Crime and no punishment

Latest developments in the Marielle Franco case and how Bolsonaro could be involved

Scoops, controversies, and threats of authoritarianism marked last week in one of Brazil’s most notorious cases

Leia em português | Brasil de Fato | São Paulo

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New developments in the Marielle Franco case could expose reported links between Bolsonaro and the murderers / Agência Brasil

A witness who mentions the name of Jair Bolsonaro in events that preceded the murder of Marielle Franco and driver Anderson Gomes. A seething attack by the president of Brazil against the TV channel that reported the story. Contradicting statements by the prosecution service investigating the case, outrage after one of the president’s son posted a video showing that he had access to crucial evidence. To top it all off, a prosecutor investigating the Marielle Franco murder case stepped down after she was exposed for campaigning for Bolsonaro. And that’s just what happened last week.

Trying to understand the recent developments in the Marielle Franco murder case can feel overwhelming. So Brasil de Fato will break it down for you.

Tuesday, Oct. 29

It all started on Tuesday night, when Brazil’s top broadcaster Globo dedicated more than six minutes of its prime time news show to a scoop about a witness who reportedly implicated the then federal representative Jair Bolsonaro in events preceding the crime in connection with two suspects.

The Jornal Nacional news show reported on a testimony given by a doorman who worked at the gated community where the then federal representative Jair Bolsonaro owns a house. It’s the same community where one of the main suspects in the case also lived: Ronnie Lessa, accused of firing the shots that murdered Franco and driver Anderson Gomes on Mar. 14, 2018.

The doorman testified that Élcio Vieira de Queiroz, the man who allegedly drove the car that chased and ambushed the victims, gained entry to the gated community in the evening of the murder by telling the porter that he was visiting Bolsonaro at house number 58.

The doorman goes on to say, according to the report, that he called the house, and a voice he identified as being “Mr. Jair’s” let Queiroz in. But the man drove to another property, number 66, the home of Ronnie Lessa, who is currently being held as a primary suspect in the case.

The news show said that, according to anonymous sources, the two suspects then drove out together and changed cars, before allegedly driving to the area where Marielle Franco was gunned down.

Lessa and Queiroz were arrested in March this year over the murder of councilwoman Franco and driver Anderson Gomes.

The story showed evidence that Bolsonaro was hundreds of miles away, in Brasília, the capital of Brazil, at the time of the events. But that didn’t stop the president from live streaming an angry response immediately after the show, even though he was visiting Saudi Arabia and it was 4 a.m. at the time.

The president ranted against Globo, calling it “putrid” and “mischievous” and threatening to make it harder for the TV channel to renew its license after it expires in 2022. 

Bolsonaro also accused the far-right governor of Rio de Janeiro, Wilson Witzel, of leaking confidential information about the investigations. Witzel responded the next day claiming he has never leaked information. “I am sorry that the president, maybe in a moment of emotional dyscontrol, during a tour abroad, has made accusations against my work as governor,” he declared.

::One year without Marielle Franco::

Wednesday, Oct. 30

On Wednesday morning, Rio de Janeiro councilman Carlos Bolsonaro, one of the president’s sons, posted a video at the offices of the gated community where he and his father own houses, showing a computer screen with the phone records from the day of Marielle Franco’s murder.

He claimed that there were no phone records to his father’s house. As he showed that he had access to crucial evidence in the case, activists, lawyers, and politicians raised questions about whether the evidence was safe from tampering.

Meanwhile, the Rio de Janeiro prosecution office held a press conference to announce that the call was not made to the president’s house, but actually to the house of Ronnie Lessa, and that the doorman’s testimony was wrong.

On the same day, the news sites El País and Valor Econômico reported that the country’s former Federal Attorney General, Raquel Dodge, filed a petition with the Supreme Court on her last day in office, in September, so that the federal police could take over the investigations about the killing of Franco and Gomes. Dodge argued that there were “criminals infiltrated in Rio’s police forces” to make it harder to produce evidence, and that keeping the investigations in Rio could compromise the case.

::Video | The involvement of illegal militias in the murder of Marielle Franco::

Thursday, Oct. 31

An interview with federal representative Eduardo Bolsonaro, another of Bolsonaro senior’s sons, showed him suggesting that, in order to fight “radical leftists,” it could be necessary to take authoritarian measures such as the ones enforced during the country’s military dictatorship.

The member of parliament said that, to respond to “radicalized” leftist protests, it could be necessary to enact “a new AI5.” It is a reference to the Institutional Act Number 5, enacted in Brazil in 1968, when the military regime implemented its harshest, most brutal actions to clamp down on political rivals and anyone deemed a “communist.” Torture, illegal arrests, and political persecution became the norm.

The declarations sparked outrage among right- and left-wing politicians. Members of parliament of several parties decided to inform the Supreme Court to call for punishment and to start proceedings to remove him from office.

Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro, one of the president’s son, suggested the return of authoritarian rule to fight the “radicalized” left | Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

Later the same day, the congressman argued that he didn’t regret what he said, but maybe wouldn’t mention the AI5 in order to prevent the backlash.

On the same day, pictures of one of the prosecutors investigating Marielle Franco’s murder, and who took part in the press conference the previous day, emerged showing that she campaigned for the then presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Prosecutor Carmen Carvalho is also depicted next to a far-right state representative who broke a sign in honor of Marielle Franco.

::"What do you mean they killed Marielle?"::

Friday, Nov. 1

After harsh backlash and concerns about her possible bias, prosecutor Carmen Carvalho announced that she decided to step down from the investigations. She claimed that she has never “operated motivated by political or ideological reasons,” but because of the “deplorable attempts to tarnish” her “unbiased work,” she “voluntarily decided to no longer work on the Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes case.”

Carmen Carvalho was a prosecutor working on Marielle Franco’s case, but she decided to step down after it became clear that she was a strong supporter of president Bolsonaro / Instagram

Saturday, Nov. 2

President Jair Bolsonaro admitted to the press that he had access to the recordings of phone calls from the gatekeeper of the gated community where he lived, in Rio, to prevent the records from being “tampered with.”

“We took them before they were tampered with, or someone tried to tempered with them. We too all archives from the machine, which have been kept for more than a year. It’s not my voice,” the president declared, sparking once again outrage and concern among human rights activists, politicians, and legal professionals.

Monday, Nov. 4

On Monday, the president said he was “misinterpreted,” and that he didn’t actually take the records from the gated community offices. “I just filmed the machine playing the recording of the voice of who answered the phone. That’s it, nothing else. I didn’t take them, I didn’t do anything,” he said. “No one is trying to tamper with anything.”

After the recent developments, the police announced that they will hear the doorman once again.

Tuesday, Nov. 5

Organizations and movements are calling the people to take to the streets all over Brazil on Tuesday to protest Eduardo Bolsonaro’s attacks against left-wing forces and threats to re-enact oppressive legislation to clamp down on political rivals.

The demonstrators’ banners are “Enough of Bolsonaro” and “Justice for Marielle.”

::Marielle Franco’s death, one year later: Demonstrations in Brazil and the world::

*With reports by Cristiane Sampaio, Wallace Oliveira, O Globo, El País, and Folha de S. Paulo

Edition: Aline Scátola