By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Twenty-two years after the murder of eight homeless boys in the center of Rio de Janeiro by police, violence towards youths in Brazil has not improved, according to human rights advocates. In many cities, the violence has increased significantly. On Thursday, groups working with children’s rights held a mass for the eight youths then marched through the center of Rio to remember the incident, dubbed as the Candelaria Massacre and protest against violence against Brazil’s children.
“We marched because 22 years after children were gunned down where they sought shelter in the center of Rio, children are still not safe on the streets of Brazil,” Joe Hewitt, head of Street Child United in Brazil, an NGO for the rights of street children around the world, told The Rio Times.
“It is ‘street-connected’ poor children who are at the most risk and when one of these children is murdered, their death is rarely deemed worthy of adequate investigation.” The only survivor of the Candelaria massacre, who identified the police officers who murdered the youths was put in Witness Protection and is currently living in Switzerland.
A recent study on violence conducted by sociologist Júlio Jacobo Waiselfisz, showed that Brazil registered more than 10,000 murders of youths between 11-19 years old in 2013.
“The indexes of violence for this age group grew drastically during these last few years. Between 1993 and 2013, the levels of violence increased practically four times. The Candelaria massacre was the tip of an iceberg which already existed in Brazil,” said the sociologist, who is the coordinator of the Studies on Violence at the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (Flasco), on Thursday.
Human Rights Minister, Pepe Vargas, who participated in the mass and the march said something urgently needs to be done to protect the youths of the country. “Unfortunately society did not learn from the massacre. [The number of] youth murders are frightening. We need to pull society together and get all levels of governments involved to face this issue,” he said.
Hewistt added “We know that with protection, rehabilitation and opportunities, every one of these children can have a fulfilled future within society but they are viewed in terms of criminals rather than children. Through actions like attempting to lower the age of criminal responsibility we see a clear desire not to help these children in the long run but to condemn them immediately.”
On Thursday, July 23rd, another survey, this time in São Paulo, revealed that 67 percent of the youth population between 10-17 years old considers the city unsafe.