Ninety days and no answers: councilwoman Marielle Franco's murder remains unsolved

Amnesty International concerned with lack of new information on the case; Prosecutor’s Office faces pressure

São Paulo |
Anderson Gomes and Marielle Franco were executed three months ago; case remains unsolved
Anderson Gomes and Marielle Franco were executed three months ago; case remains unsolved - Photos from Facebook

Three months after the execution of Rio de Janeiro councilwoman Marielle Franco, who was shot at least 13 times on the night of March 14th, the crime remains unsolved. Franco, who was the fifth most voted-for member of council in the city’s 2016 election, had a long history of fighting for human rights and was actively engaged in politics, skillfully bringing together gender, race, and class issues. Days before her murder, she was appointed rapporteur to a committee established in Rio’s city council to monitor federal armed forces after they took over the city’s security in February. Franco’s family participated in a demonstration staged by Amnesty International (AI) last Wednesday (13) outside the Prosecutor’s Office in Rio to demand answers.

Renata Neder, a research, policy, and advocacy coordinator with AI, said the silence by the authorities is “alarming.” By the end of the demonstration, protesters filed an official letter asking the prosecution to conduct a more tenacious investigation, which Neder considers a necessary request. “Amnesty International also expects the Prosecutor’s Office to do its job and oversee police activities, watching and monitoring investigations,” Neder said. She believes the prosecution has to reaffirm its commitment to the case and give it top priority.

Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister of Public Security, Raul Jungmann, released an audio statement saying the investigations are definitely pointing to the work of militias. “This case became notorious around the world. The fact is that this is a complex crime to unravel. To my knowledge, [...] there was no information regarding motive. What was the threat? What was the conflict Marielle was involved in that could have led to this tragedy that happened to her? Evidently there are indications clearly implicating the militia in the crime,” the minister said.

Such a sophisticated crime really shows it was a premeditated action executed by professionals. According to newspaper O Globo, there are reports that changes were made to the ceiling of her office at the city council after the end-of-year recess, and now the police are investigating whether Franco was illegally wiretapped.

A committee was established at Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies to watch over the investigations on the murder of Franco and Anderson Gomes, who was driving the councilwoman home and was also shot to death. The committee’s deputy coordinator, Jandira Feghali, says she is also concerned with how long it is taking to solve the crime.

“We still don’t have solid, objective information on the investigation. We’ve met several times with police and intervention authorities, we’ve met with civil society entities, we’ve had closed meetings with criminalists and experts, and now we’re going to meet with the Prosecutor’s Office,” Feghali said.

More than just who pulled the trigger and killed Franco and Gomes, understanding the motive behind the crime is crucial to understand the case in a country where a member of city council is killed every month. According to the Union of City Council Members of Brazil (União de Vereadores do Brasil – UVB), at least 23 city mayors and members of council were murdered in Brazil in 2017 through March this year, when Franco was killed.

Edited by: Thales Gomes | Translated by Aline Scátola