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A woman passes by a poster of the murdered councilmember Marielle Franco on October 28, 2018 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Fighting on

One year after her assassination, Marielle Franco’s spirit energizes Rio’s struggles for justice

By WITW Staff on March 15, 2019

One year on from the brutal assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilmember Marielle Franco, enduring questions about who ordered the hit have become a rallying cry for the marginalized groups she championed.

A 38-year-old black gay politician who was born in Rio’s poverty-stricken Maré favela, Franco was a tireless opponent of the city’s use of heavily armed paramilitary militias. The militias police the city’s sprawling favelas, and have often been accused of violently terrorizing and murdering the city’s poor and LGBT citizens.

This week, two former police officers with connections to President Jair Bolsonaro were charged with killing Franco. One suspect, Ronnie Lessa, lived in the same condominium where Bolsonaro owns a home. The other, Elcio Vieira de Queiroz, has a photo of himself embracing Bolsonaro on his Facebook page. And according to police, the daughter of one of the suspects had dated one of Bolsonaro’s sons, who are both politicians themselves.

Activists allege that the former policemen were likely employed as contract killers on behalf of the militias, which Bolsonaro and his sons strongly support. Bolsonaro’s failure to condemn Franco’s murder — as well as his numerous comments and policy decisions targeting women, gays, and black Brazilians — have infuriated the late councilmember’s supporters.

“For years, we sold a postcard image of paradise, the country of Carnival, of happy, cordial people,” said Monica Benício, Franco’s surviving partner, in an interview with the New York Times. “The execution of Marielle, and the election of the current president, revealed to the world that we are racist, that we are sexist, misogynist, LGBT-phobic.”

But since Franco’s death, a new wave of black women have begun seeking political power to continue the work that she started. Renata da Silva Souza, Dani Monteiro, and Monica Francisco were all elected to Rio’s city council after Franco’s murder — putting three black women on the same council that once counted Franco as its sole black female member.

“Marielle still represents, if only in memory, a threat to the status quo,” said Souza, Franco’s former chief of staff. “She embodied the people who can be killed [with impunity].”

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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