Amidst the pandemic, Brazilian slum dwellers were ‘shot instead of helped’
When she got a job at one of the biggest hospitals in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Maria Diva do Nascimento was very worried. Wearing a mask on her face all the time, she hoped she could escape the hands of death of Covid-19.
Nascimento knows just how dangerous Covid-19 is. Four days ago, the disease claimed the life of a security guard at the hospital. More than half of her colleagues were infected, according to Guardian.
When the 42-year-old woman started her work on May 15, she learned that her son, Allyson, was in danger, but not because of Covid-19.
Armed police are sweeping Complexo do Alemão, the large slum where Allyson works for Brazil’s oldest drug gang: Red Command. Helicopters soar above the top of the ragged roofs.
“Where are you ???”, Nascimento asked in panic at the 20-year-old son by phone at 6:39 am. “I’m on my way home,” Allyson answered. And that was her son’s last message.
“We are very tired”
At lunchtime, Nascimento knew his son was dead. He is one of more than 2,000 Brazilians killed by Rio police since early 2019.
“I have brought him to this world. No one has the right to take my son,” the mother who lost her child said, crying as she was about to say goodbye to her son one last time.
The police raid and the image of a corpse bag are no stranger to the people of Rio. In 2019, the number of people killed by police reached a record of 1,810, equivalent to 5 deaths per day.
Rio is currently applying blockade orders because of Covid-19 from mid-March. People must stay indoors. Meanwhile, slum dwellers feel indignant as police continue to raid their homes.
The raid on May 15 left 13 people dead, including Nascimento’s son. This is the latest in a series of deadly attacks by police.
“Instead of dispatching doctors to protect residents from Covid-19, the government sent police, bulletproof vehicles and helicopters to kill us,” said Bruno Itan, a slum photographer. Complexo do Alemão, said. He took photos of the raid on May 15, showing police wearing anti-Covid-19 masks standing by the covered corpses. “We are very tired,” he added.
Left-wing congresswoman Renata Souza has just asked to investigate the raids which she described as “a massacre”.
“People should be helped, not shot,” the congresswoman complained, saying the act was inhumane in the context of a pandemic.
The raid on May 15 was not the first time since Rio had been blockaded two months ago. Of the 16,000 deaths from Covid-19 in Brazil, more than 2,400 are in Rio.
During a raid on April 27, police killed five young men, one aged 17, in Vila Kennedy, a Western community controlled by the Red Command. Two weeks ago, three people were killed in the same area named after US President John F Kennedy.
But so far, the raid on Alemão slums on May 15 is the bloodiest. The region is more populated than 97% of other Brazilian cities.
People described the scene as a terrorist, as security forces dressed in black and armored vehicles entered the slum in gunfire and explosive ordnance.
The walls collapsed, the houses were not intact during the raid. The water tank exploded and the electricity system was destroyed, causing thousands of people to live in the dark.
Almost 6 hours later, the attack ended and the death toll was exactly the same as the number of Covid-19 deaths in Complexo do Alemão: 13 people.
“We are afraid of a pandemic, but this is even worse. The corpses are so unbelievably high,” photographer Itan said.
The body of Allyson, son of Nascimento, is one of the five corpses discovered inside a house. They are believed to have been tortured before being shot. The police denied this.
The bodies of the dead overlap. We had to pull each one out, “said a man who helped move the bodies out with his bare hands Guardian.
The end no one wants
Responding to the press, the raiding officer Marcus Amim said that the operation was legal and was successful. Police seized 8 rifles and 85 hand grenades.
“Of course, more than 10 deaths are not good news for anyone. This is a result we don’t want,” Amim said, saying the bloody incident was due to gang members. armed with resistance.
Among the dead was Leonardo Serpa de Jesus, a wanted gang leader.
Dandara Tinoco, a public policy researcher at the Igarapé Institute, said that the police have no right to play the role of a judge and a jury to kill a suspect. “Brazil has no death sentence. The right to conviction rests with the court. Those who commit crimes must be tried properly,” the researcher added.
While Covid-19 was besieging the lives of slum dwellers, Nascimento was about to bury his only son. Young men started their criminal career when they were only 17 years old.
“I always taught my son to be honest. I worked hard and tried to set an example for him. Unfortunately, it didn’t work,” the mother said.
Nascimento says she feels relieved to text her son every day. Last week, on Mother’s Day, Allyson wrote: “I know you’re not a good child, but I hope you know that without me, you wouldn’t have children. I love you very much.”
“Everyone deserves a second chance. Capture them but don’t kill them,” Nascimento said. A few hours later, she took her son to rest in the cemetery north of Rio. “No mother has raised her children to get an outcome like this,” she said.