Children in the Brazilian favelas


Universe Column for September 5th, 2004

By David Alton

Earlier in the year, on behalf of Jubilee Campaign,  I produced a report on the killing of young people in Brazil . I detailed the violence in Brazilian favelas which has reached epidemic proportions – with between four and five children and adolescents dying every day.

The problem with harrowing statistics like these is that they can be reeled off with routine monotony and they can easily anonymise the brutality. Only when you think about the individuals who have been murdered – and the effect on their families – does the full horror of what is happening begin to sink in.

A snapshot of the first few days of August and a brief glimpse of some of the lives terminated gives some idea of the nature and scale of this largely unreported violence.

On August 1st it was reported that André Benevenuto Matos da Silva, 18 years old, was beaten to death in the Bom Pastor neighbourhood, in Belford Roxo. After seven days of battling with authorities to release the required documents, the family finally managed to carry out his burial. The case was registered in the 54th Police Department and the police still don’t have clues about the murderers.

On August 4th, Fábio Miranda Nogueira, 24 years old, was killed by three shots. The crime took place on 75 Monte Alegre street , in the Bairro da Inconfidência neighbourhood in Queimados. According to witnesses, five hooded and armed men broke into the clerk’s house. Fabio, his mother and his wife were taken hostage by the buglers, who stole a TV set, a stereo, an iron and a cell phone, and shot Fabio, who died later at hospital. The criminals escaped.

The police have begun to take testimony from relatives and witnesses.

On August 5th it was reported that officers from the Seventh Battalion of the Rio Military Police (São Gonçalo) had been accused of killing students João Carlos Raposo Moreira, aged 19, Luiz Eduardo de Salles, 15, and Luciana Barbosa de Freitas Reis, 13, on Soariano de Souza street in the  Boaçu neighborhood of São Gonçalo municipality.

According to police, the deaths occurred during crossfire in the Buraco da Cobra favela, where the police met 10 heavily armed drug traffickers. After the shooting, the victims were taken by the police to the hospital, where they arrived dead.

The victims’ relatives accused police of firing their guns upon arrival in the area and said that the youths have no relation to drug trafficking. João Carlos was planning on joining the Navy. The other two were also students. João Manoel da Silva, 43 years old, Luiz Eduardo’s grandfather, said that a police officer demanded another officer to shoot him too, but the latter didn’t obey. At the police station, the agents said they were there to check out an anonymous tip and were fired upon by drug traffickers.

On August 6th Eduardo dos Santos Martins Queiroz, 5 years old, died  at the Salgado Filho Hospital , in Méier, after being hit by a stray bullet in a shooting close to the Jacarezinho favela.

On August 8, four youths were found dead on in Itaboraí. According to witnesses, Carlos Bruno Silva de Melo, André Ribeiro de Souza and Aurineto Moura Gomes, all aged 17, and Diego Vieira da Silva, 21 years old, were last seen alive in a trailer close to the location where their bodies were found. A group of hooded men carrying assault rifle and pistols arrived in a car and a van and abducted the four young people.

On August 9th Alan Louvain Cordeiro, 19 years old, was found dead on at Praia do Siqueira neighborhood, in Cabo Frio municipality.  Police say they don’t know what is the motive for the killing.

On August 10 Rafael Luiz Soares de Souza, aged 22, was found handcuffed and dead with shots to the back, chest and abdomen. He was killed during the two hours attack to the Morro do Vidigal carried out by a group of 15 drug traffickers from Rocinha.  According to Rafael’s relatives he was at a bar playing pool when the assault began. They also say he was not a drug dealer, but only a drug user. The police believe there are more people dead, but they didn’t find any until the morning.

Anyone who has seen the movie, “City of God ” will be aware of the drugs driven nature of Brazil ’s gangland violence. These largely unreported all-too-brief lives deserve to be recorded on a daily basis in the world’s media until the killing stops.  Sadly, these ten days in August w ere nothing exceptional in Brazil – but when killings like these become accepted, as normal, something is seriously wrong.