’s sons dated the other man’s daughter, Senator Humberto Costa of Pernambuco told the Guardian, “These relations between paramilitaries and the president of the republic must be explained.” 

In a turn of events made public by Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo, on her last day in office, Prosecutor General Dodge suggested that federal investigators take over the case to avoid tampering. 

According to BBC, she substantiated her claim by accusing five people of obstruction of justice. Domingos Brazão, a former board member of the Rio de Janeiro Auditors Court, is named by a federal police investigation shared with the DA’s office as the prime suspect behind the murders.

Besides him, Gilberto Ribeiro da Costa, Brazão’s subordinate, Hélio Khristian Cunha de Almeida, a federal police officer, Rodrigo Jorge Ferreira, a Rio police officer, and Camila Moreira Lima Nogueira, a lawyer, are also implicated. 

Dodge claimed to have ordered their indictments along with the request for the transfer of the investigation to federal authorities, both of which are yet to be approved by the Brazilian Superior Court of Justice (STJ). 

As reported by TIME Magazine, if Franco’s murderers intended to silence her, their efforts backfired: her murder mobilized tens of thousands of Brazilians and people around the world to demand justice. 

On September 22, the city of Paris inaugurated a garden bearing her name. Marielle’s fight against repression lives, even a year and a half after her death and on the other side of the world from the small Favela where she grew up.