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  • Roses in memory of poor people killed. The banner reads, 'Garden of Death. 1300 people killed in less than four months', Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb, 2007.

    Roses in memory of poor people killed. The banner reads, 'Garden of Death. 1300 people killed in less than four months', Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Feb, 2007. | Photo: EFE

Published 15 August 2019

When not involved in violence, the far-right militias work as "middlemen" who charge poor residents favelas for services.

Police and firefighters discovered Wednesday eight bodies in a clandestine cemetery used by far-right militias in Belford Roxo, a poor municipality ravaged by violence which is located at the Rio de Janeiro Metropolitan Region.

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Bullet wounds were identified on most bodies, some of which were also dismembered, Commissioner Moyses Santana Gomes said to local media.

The discovery of the Belford Roxo grave, which was possible due to an anonymous tip, is not the first case of this type so far this year. On July, 17 bodies were also discovered at another illegal cemetery at the Itaborai municipality in western Rio de Janeiro.

That case is linked to the "Curicica" militia, a far-right clandestine organization which was reported to have participated in the murder of Marielle Franco, a leftist councilwoman and human rights activist who was shot to death on March 14, 2018.

According to most recent estimates, these paramilitary groups are controlling at least a quarter of the territory of the state of Rio de Janeiro. They began operations in the 1990s when former police, firefighters, and military personnel were recruited to "combat crime" in the poor neighborhoods, the "favelas."

"Militia, which used clandestine cemetery in Belford Roxo, is leading cause of homicide in the region."

This alleged goal, however, actually covered up a "social cleansing" operation which was mostly directed against the homeless, young people, the LGBT community, social leaders and political activists.

For years, the Rio de Janeiro militias were praised, even publicly, by anti-communist politicians, among them President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who, as a lawmaker, called for the legalization of the militias in 2008.

According to security experts and human rights defenders, these criminal groups are involved in extortion, illicit business and targeted murders not only in Rio de Janeiro but also in other Brazilian cities.

In the poor's everyday life, when the militias are not involved in extreme forms of repression, they operate as "middlemen" who charge slum dwellers for services such as cable connections, gas canisters sales and transportation. ​​​​​​​

Last week Rio de Janeiro's judicial authorities set up a special court of "faceless" judges, whose identities are under secrecy, to try militias, drug traffickers and money launderers.

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