Brazilian politicians arrested in alleged assassination of city councilwoman

 March 25, 2024

A Brazilian congressman and his brother have been arrested by the state police for the 2018 assassination of a prominent left-wing politician, Marielle Franco. 

The police pinned congressman Chiquinho Brazao, his brother Domingos Brazao, a, councilor on the Rio de Janeiro state audit court, and former Rio police chief Rivaldo Barbosa for hatching the plot.

Franco, an openly gay and black councilwoman in Rio de Janeiro, was considered a rising star in the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) when she was shot dead in March 2018, along with her driver.

Brazilian politicians charged with murder

Two former cops were initially arrested as the hitmen, Ronnie Lessa and Elcio de Queiroz. Lessa, who was the gunman, confessed about who ordered the hit, Brazilian authorities said.

Police have frozen bank accounts of others connected to the crime, and some of them, including Barbosa's wife, have been ordered to wear ankle monitors.

Justice Minister Ricardo Lewandowski said the crime was motivated by politics, citing Franco's opposition to the militias that operate as protection rackets in Rio's slums, where Franco grew up.

"We are very clear about who carried out and who ordered this hateful act, which was a politically motivated crime," Lewandowski said.

Franco's advocacy for public housing made her a target, Lewandowski said.

"In the municipal chamber, Marielle and her group strongly defended the right to housing, cadastral regularization, and the social use of the lands coveted by these mafias," he added.

Grieving sister reacts

Franco's sister Anielle Franco, Minister of Racial Equality, hailed the news of the arrests.

"God knows how much we dreamed of this day! Today is another big step towards getting the answers we've been asking ourselves for so long: who ordered Marielle’s murder and why?" she said.

"I thank the Federal Police, the federal government, the Federal and State Public Prosecutor's Offices and [Supreme Court] Minister Alexandre de Moraes for their commitment. We are closer to justice."

Brazil is known for its turbulent and divisive politics, with federal police indicting former president Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing ally of U.S. president Donald Trump, days ago for faking his vaccination records.

Bolsonaro has also been accused of fomenting a coup against the current socialist president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who took power in 2022.

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