Brazilian museum installs statue of slain human rights campaigner

Rio de Janeiro, Mar 14 (EFE).- The family of slain Rio de Janeiro councilwoman and human rights advocate Marielle Franco were present Tuesday for the inauguration of a monument to her on the fifth anniversary of her assassination, a crime that remains unsolved.

The statue, which stands 11 m (36 ft) high, was installed among the columns at the entrance to the Museum of Art of Rio (MAR) five years to the day after Marielle, an Afro-Brazilian lesbian from one of the city’s toughest favelas (shantytowns) was fatally shot along with her driver.

As a councilwoman, Franco stood up for minorities and confronted the militias – mainly comprising active and retired police – that extort protection payments from residents and businesses in dozens of Rio’s favelas.

The towering metal sculpture, first presented at last year’s Sao Paulo Art Biennial by creator Paulo Nazareth, will spend two weeks at the MAR on Maua Square before being moved to its permanent home at the Marielle Franco Institute.

“It’s a work with great significance because it shows the dimension that Marielle achieved,” her mother, Marinete da Silva, told reporters during the ceremony at the museum.

After her death, the figure of Marielle transcended the border of Brazil, defeating the intentions of those who ordered the murder with the aim of silencing her, Da Silva said.

Maua Square, located in Rio’s port district, is hosting various events to mark the grim anniversary, including a concert Tuesday night featuring artists such as Djonga, Marcelo D2, and the Mangueria samba school orchestra.

Besides the statue at the MAR entrance, the square has been decorated with displays recalling Franco’s life and an information panel from Amnesty International highlighting the lack of progress in the investigation.

Two ex-cops were arrested in 2019 and charged with firing the shots that killed Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes, on the night of March 14, 2018, but they have yet to be brought to trial, and investigators have shed no light on who hired the shooters.

Her loved ones, however, are confident that authorities will take the case more seriously now that Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who governed Brazil from 2003-2011, is again head of state.

“Certainly the return of Lula to the presidency gives us hope that finally we will learn who ordered Marielle killed and why,” Franco’s widow, city councilwoman Monica Benicio, told EFE Tuesday.

Lula, who appointed Marielle’s sister, Anielle Franco, as minister of Racial Equality, pledged to push for a resolution of the case that Amnesty International describes as a symbol of impunity in Brazil.

The new justice minister, Flavio Dino, ordered the formation of a Federal Police task force to support the Rio de Janeiro state police in the probe.

“The previous government never showed respect for Marielle’s memory or a commitment to solving the case. On the contrary, her death was treated with jokes,” Benicio said, recalling that then-President Jair Bolsonaro was a harsh critic of Franco and never offered any support for the investigation.

For that reason, Benicio said, the family opposed having the Federal Police take charge of the investigation as long as the right-wing Bolsonaro was in power.

Marielle’s father, Antonio Francisco da Silva, said that Bolsonaro “interfered and created obstacles” to the murder probe.

EFE cm/dr

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