POLITICAL PERSECUTION

Rio police uncover plot to kill congressman and human rights defender Marcelo Freixo

A fellow party member of Marielle Franco, Marcelo Freixo said “the law cannot let violent groups control people’s lives”

Leia em português | São Paulo

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A fellow party member of human rights activist Marielle Franco, killed in March, Rio congressman Marcelo Freixo faces death threats / ALERJ

The Rio de Janeiro police foiled a plot that was being devised by a paramilitary group to murder state representative and federal congressman-elect Marcelo Freixo last Saturday, when he would attend an event with activists and teachers, Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported, based on classified police documents.

According to the report, a military police officer and two merchants were planning to kill Freixo. The men allegedly have connections with the same militia group that is being investigated for the murder of a Freixo’s fellow party member, human rights defender, and black activist, councilwoman Marielle Franco.

After the plot was exposed by the police, Freixo spoke at a press conference on Friday and pointed out the culture of violence and a shallow reasoning that opposes public security policies and the defense of human rights as the components of the deep crisis Rio is facing today, both in terms of politics and democracy itself.

The politician also spoke about the developments in the Marielle Franco murder case early this year, as well as the ten-year mark of a congressional committee that investigated militia groups in Rio, on Dec. 10.

“We’ve faced dozens of threats over the past ten years. Threats coming from many different sources, and they were all officially reported by security authorities, like this recent one,” he said.

Freixo also highlighted how big and powerful the criminal groups operating in Rio de Janeiro state are.

“We can't believe in a Rio de Janeiro where a councilwoman is brutally assassinated and the crime is not solved, where there is a criminal group controlling such huge areas and being able to kill, threat, and exploit such a huge number of people,” he said.

The congressman argued that the issue got to this point because the government has not been able to articulate and actually further ideas to tackle it.

“This is the outcome of a public security policy that sees human rights as something apart from it. It’s [regarded as] something that gets in the way of public security. This culture of war, opposing human rights and public security, is what makes us have such a huge number of human rights defenders – whether public authorities or not – threatened or killed. Meawhile, there is also a huge number of police officers being killed. This has to stop,” he told reporters.

Freixo took the opportunity to once again dispel one of the misconceptions regarding the work of human rights defenders that is widespread in Brazil.

“A human rights defender is not pro-criminals. On the contrary – the criminals want to kill human rights defenders. Human rights defenders stand up for the law. And the law cannot let such a dangerous, violent group control people’s lives,” he said.

Edition: Tayguara Ribeiro