Permanent state of emergeny – Ausnahmezustand from a Brazilian perspective
On 14th March 2018 Marielle Franco, a brazilian human rights activist and city councillor of Rio de Janeiro, and her driver Anderson Gomes, were murdered. They were returning home after Marielle had participated in an event related to empowerment movements of young black people. The car they were in was moving when nine shots were fired from another passing car that had been following them on that evening. Four of the shots hit Marielle Franco's head, three of them hit Anderson Gomes. Her advisor was the only survivor of the attack, she was sitting in the back seat next to Marielle. The shooters left the crime scene without taking anything. Police investigations started under the suspicion of an assassination.
On the following morning, every Brazilian public TV channel was covering the case. The city of Rio de Janeiro was in shock, especially communities from favelas. Hundreds of people went to the streets to protest, mourn and hommage the deceased Marielle Franco, a black bisexual woman, who had grown up at the favela complex of Maré.
She represented and was part of many minority groups simultaneously, also standing up for them in her political position as a city councillor for Rio de Janeiro. With the coldblooded execution of a community leader in the downtown of a big and restless city like Rio de Janeiro, uncertainty and despair were wide spread amongst the brazilian population. If this happened to someone who had the midia around them and was a public spokesperson, what could happen to whoever dared to express their opinions on public matters and actively try to achieve a change in society but are not known to a broad public sphere?
Franco wasn't the first one of her kind. Hired assassinations have been a common way of dealing with opposing or threatening opinions that could get in the way of big negociations envolving great amounts of money all throughout Brazil. Environmentalists and judges are way up on the list of ordered murders, often being „eliminated“ by the power of ruralists and criminal organisations like the militia. The suspicion for the murder of Marielle Franco being a hired one is raised even more considering the role she played in the city council towards the federal intervention in Rio de Janeiro, which was installed by determination of a decree of the Brazilian senate in the end of February of this year. Two weeks before her execution Franco was named a rapporteur in the special commission established by the city council to monitor the military intervention in the city of Rio de Janeiro. As a community member of the favela da Maré, she had access to direct testimonies from the residents of the favelas and how they perceived the military action in Rio de Janeiro, therefore being an evidently qualified person for that position.
With the federal intervention, the responsibility of the state for managing the area of public security in the state of Rio de Janeiro is passed to the federal government, which is represented by an intervener – in this case the Army General Walter Braga Netto. Besides controlling the Civil Police, Military Police fire brigade and prison administration, Braga Netto has full power of decision and action and only needs to report to the president and nobody else. It's the first time since the end of the military dictatorship, that had been installed in the country for 24 years, and the restructuring of a new constitution in 1988, that the state calls out a federal intervention. The right to it is guaranteed by the constitution. In a juridical sense, as can be found in the essay on the concept of Ausnahmezustand written by the italian philosopher and university professor Giorgio Agamben, by the time this measure was taken, the state of Rio de Janeiro started officially experiencing a state of exception „[...] in which all the functions entrusted to the civil administration for the maintenance of internal security and order pass to the military commander, who exercises them in exclusive responsibility.“
But is this legit to call out an Ausnahmezustand when the state of exception already turned into the rule?
To be continued...
By: Maira Wiener