The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Brazil:
Another Police Massacre in a Favela

Jun 20, 2022

This article is translated from the June 10 issue #2810 of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group of that name active in France.

Rio de Janeiro police carried out a new massacre on May 24, only one year after killing 28 people in the northern favela of Jacarezinho. This time it was neighboring Vila Cruzeiro, assaulted from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sinister uniformed police shock battalion BOPE, federal police, and traffic police were all sent in, backed by armored vehicles and combat helicopters. The operation left 25 people dead, all labeled as drug traffickers by the police, although half were unknown to the cops.

Vila Cruzeiro is one of the thirteen favelas (unofficially settled neighborhoods) of the Rocher complex. It has 70,000 inhabitants, but 200,000 people were affected in the surrounding area. Schools, clinics, and businesses had to close during the fighting. This was the fourth police operation against Vila Cruzeiro in a year. A police attack in February killed nine people.

Favelas are working class neighborhoods, meaning mostly black. They grow along the borders of cities, in areas that cannot be built on or are not serviced. The people who live there are workers who cannot afford to live downtown. People build dwellings there, but without building permits or title deeds, without a water or sewer system, and without paved streets. The government is not present there, and they run it themselves. But most favelas are ruled by force by mafias—drug gangs taking shelter there, or else militias headed by cops, which take the place of gangs and are usually left undisturbed by the police.

The pretext for the May 24 operation was specifically to attack the Red Commando, the main mafia group in Rio de Janeiro. But ordinary people are the victims of these clashes between thugs and cops. The cops treat ordinary people just like the thugs do: looting, raping, and murdering. In Vila Cruzeiro, the police did not arrest a single criminal. Cops seized a few rifles and pistols, but far fewer than during a polite search of a condominium in the chic Barra district, where President Jair Bolsonaro lives.

In fact, these police operations have a political purpose: namely, to show the rich, white electorate of the president and of the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro that they are protected from delinquents, homeless people, black people, and poor people. The police have a free hand in dealing with ordinary people. The authorities cover up all their transgressions. Bolsonaro even congratulated the police for the Vila Cruzeiro massacre. The Rio governor, who is a member of Bolsonaro’s party, has only been in office for a year. But he is already responsible for 39 massacres that left 181 dead.

General elections for the president, governors, senators, and congresspeople will take place in October. For the presidency, former president Lula will challenge Bolsonaro. The incumbent is a scheming military veteran and weapons maniac who waxes nostalgic for the old days of the military dictatorship (1964–1985). This latest massacre on May 24 shows the true face of the extreme right, which has governed the country for four years.