From January to May of 2003, the Military Police of São
Paulo killed 435 people - an average of almost three homicides
daily. These figures reveal an increase of 51 percent relative
to the same period in the previous year.
Violence and Death Squads in São Paulo
Despite the difficulty to gather information on this subject,
existing data from the Office of Public Security, shows that
the number of violent crimes increased considerably during
the 1990s in the state of São Paulo.
the state capital, the homicide rate per hundred thousand
habitants was 38.9 in 1993, rose to 53 in 1995, and to 59.2
in 1999. In the city of Ribeirão Preto, we found the
same evidence: the rate was 15.89 in 1991, and jumped to 44.64
in 1998, showing that this violence is not restricted to urban
centers. It also reached medium size the cities. In 2001,
the Seade Foundation registered 15,341 homicides in the entire
increase in the crime rate coincided with the escalating number
of cases of police violence, and accusations of police involvement
with crime. There is also a growing number of cases involving
police participation in the executions of youth in the state
of São Paulo. One example happened during Carnival
of 1999, in the Baixada Santista area, when three young men
were detained, assassinated, and buried by military policemen.
Another case was registered in Ribeirão Preto, where
the police killed three young men who were shot and abandoned
in the middle of a marsh. This crime was attributed to two
military policemen who were later expelled from the corps.
that is not the rule. Most cases are not even investigated.
In March of 1999, four adolescents were summarily executed
by civil policemen from Campinas. The crime scene was not
preserved, the evidence was smothered, the bodies were removed
to another county, the weapons disappeared, the policemen
refused to perform forensic exams, the investigation dragged
along for four years, and no one was punished. In this case,
as in the majority of cases of "resistance to prison
followed by death," the police involvement is not even
example was the homicide of the Campinas Mayor in September
of 2001. The police officer in charge of the investigation
had been denounced as a torturer in 1975 by political prisoners
of the military regime, in addition to having been accused
of involvement with organized crime. Until now, the investigation
has been full of contradictions.
investigation of the October 2001 Caraguatatuba massacre has
similar problems. In that case, four young men were executed
by civil policemen in Campinas, inside a locked condominium.
The crime scene was not preserved, the bodies were removed,
the mattresses were incinerated, objects were stolen, investigative
reports were forged, names of the police participants were
omitted, the weapons used were unlawfully concealed from the
forensic examination and, despite all that, two days later
the governor said that the policemen's actions had been absolutely
time later, two policemen who participated in that crime were
arrested with a gang of kidnappers. Neither the governor nor
anyone from the Office of Security came forward to rectify
their earlier evaluation, to ask for more rigor in the investigations,
or to apologize to the victims' relatives.
the state capital, the Public Prosecutors Office is investigating
a report about a group of elite military policemen linked
directly to the cabinet of the Secretary of Public Security.
This group was responsible for actions that resulted in dozens
of people killed. They are accused of removing convicted inmates
from prisons in order to infiltrate them into criminal organizations.
In only one of these operations, the "Castelinho Massacre,"
twelve people were killed. The report also pointed out cases
of death and severe injuries to the prisoners utilized by
the GRADI in those operations.
Ribeirão Preto, the police is accused of several killings,
such as the following cases: Enoch Moura (18 years old), Anderson
Luis (15 years old) and Fernando Neri (20 years old), as well
as the youth Vitório, Marcelo, Alessandro, Rodrigo
de Souza, and Sandro Lima. In August of 2002, the police killed
two brothers, Vanderson (17 years old) and Anderson (18 years
old), in addition to Marlene and her boyfriend Rodrigo, Maicon
and Rogério, both of them 19 years old. In May of 2003,
we documented the deaths of Leandro (18 years old) and Thiago
(19 years old).
of these victims were executed with great violence. One boy
was killed by blows from a hatchet inside of a single-person
cell in a police precinct. Sandro Lima was executed inside
of an operating room, in the presence of doctors and nurses,
in the hospital where he had been taken wounded, after an
earlier death attempt. The service was completed with gunshots
from long-barreled arms equipped with silencers, by three
men who entered the hospital.
of the policemen accused in those crimes were arrested later
for other crimes, such as hijacking freight, smuggling and
forming criminal gangs. Even so, the local autorithies were
not worried about ensuring greater rigor in the investigations
of the deaths attributed to them.
Federal Government's initiative of creating a special commission
to investigate death squads in São Paulo through the
National Office of Human Rights, represents a source of hope
for the victims' relatives. We expect that their demands for
justice will be heard.
*Fermino Fechio is an attorney, a former Police Magistrate
of the state of São Paulo, and Director of the Santo
Dias Center for Human Rights.