EspañolWhile the world keeps its eyes on Mexico and the tragic disappearance of 43 students, military-police officers in northern Brazil are the suspects in a killing spree that has left a reported 10 people dead.
According to local police reports, thugs killed 10 people on the dawn of November 5 in the port city of Belém, near French Guiana. Residents of Belém have identified the suspects as policemen belonging to a militarized unit and have described it as a retaliation over the death of police officer Antonio Marcos da Silva Figueiredo, 43.
On November 4, three unidentified gunmen killed the policeman, just hours before the more severe outburst of violence. Military-police agents raided the neighborhoods of Guamá, Terra Firme, Marco, Jurunas, and Sidera, allegedly seeking vigilante justice.
Belém’s inhabitants claim that the death toll could actually be as high as 20 victims, as recounted by human-rights-NGO Amnesty International. As of Friday, November 7, local authorities had confirmed six bodies that appeared to have been executed.
“After the death of the military-police agent, information emerged from Terra Firme [a neighborhood in Belém] indicating that a massacre could take place and suggesting that people stay home,” said a family member of one of the victims killed that night.
While the civil police are still investigating the causes and details behind the murder of officer Figueiredo, members of the elite unit of the military police have branded their presence in the act of revenge. They did so in a brazen manner, organizing it via social media.
“The hunt has begun … The ROTAM [military police] have blood in their eyes,” appeared on an unofficial police-related page on Facebook the same night that Figueiredo was killed.
After this message, other voice notes and videos spread through social media. One of the audios, shared through the instant-messaging application WhatsApp, suggested that the residents of Guamá neighborhood should stay home, since the military police would “clean up” the city after the death of Figueiredo.
Amnesty International has shared details from locals, that the military police blocked the streets with their cars to impede the entrance or exit of cars or pedestrians. Furthermore, neighbors of the area confirmed seeing two cars and at least five motorbikes ridden by masked gunmen.
Public Safety Secretariat officials, however, have rejected the allegations against the military police. They counter that social-media reports should be disregarded, and that they would be releasing more official updates.
Local police authorities have promised to appoint more officers to the case, but have rejected the call for federal agents in the city.
“People must not panic. There are lots of individuals trying to take advantage of the situation and the rumors over the internet, looking to create chaos,” said Prosecutor Armando Teixeira.
On November 6, the Brazilian Senate’s Human Rights Council condemned the events in a letter and expressed concerns over the police involvement.
“The Human Rights Council have already sent letters to public organizations in the state of Pará, requesting expedited and independent investigations, and a strict punishment for those involved in these barbaric killings,” reads the letter.
Translated by Adam Dubove. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.