Monday, April 30, 2012

Murder in Brazil #3 – Another Good Citizen Goes Down

Back in August, I wrote in this space about the killing of Patrícia Acioli, a judge who was trying to put down a cabal of honest cops.
If you missed that post, you can read it here: The Murder of a Judge

On Monday, the 23rd of April, it was the turn of this man…

journalist Décio Sá.

Here’s the story:

Décio worked as a political reporter in the northeastern State of Maranhão, a place long-famed for clientelism in Brazilian politics.

Want a good example of that clientelism? Okay, how about this?

One of the State’s senators is...

José Sarney, ex-president of the republic and current president of the Brazilian senate. He’s been accused of corruption more than once – but never convicted.

And this is his daughter, Roseana.

She was forced to abandon her bid for the presidency in 2002, when she was caught in her own corruption scandal. Like her father, she wasn’t convicted.

Nor did the scandal prevent her from being elected to the senate a year later, a post in which she served her state (and some would say the Sarney family) right up until the time she “won” (surprise, surprise) the governorship.

Yup. Maranhão is that kind of a place.

No one, however, is suggesting, even for a moment, that anyone from the State’s most prominent political family had anything to do with the murder of Décio Sá. After all, if they had anything against him, surely they wouldn’t have been employing him (which they did) on their newspaper...

O Estado do Maranhão, the state’s largest and most influential.

So, to discover what happened to Décio, the cops are saying, they’ll have to look elsewhere.

And what they’re looking at right now is Décio’s blog:

In it, he posted about the trial of gunmen implicated in a murder that was allegedly ordered by a local businessman from a political family. He posted about a case in which a local politician was implicated in a prostitution ring and the murder of a university student. He posted about a lot of things, and about a lot of people, and he made many enemies.

At least 47 (yeah, that's right, no typo, forty-seven) of whom, according to investigators, would have had what they’d consider to be (remember, this is Maranhão we’re talking about) "a good reason to kill him".

On the day of his death, Décio was sitting alone, in a restaurant, waiting for a luncheon companion to arrive. A killer walked in, shot him, and then escaped on the back of a motorcycle driven by an accomplice.

It was, investigators said, clearly a contract killing.

He was the fourth Brazilian reporter to be murdered in as many months.

There is a movement afoot to make the killing of journalists a federal crime, and thereby bring it into the purview of the federal police, the least corrupt of Brazil’s law-enforcement agencies.

But no one expects the law to be passed anytime soon.

So what is the likelihood of achieving justice for Décio Sá?

There’s a glimmer of hope: on the basis of an anonymous tip, two people were detained by the Civil Police and are currently being interrogated. This, in part, because the Sarneys are outraged that someone should have the effrontery to attack one of "their" journalists.

But, if the killers, in the end, fail to be apprehended, prosecuted and convicted, few people in the State will be surprised.

That would simply be business as usual in Maranhão.

Décio, at his funeral, got some nice flowers from the state's first family.

And is survived by his pregnant wife and an eight-year-old daughter.

Leighton - Monday


  1. Murder really is everywhere -- and any time, too.

    I read about this murder of the journalist and thought of this blog and that it would be addressed here.

    And what is the national government doing to protect journalists and judges?

  2. Frustration, anger, disgust. Only glimmer of hope: How internationalist journalists decide to cover the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Or not.

    In other words, kick the bastards where it hurts most. On a world stage. And don't let up.

    And yes, I believe in Tinkerbell.

  3. When my 90-year-old father-in-law talks about walking from Maranhão to São Paulo when he was a young man to get away from this type of injustice, I realize that not much has changed there in all the intervening years.

  4. You would have to tone this down to make it believable in fiction. Just try to imagine a who dunnit with forty-seven suspects! It's heartbreaking. And now that poor woman has to try to raise her children alone I that hellhole.

  5. This is appalling, and tragic for the family and the country.Bottom line, it's sad. As Brazil gets richer, and is mor visible on the world stage, it might get worse, instead of better.

  6. 47 plausible murder suspects. Now that is as hefty a eulogy as an investigative journalist will ever receive.

  7. No wonder you could come up with so many wonderful plots about murders in Brazil, Leighton :).