BRAZIL

Eleven year old killed by a “stray bullet”

Eleven year old Ágatha Marquez dos Santos is the most recent victim of a police crackdown in South America’s biggest shanty-town, Rocinha. Agatha was watching TV at her father’s house when a rifle bullet flew straight into her chest. Here’s the account from our Observer in Rocinha.

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Eleven year old Ágatha Marquez dos Santos is the most recent victim of a police crackdown in South America’s biggest shanty-town, Rocinha. Agatha was watching TV at her father’s house when a rifle bullet flew straight into her chest. Almost 2000 residents from the slum filed into the streets of southern Rio on Saturday, calling for justice to be made. The protesters blame the police outright for the death of the child. For Carlos Costa, a leader of the NGO ‘Viva Rio’ who has lived in Rocinha all his life, the “stray bullet” was triggered by the police force.

The aim of the operation was to capture a drugs-trafficker. These police raids in the slums have increased under the cover of an accelerated growth programme; a federal government plan to undertake huge urbanisation works in the area.

Rosinha residents protest in Rio, Sat. 16

 

Photos by Carlos Costa

"They want to improve our lives with war-like incursions?"

Comment from our Observer in the shanty-town of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro. Carlos Costa works for Viva Rio, one of the biggest NGOs working in the ‘favelas' (Brazilian slums).

I know that it's best not to jump to conclusions when it comes to such a polemic situation, but I can't see how the bullet that killed Agatha could have come from anyone but the police. There are no drugs-traffickers in this area [one explanation is that the police fired into the air, the bullet heading upstream from the intervention zone, in Agatha's quarter], and it's proved that the police were here when it happened because you see them on the TV, no matter what the head of the operation says. It was, after all, a police vehicle that rescued Agatha and her father and got them to hospital a few minutes after it happened.

The government strategy is completely insane. We're a community that's had not a penny of investment or a brick of infrastructure, and now they want to improve our lives with war-like incursions? The police can't stride into the favelas at their pleasing; they're either here all the time or not at all. It's a strategic error not to be where traffickers work. It should be remembered that guns and drugs do not grow on trees in the favelas. They're brought there from outside.

The accelerated growth programme will create jobs. But do they really think it's best to start the work with rifles? As always, the people who will lose out in this ridiculous war are not the traffickers or the police, but the workers; the ordinary people; the innocent ones who simply want to work and study in peace. This programme for the slums is a huge sham."