I might as well put down what really scares me here, given that Randybill, my own personal troll keeps on talking about it.
I am not scared of “deathsquads”. They don’t exist anymore they way they did in the 1970s and ‘80s. I am terrified of a paramilitarization of power, whereby one faction of our criminal gangs becomes an ipso facto branch of government, with carte blanche to do what they want.
This is much more terrifying than “deathsquads”. To be killed by a deathsquad, you need to be targeted by those in power. In the kind of “cartelization” of paramilitary power we are seeing in Brazil, you just need to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to be killed.
Here’s a small example of what can occur and what really scares me.
About a year ago, there was a drive-by shooting of two 17 year old black boys right in front of my academic unit. Maybe 20 meters away from my office, in fact.
I heard the gunshots and ran down to the front of the building. It was right between class changes, so we had students arriving by bus and others leaving and the shots sounded like they had come from the bus stop.
When I got to the front of the building, I saw Seu Paulo, our physical plant manager slowly strolling over to two bodies, lying in a pool of blood next to a motorcycle, about 10 meters away from the bus stop, where a bunch of our students had watched everything.
I ran to catch up with Seu Paulo and we arrived at the same time at the bodies.
One boy was dead. The other had taken a shot to the chest and to his mouth and was spitting out chunks of his tongue and trying to talk to us. As he had fallen naturally into something approximating the recovery position, I decided it was best not to move him, so I tried to keep him conscious by talking to him. Meanwhile, Seu Paulo called the police and fire department (first responders in cases like this).
While this was going on, a guy in his thirties rode up on a motorcycle and stared at us for about five minutes.
It took the police fifteen minutes to respond and the Fire Department almost 40. By this time, a small crowd had formed around the bodies and we knew who the boys were. The living one’s mom was en route, but the fire department arrived first and, absent a relative, took the boy away without any accompaniment. He died en route to the hospital (most of us presume that the firemen, who are branch of the military took the long way there).
By this time, three other professors had arrived and our director of education had decided that we would not allow students to be interrogated unless a professor was present.
But the police asked no questions of anyone. Two days later, I went out to the crime scene. Ants were carrying away dried blood and there were still bullet cartridges lying about. In other words, the cops didn’t even collect evidence.
The next day, Seu Paulo, who lives in the neighborhood, told me that I had been recognized and was “being watched” by the local militia to see if “I did anything stupid”. The guy on the motorcycle was, supposedly, the killer, who works in a local mercado. He killed the boys because, supposedly, they were from a local favela and were boosting cell phones in the neighborhood.
How much of all of this is speculation on Seu Paulo’s part, I don’t know, but several students who witnessed the murders also identified the killer as the guy on the cycle.
I am pretty sure that the whole thing took place with a nod and a wink from the cops. If I made a formal statement to them, that would get back to the local militia almost immediately. I ride my bike to and from school through the favela and down a long country road with no street lights and no turn offs. As things are, I normally have “close encounters” with automobiles at least once a week. So imagine how easy it would be for the local militia, who all know me by sight, to engineer an accident. This is presuming that they wouldn’t take a more direct route.
THIS is what terrifies me about our situation in Brazil. Bolsonaro is setting up his own little version of the Mexican cartels or the Touton Macoutes. You don’t NEED to be important to be killed in this sort of situation: you just need to be at the wrong place at the wrong time or piss off the wrong people.
In short, it’s not the executive kill list I am worried about. If I and my partner are on such a thing, it is way down at the bottom (although many of our friends, such as substitute city councilwoman Indianara Siqueira are much higher up on that list). What I am worried about are the legions of petty tyrants at the neighborhood level that Bozo is empowering and trying desperately to arm.