Nearly one year to the day after Brazilian activist Marielle Franco and her driver were fatally shot through the window of their car on the north side of Rio de Janeiro, two former cops have been arrested for the killing.
Retired military police officer Ronnie Lessa and and a former cop, Élcio Vieira de Queiroz, were apprehended at their residences on Tuesday. Lessa was charged with firing the four fatal shots into Franco’s head as well as the three shots that killed her driver.
Queiroz was charged with driving the ambush car, according to local police sources quoted in The Guardian. One of the men arrested lived in a posh gated community where Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro owns a house and lived before he was elected.
Franco was an outspoken activist who fought against injustices often carried out by Brazilian police on the poor favelas districts of Rio, where she worked and lived.
Franco’s partner, Mônica Beníco, told The Guardian the arrests did not solve the mystery of the crime. “This is an important step in the investigations, no doubt. But one year is too much time for a murder like this,” she said. “More important than the arrests… is an answer to the most urgent question: Who ordered Marielle killed? I hope I don’t have to wait another year to know who ordered all this.”
Franco had become a symbol of the struggle many LGBT Brazilians face in the form of discrimination and outright persecution. As a bisexual Afro-Brazilian politician who considered herself both a feminist and an activist, she represented a wide variety of Brazilians whose voices often go unheard. She first entered Rio’s city council in 2008 and fought hard for the poorest of its residents.
She was seen as a particular thorn in the side of Bolsonaro, who has vehemently stifled and attacked gays and minority groups she supported since his election.
The lack of resolve in her murder investigation had recently sparked protests, including during this year’s carnival celebrations across Brazil where many held banners calling for justice in her name.
The day before she died, she tweeted against perceived government complicity in the murder of a 23-year-old activist Matheus Melo. “Another killing of a young man which could end up on the PM [military police] tally. Matheus Melo was leaving church. How many more will have to die before this war ends?”
Investigators told local reporters that the murder was “meticulously planned over the course of three months.” They added that the motive, though not proven, seemed clear. “It is incontestable that Marielle Franco was summarily executed for her political activity in the defense of the causes she defended.”