By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Rio de Janeiro Civil Police announced Tuesday morning that two suspects of killing councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver, Anderson Gomes, were arrested two days before the murders observe their one-year anniversary.
Police have identified the two suspects in custody as Ronnie Lessa, a retired military police officer and Elcio Vieira de Queiroz, expelled from the Military Police.
“The arrests of Marielle (Franco) and Anderson’s (Gomes) executioners are important and overdue,” said Franco’s colleague, state legislator Marcelo Freixo during a TV interview Monday morning.
“It is unacceptable to take a year to respond. It is crucial to know who killed her and the motive for the killing. We do not accept the version that it was a hate-crime or a crime of passion. These people who did not even know who Marielle was,” added the lawmaker.
According to the prosecutor’s office, evidence shows that Lessa was the shooter while Queiroz was the driver of the vehicle used in the execution. Franco, along with her driver, Gomes and her assistant, Fernanda Chavez, were coming back from a meeting with black women activists when their car was rilled with bullets in the center of Rio de Janeiro.
Franco’s sister, Anielle Silva said she received the news optimistically, but stressed that ‘as a family we wonder why and who told them to do it (murder)’.
Although other suspects have been previously detained and questioned, Lessa and Queiroz are the first to be formally charged with the crime. The crime is believed to have been ordered by people uncomfortable with Franco’s militancy in favor of women, the LGBT groups and favela-community residents.
Before announcing the first arrests in the case police suspected that the crime had been planned by Orlando Oliveira de Araújo, better known as Orlando Curicica, whose involvement with militias was well known, but who has been in prison since October 2017.
Curicica however, told the Attorney General’s Office that he was being coerced by Rio’s Civil Police to assume responsibility for the crime.
Franco was elected to Rio’s legislature in 2015 with the fifth highest votes of the election, and was very active in women’s rights, especially Rio’s black women who lived in favela communities and face domestic violence and human rights violations.
Since her death the slogan ‘Marielle Presente’ (Marielle Present) has been seen in banners, t-shirts and bumper stickers throughout the country. Franco was also the main story plot theme for many of this year’s Carnival ‘blocos’ and samba schools.
Last week one of Rio’s most traditional samba schools, Mangueira Estação Primeira, won the 2019 Carnival Samba Parade with a parade which paid tribute to Franco, showing the participation of popular leaders who have influenced the history of Brazil.
On Thursday, March 14th several marches are expected to take place throughout Brazil to remember the one-year anniversary of Franco and Gomes’ assassination.