All the security apparatus the Brazilian federal government uses to protect its highest authorities wasn’t enough to dissuade a group of at least 6 heavy-armed men from attacking and robbing last night Brazil’s Chief Justice, Ellen Gracie Northfleet.
Northfleet who was accompanied by Supreme Court’s vice-president, Gilmar Mendes had her official car stopped by a false police raid at Perimetral Avenue, around 10 pm. Even though there were two cars to carry the Justices, they preferred to ride together in one vehicle so they could talk.
The gunmen not only took the blue GM Zafira in which the authorities were but also all they were carrying. The Justices were dragged out of the car by the armed men and were kept under the barrel of the guns while the policemen in charge of the security, driving in two other cars, watched the whole scene without reacting.
They explained later that they were afraid any reaction could have put in risk the lives of the ministers. Both Justices have come to Rio in a government jet to be part of Conciliation Day, an event happening today at Rio’s Justice Palace as part of Justice Day. The idea is to reduce the large number of lawsuits in the Brazilian courts.
Talking to a friend, after the scary experience, Justice Mendes commented: "It was shocking, very annoying. It is something really impressive. They were strongly armed, with masks covering their faces and they were carrying heavy guns besides revolvers."
The Justices were victims of what is known as arrastão (dragnet), a collective robbery in which several victims are attacked simultaneously. It’s believed that at least another four cars were also assaulted.
The gunmen were driving a pickup truck and a Honda Civic. Brazil’s highest judicial authorities left inside the car their briefcases containing documents, money and cell phones. Witnesses say that the traffic was slow at the time of the robbery.
Both Justices after the assault were taken by their bodyguards to the apart-hotels in the Ipanema neighborhood where they are staying.
Several other people were also robbed. One of them, adman Roberto Cavalcanti, 29, who came to Rio on assignment, still shaken by the incident, gave vent to his frustration: "I’ve only been in Rio for three minutes and I have already been robbed. I won’t be back to this city."
These false police raids used to happen only in the poorer north zone of Rio. Now they have become more common in some of the main connecting routes between downtown and the more upscale south zone.
The car taken by the criminals was found a little later by the police in the Maracanã neighborhood. Two of the gunmen ended up being killed by two policemen, after robbing an Audi, The others gunmen, however, managed to flee.