RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A gang of gunmen roared up to a bar late Sunday in Belém, the capital city of Brazil’s northern state Pará, and opened fire, killing six women and five men, media reports said.
State officials would only confirm that “a massacre” occurred but gave no details.
The G1 news website said police reported that seven gunmen were involved in the attack, which also wounded one person. The news outlet said the attackers arrived at the bar on one motorcycle and in three cars.
In late March, the federal government sent National Guard troops to Belém to reinforce security in the city for 90 days.
A Pará state spokeswoman, Natalia Mello, only said: “A massacre is confirmed.” State communications officials stopped answering phone calls.
Military and civil police in Pará state also did not answer phone calls or respond to emails.
A couple of days ago, it was reported that violence in Brazil had declined significantly.
The number of killings fell 24 percent to 10,324 in the first quarter, according to violence monitoring published by the Globo media group.
However, Brazil continues to be one of the most violent countries in the world. Last year in the largest country in Latin America, 51,589 people were killed. For comparison, in Germany last year only 699 people were victims of homicidal offense.
Much of Brazil’s violence is gang-related. In January, gangs attacked across Fortaleza, bringing that city to a standstill as commerce, buses, and taxis shut down.
Rio de Janeiro, the country’s second biggest city, experiences daily shootouts between rival gangs and also between police and criminals, battles that often result in the deaths of innocent bystanders.
Fogo Cruzado, a group that monitors shootings in the Rio metropolitan area, says there were 2,300 shootings in Rio and its suburbs during the first 100 days of this year.
Killings attributed to police gunfire in Rio de Janeiro state have reached a record high, rising 18 percent in the first three months, in a spike partly attributed to a campaign of zero tolerance for criminals being pushed by state leaders.
The Military and Civil Police of Rio de Janeiro killed 434 people from January to March of this year, according to the ISP (Institute of Public Security).
Almost five (4.82) were killed per day, a record for the period in the 21-year statistical series, which began in 1998. The deaths continue into the current quarter.
One of new President Jair Bolsonaro’s main campaigns promises was that he would loosen Brazil’s strict gun laws, arguing that since criminals are well-armed with illegally obtained guns, “upstanding citizens” should have the right to defend themselves with legally acquired weapons.
Bolsonaro has made good on that campaign promise with two presidential decrees that make buying guns easier, though federal prosecutors are seeking to get the courts to block that move.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)