OSASCO, Brazil – A mother who lost her only son and a young man who narrowly escaped death are among the residents of Sao Paulo picking up the pieces after a massacre of 18 people that many blame on the police.
The killings took place in the Munhoz Junior favela, in a suburb of Sao Paulo called Osasco, a week ago. But the terror is fresh.
Residents describe how that night they heard shouting and cries at a neighborhood bar and when they came out found eight bloody bodies. At once they ran to find relatives of the dead men, who were all well-known locals.
“When they told me they had been shot I didn’t understand. I ran over and I saw him on the floor,” said Zilda de Paula, 62. “They killed my only son.”
“They” may have been police officers in plain clothes and black masks, according to investigators.
Police across Brazil are known for carrying out revenge killings of suspected criminals whenever one of their own is murdered — and in this case the masked squad is believed to have been avenging the earlier deaths of two officers.
The woman’s 34-year-old son Fernando Lopes de Paulo was killed execution style along with seven others in the bar where they had been drinking. Ten more people were shot in other incidents in Sao Paulo within a brief time period.
Anderson da Silva, 35, was lucky.
“I could have been one more of the dead. That day I left (the bar) a little early and went home. In ten minutes I lost eight friends,” he said.
Late Thursday, family and friends organized a memorial ceremony together with Catholic priests, an Evangelical pastor and a representative of the Afro-Brazilian faith called Candomble.
The crowd of a few dozen people gathered outside the now shuttered bar to pray and say aloud the names of each victim.
“God is life, not death, and he did not want this to happen. We will not forget, so that this doesn’t happen again here,” said Martin Islas, a Mexican priest who ministers to the poor in Brazil.
“We want justice, just as we want education and work. We also want peace,” he said to applause.
But few here expect that much.
Flowers, candles and cards were placed outside the bar. “We just want peace, even if this is only a dream,” someone had written.
“No one cares about us, we’re forgotten here. The police don’t care, they never patrol and we have to look after ourselves,” said one local resident, who did not want to be named.
Lais, 20, said: “We’re afraid, but if no one speaks up, how do we change things?”
“This kind of thing has happened often before. We know that when they kill a police officer this will happen,” said Lais, who did not want to give his full name.
The authorities say there are at least 10 suspects, but analysts say the real problem, deeper than this particular investigation, is a police culture with roots in Brazil’s dictatorship which ended three decades ago.
Just last year police in Sao Paulo killed 700 people during official operations, a figure that does not include alleged death squad killings.
“We have been abandoned in the face of these deliberate acts of vengeance,” said Carlos Silva, a youth activist taking part in the memorial ceremony.
Before heading off to their homes, the residents of Munhoz Junior shouted together: “Justice, justice!” – Natalia Ramos, Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.