Arrest of Alleged Assassins Doesn't Answer Key Question of Marielle Franco Case: Who Ordered Murder of Brazilian Left-Wing Politician?

The arrest on Tuesday of two individuals alleged to be the gunmen who assassinated Brazilian politician and activist Marielle Franco and her driver nearly one year ago is being heralded as progress by human rights campaigners even as they warn this should be seen as the beginning of accountability and justice for the murders, not the end.

According to the Rio Times, the two suspects in custody were identified by police as Ronnie Lessa, a retired military police officer, and Elcio Vieira de Queiroz, who was expelled from the nation’s Military Police. Both men are believe to have ties to right-wing militias and criminal gangs often run by ex-police officers and the military.

As the New York Times reports:

The arrests come just two days before the one-year anniversary of the slayings that took place in Rio de Janeiro in March of 2018. Erika Guevara-Rosas, the director of the Americas program for Amnesty International, said the brutal murder of Franco, “which devastated the many communities whose rights she fought to defend,” was a “blatant attempt to silence a brave human rights defender, who had devoted her life to advocating for women, LGBTI people and black youth in Rio favelas.”

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In court documents, as O Globo newspaper reports, the Brazilian prosecutors charging the case said, “It is undeniable that [Franco] was summarily executed for her political activities and the causes she defended.” And added, “The barbarity committed the night of March 14, 2018, was an affront to a democratic state guided by the rule of law.”

U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Brazil and who knew Franco personally as a friend, responded to the news of the arrests with a series of tweets, including several noting the extremely close and worrying ties at least one of the assassins had to the nation’s current right-wing President Jair Balsonaro.

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