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Brazzil - Crime - August 2004

Brazil Sees Death Squad in Homeless Massacre

A 2003 study by Brazil's Economic Research Institute Foundation
shows that over ten thousand homeless in São Paulo sleep in
the city's streets, squares, underpasses, thoroughfares, cemeteries,
and shelters. Fifteen of them have been severely beaten while
sleeping. Six died and the others are in critical condition.

Juliana Cézar


Picture Brazil's Special Secretariat of Human Rights initiated a process to monitor the case involving street dwellers who were attacked and murdered in the center of São Paulo.

The Minister of the Secretariat, Nilmário Miranda, named the head of the organ's review board, Pedro Montenegro, to accompany the investigations.

"From the number of victims involved, in vulnerable circumstances, and the brutality of the attacks, this case already has the outlines of a massacre, probably committed by extermination groups or Nazi-Fascists," Montenegro believes.

"We shall give a firm, resounding response, to keep barbarity from taking hold and spreading. We shall make available the entire infrastructure of the federal government, including the witness protection program, for this case."

According to the head of the review board, monitoring processes are normally initiated at the behest of human rights defense organizations. But, in view of the seriousness of the facts, the Secretariat decided to act immediately.

Montenegro was to meet in São Paulo with representatives of the Municipal Secretariat of Human Rights, the São Paulo Human Rights Commission, and non-governmental organizations concerned with this issue.

Meetings have also been set up with the police commissioner in charge of the case and with representatives of the public prosecutor's office and the court solicitor-general's office.

In a note to the press, the Minister of Justice, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, lamented and repudiated the attacks committed against the homeless in the center of São Paulo. Six of them are dead, and nine are in the hospital, seriously injured. "The Union, the State, and the Municipality will not weigh efforts to elucidate this crime, discover the perpetrators, and bring them to Justice."

Bastos classified the act against the street dwellers as brutal and intolerable. For the Minister, the incident is an offense to the Brazilian State, "defender of the principle of human dignity and responsible for the promotion of the general welfare, without prejudice due to origin, race, gender, color, or any other kinds of discrimination."

The Worst Ever

The violence and beating against homeless (all of them were hit on their heads with a club) occurred in downtown São Paulo in the predawn hours of August 19, a Thursday, when 10 people were attacked and again three days later. The results of the first attack were discovered gradually as the day progressed, as it became clearer to authorities that the cases were not isolated incidents.

The Homicide and Personal Protection Department (DHPP) of the State Secretariat of Public Safety decide to not release more detailed information, according to them, in order not to interfere with the investigations.

The attack was the biggest act of violence ever committed against street dwellers in the capital of São Paulo, as well as the biggest in the country since the Candelária Massacre, in Rio de Janeiro, on July 23, 1993, when eight homeless kids were killed.

"We are feeling the sadness and the indignation," affirmed Father Júlio Lancellotti, director of the Catholic Church's Street Pastoral Commission.

Father Lancellotti is accompanying the DHPP in its investigation to reveal the authors of the crimes. He requested the intervention of the Public Interest Defense Ministry in the case and informed that secrecy is being maintained in order to protect the witnesses.

A 2003 study by the Economic Research Institute Foundation (Fipe) shows that over ten thousand people in São Paulo sleep in the city's streets, squares, underpasses, thoroughfares, cemeteries, and shelters. The study was conducted at the request of the São Paulo Municipal Government's Secretariat of Social Assistance.

Juliana Cézar works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at lia@radiobras.gov.br.
Translated from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.

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