(TheAntiMedia) BELEM, BRAZIL- Last week in the northern state of Pará, Brazil, 10 people in the town of Belém were assassinated at random in retaliation for the death of a corporal in ROTAM. ROTAM is a special task force for the state’s official military police, but the massacre is suspected to have been committed by a “militia,” recognized in Brazil as a criminal organization populated by police, both active and retired.
As The New York Times reported in 2012, they
“extort protection money from residents, operate unlicensed public transportation, charge commissions on real estate deals, mete out punishment to those who cross them and, most alarming, carry out extrajudicial killings.”
The corporal whose November 4th murder prompted the most recent massacre in the poor, slum city was known as Antônio Figueiredo. He was suspected of being in a militia. At the time of his death, he was suspended from his post for “health reasons” and was being investigated for two homocides.
Known as “Pet,” Figueiredo’s murder inspired retaliation. In a Facebook post, his colleague, Sergeant Rossicley Silva, blamed a war between rival gangs:
“Our little brother Pet has just been assassinated. Let’s give the response.”
Apparently, the response was to murder innocent people at random in the neighborhoods of Terra Firme and Guamá. This was carried out in the middle of the night by masked men who rode on motorbikes, terrorizing the city. Another post read
“The hunt has started…watch out tramps…ROTAM has blood in its eyes.”
Silva later clarified his words by saying
“I asked for support in the sense of combating criminality. Our objective is not revenge.”
However, observers feel differently.
Ana Lins, a lawyer for the Pará Society for the Defense of Human Rights, noted that
“There is a big probability that if there was not active police involvement then there were people who already passed through the police.”
She called it a “summary execution.”
Alexandre Ciconello, a Human Rights Adviser at Amnesty International Brazil is confident that “it was an orchestrated massacre to kill people.”
People in the affected region agree. As Time reported:
“One Terra Firme resident, who asked not be named for security reasons, claimed Figueiredo’s militia was competing for control of the drug trade in the lawless slums where much of the killing took place. The militia also acted as a death squad, said the resident, hired by local businesses to kill drug gang members. ‘They are like vigilantes who kill bandits, then they become killers.’”
The police “vigilantes” went so far as to text residents through WhatsApp, warning
“Don’t go to Guamá, Canudos or Terra Firme tonight. It concerns your security. One of our policemen was killed and we will be cleaning the area.”
But they killed innocent people, anyway.
The Terra Firme resident shared that of the ten murdered in Belém, one was a 20-year-old man who collected fares for the town minibus and another was a sixteen-year-old boy. Civil police, who work alongside “offensive,” “street”military police, are said to be investigating.
“These kinds of retribution and extrajudicial killings are very common, not just in Belém, but also in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.”
While American police have killed 11,000 Americans in the last 30 years
–a disturbing figure –Brazilian police reached that same number from 2009 to 2013, about 6 people a day. 2,212 people were murdered by police in Brazil just last year.
While this may lead to the logical conclusion that police can be far worse around the world than in America
–so really, we have it pretty good – it demonstrates something far more universal: No, police do not routinely engage in murder off the job in America (they do sometimes), but police around the world are prone to violence, violations of rights, and oppressive tactics. Only the degree and the skill of propagandizing varies.
In the United States, police do many of the things that Brazilian police do. They actively engage in the drug trade. They are armed to the teeth and fully militarized with tanks, assault rifles, and the mentality that they rule over the populace. It may not be as extreme or as blatant, but the foundational corruption in the United States parallels that of Brazil’s, even if both forces portray themselves as out to protect and serve.
American police may not be at the point of massacring random civilians for the sake of revenge against drug cartels, but they exert the same carelessness for human life for their own gain: usually, that gain is an overblown sense of authority and power, which is the same mentality that prompted the killings in Belém. Further, many would argue that the very existence of armed police (who often extort money from citizens for the state) is akin to the gangs of cops in Brazil who extort citizens directly.
In spite of varying degrees of police corruption around the world, the common pattern remains clear: when people in positions of authority are given a monopoly on violence and the discretion to use it, it is inevitable that violence becomes the main currency of attaining goals
–no matter how noble or corrupt they may be.
As the WhatsApp text that warned of the massacre read:
“There’s no stopping any of us, not even the highest colonel. The boys are on the loose.”