LatinNews Daily - 30 May 2022

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BRAZIL: Police admit fault in George Floyd-style killing

Following nationwide outrage in Brazil over the brutal killing of a mentally-ill, black man by federal highway police (PRF) officers, on 28 May the PRF reversed its position and admitted to wrongdoing.


Even in a country accustomed to repeated scenes of violence, the latest case of blatant police brutality was shocking. The resulting public outcry, including that of legislators and the United Nations (UN), will heighten international scrutiny and may help to institutionalise proper police procedures, change mentalities, and force a higher level of transparency.

  • Genivaldo de Jesus Santos, aged 38, was stopped by three PRF officers on 25 May in Umbaúba town, Sergipe state, apparently for not wearing a helmet. Following a pat-down and verbal altercations, Genivaldo is seen being pinned on the ground, tied up, and thrown into the boot of a car, according to video footage on social media. Dangling feet are seen twitching and screams are heard as the car fills with tear gas.
  • We watched with indignation the events that took place in Umbaúba involving federal highway police officers that resulted in [Santos’] death”, the PRF said in a statement. “The procedures seen during the action are not in accordance with the guidelines in our institution's courses and manuals.”
  • The PRF had previously said that the officers used the “least offensive” measures and that his death was unrelated to their actions. Pressure on the police had mounted after protests and an outcry of anger across society.
  • The death of Genivaldo, in itself shocking, once again calls into question the respect for human rights in the actions of the police in Brazil”, said Jan Jarab, who heads the South America regional office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Many Brazilians likened the case to that of George Floyd who was killed in the US on exactly the same day two years earlier.
  • President Jair Bolsonaro, who himself often rides a motorcycle without a helmet, sidestepped a question about the case to instead recall another incident in which policemen had been killed by a homeless person.

Looking Ahead: The police are likely to face further pressure after an investigation by the ‘Fantástico’ TV programme produced by the Globo news site, broadcast on 29 May, suggested that it was not an isolated case, but part of a pattern with at least 18 other documented incidents in recent years.

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