LatinNews Daily - 23 November 2021

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BRAZIL: Rio police face questions after deadly operation

On 22 November, the public prosecutor’s office in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state (MPRJ) announced that it is launching an investigation into a police operation carried out in the Complexo do Salgueiro favela in the municipality of São Gonçalo a day earlier, and which seemingly left over a dozen people dead. 


Local residents found at least eight bodies in a mangrove after an operation led by the state military police’s (PM) special operations unit (Bope) in the Complexo do Salgueiro on 21 November, and there have since been reports of further victims. The police say the deaths were the result of a shootout after they were met by heavy fire from criminals; locals say the police carried out a massacre and that the bodies of the victims bore signs of torture. 

  • Bope’s 21 November operation came a day after a PM sergeant died after being shot at during a patrol in a neighbourhood in the Complexo do Salgueiro. On Twitter, the PM said the operation was carried out to “stabilise the situation and cease confrontations” and that it has launched an internal investigation into the events; residents accuse the police of entering the favela with the intention of killing out of revenge. 
  • Eight male bodies were found and removed from the mangrove, seven of which have been identified. But there are reports of more victims; Faferj, a grouping of Rio state’s favela associations, said on Twitter that 14 bodies had been found, including three girls. Meanwhile, according to residents’ accounts in the local press, some of the victims were disfigured. 
  • “What happened this weekend in the Complexo do Salgueiro is a tragedy, but not an exception”, Maria Isabel Couto, programmes director at the Instituto Fogo Cruzado, which runs a platform that monitors shootings in Rio, said. NGO Human Rights Watch put out a statement yesterday questioning the police’s version of events, recalling that the supreme court (STF) banned police operations in Rio’s favelas for the duration of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and calling for a thorough and impartial investigation by the MPRJ. 

Looking Ahead: Brazil’s police are rarely brought to justice for the abuses they commit while on duty – following the Jacarezinho massacre in May, just two police officers have been charged by the MPRJ, and none have yet been convicted.

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