The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) add their voices to the thousands of Brazilians calling for justice for the November 19 murder of João Alberto Silveira Freitas in Porto Alegre, Brazil. According to videos circulating on social media, Mr. Silveira Freitas was beaten to death by Carrefour security guards after an alleged disagreement took place between Mr. Freitas and the guards.
This incident is just one of many acts of violence committed against Afro-Brazilians. Sadly, it took place a day prior to Brazil’s Black Awareness Day. On this day, Brazilians honor Francisco Nzumbi, better known as “Zumbi dos Palmares,” who in the late 1600s founded the Quilombo do Palmares, a community of people who resisted slavery. Instead of taking this opportunity to urge Brazilians to examine the connection that exists between systemic racism and violence in the country, the country’s leaders were quick to downplay this murder. On Saturday, President Jair Bolsonaro stated at the G-20 summit that some are trying to destroy Brazil’s diversity by “fueling race division..undermining the fight for equality.” The day prior, Vice President Hamilton Mourao stated to the press that “there’s no racism in Brazil.”
In a country where Afro-Brazilians are three times more likely than other Brazilians to be victims of homicide, such dismissive statements are troublesome. To its credit, Carrefour’s French CEO Alexandre Bompard stated that internal measures taken so far regarding the relationship with security contractors are insufficient and called for more comprehensive actions. Carrefour Brazil fired the security firm and is pushing that the guards are held legally accountable for their actions.
The U.S. government, as a party to the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Ethnic and Racial Discrimination, should push Brazil to be self-critical when it comes to this incident, seek justice, and encourage the country to advance anti-racism efforts.