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LatinNews Daily - 10 May 2021

BRAZIL: Bolsonaro praises police after deadly operation

On 9 May Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted praise to Rio de Janeiro state’s civil police, which was last week responsible for the deadliest operation in the state’s history.

Analysis:

The civil police’s raid on the Jacarezinho favela in the city of Rio de Janeiro on 6 May left a total death toll of 28, the police confirmed two days later. The deadly operation sparked widespread condemnation, with organisations such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressing concern over police abuses and calling for a thorough and independent investigation. President Bolsonaro, however, has brushed away such concerns and rejects criticisms of the violent policing methods laid bare in last week’s deadly raid, sticking with his hardline, tough-on-crime discourse.

  • In a tweet yesterday, Bolsonaro criticised “the media and the left” for treating “[drug] traffickers who steal, kill, and destroy families” – that is to say, the suspected criminals who were killed during the raid – as “victims”. “Congratulations to Rio de Janeiro’s civil police!”, he said. Vice President Hamilton Mourão made similar comments on 7 May, when he dismissed the casualties as “all thugs”.
  • One police officer lost his life during the raid; like Bolsonaro and Mourão, the force has declared that the other 27 civilian victims were all “criminals” despite failing to provide evidence of this. Of the 27 identified names, three had been wanted by the police; no proof has been given of the others’ supposed criminal records, while there are reports that the police failed to take steps to preserve evidence at the scenes of the deaths, complicating an investigation into the circumstances of the deadly raid.
  • Álvaro Quintão, the head of the human rights commission at the Rio chapter of Brazil’s national bar association (OAB-RJ), has rejected the police’s version, saying that the OAB identified victims who did not have a criminal history.

Looking Ahead: With multiple calls for investigations, including from Brazil’s supreme court (STF), and signs of irregularities and abuses, the police’s actions in the Jacarezinho raid are going to come under close scrutiny. This could serve both the agenda of rights activists advocating systemic change in policing in Brazil, particularly in favelas, and that of Bolsonaro, who could use the issue to fire up his radical supporters and deepen polarisation.