The police of Rio de Janeiro concluded this Monday (7) that 21-year-old student and LGBTQ rights activist Matheusa Passarelli was assassinated in one of the shanty towns (known in Brazil as favelas) in the north of the city. Passarelli was missing since Sunday, April 29. After a week of investigations, the police search team determined that their body may have been burned by drug traffickers.
Passarelli's murder happened as the city is living under a military intervention ordered by Brazilian president Michel Temer, and less than two months after the execution of human rights activist and bisexual councilwoman Marielle Franco, who denounced black genocide and crimes committed by military agents in the city. An observatory of the military operation has reported that the rate of shootings, stray bullet incidents, and violent deaths in the city have doubled after two months of federal intervention.
Passarelli was an audiovisual arts student at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro – UERJ) and an activist from a local LGTBQ collective. They identified as nonbinary, as they didn’t identify as male or female. The police suspect the crime was motivated by LGTBQ-phobia. Passarelli was the first person in their family to go to university. They once had declared, “I've always wanted to study in a Public University, since my childhood.”
Passarelli was last seen leaving a party at the Encantado neighborhood, in the northern area of Rio de Janeiro. The police officers who are investigating the case reported that Passarelli was killed early on Sunday (29) morning. No suspect or motive has been established yet.
After Passarelli went missing, their family organized a search campaign in the favela where they had been last seen and also started a campaign on social media with the hashtag "Cadê Matheusa Passarelli" (Where is Matheusa Passarelli?). But they eventually had to stop searching for them in the favela to avoid “putting more lives in danger." "We had to stop the search and focus our energies on the official investigation. According to their information, my sibling was executed when they entered one of the communities in the neighborhood,” their brother Gabriel Passarelli wrote on Facebook.
Edited by: Resumen Latinoamericano | Translated by The Dawn and reviewed by Aline Scátola