Conflicts & War

Racially charged police brutality in Brazil targets young black men

By Carla Samon Ros

Sao Paulo, Jun 6 (efe-epa).- A black 18 to 30 year old man living in a favela is three times more likely to be killed in a police operation in Brazil, experts warn.

Afro-Brazilians make up 55 percent of the population but represent over 75 percent of fatalities in police custody.

This reflects an “institutional and structural” racism, according to Brazilian Forum of Public Security coordinator David Marques.

The organization’s latest report warns that in 2018 agents killed 6,220 people in Brazil, a daily average of 17 deaths in police operations. Three out of four victims were black and 99,3 percent were male.

“The profile is very close to that of homicide victims,” Marques adds. “Men, young, black and very usually poor residents in peripheral regions of cities.”

The reason behind the disproportionate data is the “preferential framework of the system, starting with police actions and also prisons.”

César Muñoz, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Latin America agrees: “police violence is a chronic human rights problem in Brazil.”

The situation has worsened “especially since Jair Bolsonaro assumed his position as president” with his call for “the police to kill more,” the expert adds.

“This has very serious consequences, obviously for the communities that suffer this violence but also at a public security level.”

The main issue is the impunity of these violent acts and the lack of adequate investigations, Muñoz says.

And this can be seen within a wider concern that “racism in Brazil is not exclusive to the police,” and that “it manifests structurally in other public institutions.”

“People fail to understand that racism is not only when a white person, for example, assaults a black person.”

When looking at the data, police violence in Brazil is enormous.

With two-thirds of the United States’ population, Brazilian security forces kill six times more people than their US counterparts.

According to NGO Mapping Police Violence, 1,143 people died at the hands of US police officers in 2018 and 1,099 in 2019. Of those, 24 percent were black, although Afro-Americans make up 13 percent of the population.

George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis under police custody has sparked huge protests and civil unrest in the US, rallies that have spread across the world.

On 18 May, 14 year-old Joao Pedro Mattos was killed during a police operation on the outskirts of Rio triggering a contained wave of protests.

The young boy was playing in the yard of his home when Federal Police stormed the building leaving almost 70 bullet holes in their wake.

In September 2019, 8 year-old Ágatha Félix was killed by a stray bullet during a police operation in a favela north of the capital.

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