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  • Brazilian Army soldiers fire their weapons during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018.

    Brazilian Army soldiers fire their weapons during a shootout with drug gangs during an operation in Alemao slums complex in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 20, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 August 2019 (15 hours 23 minutes ago)

During the first six months of the year,  881 people were killed at the hands of police and security forces in Rio alone. 

The mega-city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil recorded a 49 percent increase in civilian deaths at the hands of police in July compared to the same month last year, making it the highest number of deaths by security forces on record since tracking began in 1998, official sources say.

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A total of 194 people were killed by the police in July - that's more than six deaths per day, on average, that took place in Rio during police interventions, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute of Public Security (ISP), an agency associated with the Rio state government.

During the first six months of 2019 the number of murders at the hands of police reached 881. Meanwhile, no police officer died on duty between January and July of this year, compared to July last year when four officials were killed in the line of duty.

Rio police, both civil and military, have been heavily criticized by human rights groups and the Ombudsman's Office for excessive use of the force and extra-judicial killings, often breaking into homes without a warrant and shooting from helicopters during police operations, among other tactics.

Although Congress has managed to curb, at least momentarily, the decrees Bolsonaro is issuing, seeking to relax arms possession laws in Brazil, the far-right leader has not abandoned his intention to promote the use of guns.

Since assuming power in January, President Jair Bolsonaro, a 63-year-old former Army captain and admirer of Brazil's military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985 and U.S. President Donald Trump, has threatened to pass laws that will allow police and civilians to “shoot suspected offenders” without fear of prosecution. The Brazilian president has also said the nation's civilian security forces should be decorated for using guns, not taken to court. 

 Río de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel, a right-wing ally of Bolosonaro and a supporter of the right of police to kill with impunity, had ordered the police to use snipers and murder anyone who they think is carrying a weapon, resulting in 90 percent of the police shooting victims being young, Black, males from poor favelas.

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