The lives of Maré residents matter!

A violent police operation in the Maré community, which took place on the morning of 20 June and which included shots being fired from a helicopter moving at high speeds, resulted in the death of seven people, including a fourteen year old boy.

“It is unacceptable and repugnant to see shots being fired from a police helicopter into a community full of innocent people who have nothing to do with the violence that occurs on a daily basis in Rio de Janeiro”, said Luke Dowdney, Fight for Peace Founder & CEO, as the first messages and videos from local residents and organisations came through, detailing the human rights abuses that were taking place.

“The shots were fired very close to a school and it was frightening to hear the screams of thousands of terrified children. Can you imagine your children in a school or crèche with a helicopter firing from an automatic weapon above their heads? How would you feel? How is this acceptable today in a Rio de Janeiro community?”

It was yet another day in which the Maré community mourned the loss of local residents, among them 14 year old Marcos Vinicius da Silva, who was shot in the stomach on his way to school. According to the organisation Fórum Basta de Violência, following the incident there was evidence of more than one hundred bullets found on the streets of Nova Holanda, located in Maré.

Given the seriousness of the human rights abuses perpetrated by Brazilian security forces in this operation, judicial steps were subsequently taken to make the practice of firing weapons from aircraft illegal in favelas and other densely populated areas [1].

“The use of a helicopter, travelling at high speed, as a base for firing weapons in urban communities is unbelievably frightening, and is something that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. The chances of hitting innocent people is enormous, not to mention the psychological terror it causes residents, the interruption of daily activities it results in and the impact it has on the local community in terms of physical damage”, said Daniel Lozoya, a Lawyer at the Human Rights Department of Rio de Janeiro’s Legal Aid Agency.

On 25 June, Fight for Peace joined fellow organisations Redes da Maré and Observatório de Favelas, local residents associations and Rio de Janeiro’s Legal Aid Agency in demanding, in a meeting with the Civil Police, that basic observations of human rights were followed. [2]

Since February of this year, public security in Rio de Janeiro has been placed under federal control with the Brazilian military in charge of security in the city. A survey published by the Intervention Observatory (Observatório da Intervenção), an organisation created to monitor the actions of the security forces in Rio and in which Fight for Peace participates as a supporter, the number of shootings has risen by 20% since federal control began, with 12 massacres resulting in 52 deaths in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

We continue fighting for peace and calling for recognition that the lives of residents of favela communities matter.