Brazil’s epidemic of political violence ahead of municipal elections

. Nov 08, 2020
Brazil epidemic political violence ahead municipal elections Photo: 1000 Words/Shutterstock

On Wednesday afternoon, 50-year-old bartender Valmir Tenório was taking a stroll in the tourist town of Paraty, south of Rio de Janeiro, when he was shot and killed, being survived by his wife and three children. Besides tending bar, Mr. Tenorio was running for city councilor for the second time in the upcoming municipal elections on November 15. The local police have yet to identify a suspect.

Two years ago, Brazil was consumed by a fear of political violence. In March of 2018, Rio de Janeiro City Councilor Marielle Franco was assassinated on her way home from a political event.

</p> <p>Ms. Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes were killed instantly when their vehicle was shot at nine times in the city center. The case remains open. Two members of paramilitary police mafias have been identified as the perpetrators, but it is still unknown who ordered the hit.</p> <p>Later that year, on the presidential campaign trail, then-candidate Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed in the abdomen during a rally in the Minas Gerais town of Juiz de Fora. The perpetrator was apprehended and arrested at the scene and is now serving a prison sentence.</p> <p>However, as the murder of Valmir Tenório shows, Brazil is experiencing more of the same violence in the lead up to municipal elections. In fact, 2020 is set to be even more severe. </p> <p>Using data from state public security departments, <strong>The Brazilian Report </strong>ascertained that 15 candidates, pre-candidates, and political party officials were victims of violent murders between September 1 and November 4. In this same period, there have also been 30 reports of attempted murders, assault, and threats against politicians from 18 states.</p> <p>In the state of Rio de Janeiro alone, a candidate and canvasser were killed during the month of October. On the first day of the month, city council candidate Mauro Miranda was shot and killed in Nova Iguaçu, on the notoriously violent Fluminense coast. On October 31, canvasser Renata Castro was killed in Magé, just one day after she reported death threats from a rival councilor.</p> <p>In the same week as Valmir Tenório was <a href="">gunned down</a> in Paraty, a councilor running for re-election in Rio de Janeiro city was shot at a bar and survived. </p> <h2>Elected officials are walking targets</h2> <p>A survey by NGO Terra de Direitos e Justiça Global shows that Brazil has recorded at least 125 cases of assassinations and attempted murder of elected officials and candidates over the last four years and eight months, corresponding to an average of 27 cases a year. In total, there have been 327 cases of political violence in Brazil since 2016 — only 12 percent of suspects were identified.</p> <p>The NGO&#8217;s report reveals that cases of violence against politicians has grown in recent years, seeing a jump since the 2018 elections. Last year broke records in murder numbers, with 32 cases — but for 2020, the country already recorded 27 assassinations and murder attempts between January and September.&nbsp;</p> <p>The survey showed that there has been an increase in cases of violence targeting politicians at the municipal level, raising concerns for this month&#8217;s election. Approximately 92 percent of victims of attempted murders and assassinations were city councilors, mayors, deputy mayors and candidates.</p> <p>More men are victims of assault and assassination, but women politicians are targeted by more threats. The document reads that &#8220;for women seeking elected office, the violence is aimed at denying their recognition as political agents.&#8221;</p> <h2>Online political violence</h2> <p>After the assassination of Marielle Franco, her family created the Marielle Franco Institute, a non-profit organization seeking to promote the cause of black women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and residents of favelas — as was the case of Ms. Franco. This week, the institute released a survey exploring online attacks against black women candidates during the current election period. Seventy-eight percent of those interviewed reported having been targeted by this form of violence.</p> <p>Hannah Maruci, a researcher of women&#8217;s political representation, says that these attacks inhibit the entry of women into politics. She says that reporting these threats is fundamental. &#8220;Many women are afraid to suffer negative repercussions from the political parties, which is why we launched the My First Attack campaign. We want to expose and combat the systemic violence against black women in electoral campaigns,&#8221; says Ms. Maruci.

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Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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