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Brazilian Police Under Pressure to Catch Killer of Campaigning Politician

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A city councillor in Rio de Janeiro has denied any involvement in the assassination of campaigning politician Marielle Franco, who was gunned down in March. Franco was a black lesbian who believed paramilitary groups were targeting people in impoverished neighborhoods for extra-judicial killings.

On Thursday, May 10, Public Security Secretary Raul Jungian said councillor Marcello Siciliano was being investigated, along with a police officer and a former officer and militia boss.

The day before Councillor Siciliano denied claims in the O Globo newspaper that he had any role in the assassination of Franco, who was killed on March 14.

Siciliano is a member of the centrist PHS (Humanist Party of Solidarity) — one of 22 political parties in Brazil — while Franco was from the left-wing PSOL (Socialism and Liberty Party).

O Globo claimed a witness had testified to the police that Siciliano met with Orlando Oliveira de Araújo, a former police officer and now the leader of a vigilante militia group, to discuss rubbing out Franco, who had been asking awkward questions about a series of killings.

The witness, who has not been named, is reportedly a former member of the vigilante militia, which was hired by businesses to tackle criminals.

Assassination Re-enacted By Police

On Thursday, May 10, police re-enacted the shooting of Franco and her driver Anderson Pedro Gomes on the same street where she was killed.

“It’s important to have the movement of the vehicles and sounds. We can also see if the shooter was skilled or not, if there was a burst of shots or if they were intermittent,”  Detective Giniton Lages told the Associated Press.

Franco, 38, was elected in 2016 and spoke up for people living in some of the poorest and most marginalized shantytowns, or favelas.

Just days before she was killed, Franco had discussed on social media what she claimed were extra-judicial killings by the police.

“There is huge concern that two months after the killing of Marielle Franco there are no answers from authorities,” Renata Neder, research coordinator for Amnesty International Brazil, told AP.

Politics, like many other walks of life in Brazil, tends to be dominated by lighter skinned Brazilians and those with darker complexions tend to be at the bottom of the heap both politically and economically.

Franco was not just black, but was also from the LGBT community, and lived with her partner Mônica Benício. The couple were planning to get married next year.