March 14, Saturday, marked two years since the assassination of councilwoman Marielle Franco and her driver Anderson Gomes in Brazil. The case gained international notoriety and made Marielle a political symbol of the fight for human rights and the inclusion of black women in the spheres of influence of Brazil.
24 months later, the question, “Who ordered the killing of Marielle Franco?”, remains unanswered. The 2019 arrests of former police officer Ronnie Lessa, and court marshaled policeman Élcio Queiroz, accused of directly participating in the murder of the lawmaker, haven’t revealed the complete picture behind the crime and those responsible.
Jaqueline Deister of Brasil de Fato spoke to the councilwoman’s sister, Anielle Franco, about the state of the investigations, the participation of black women in Brazilian politics, the controversies behind the audio visual materials intent on taking Marielle’s legacy to the big screen and the Marielle Franco Institute.
Brasil de Fato: Over the course of the last two years, we’ve seen the arrests of two accused, Ronnie Lessa and Élcio Queiroz. Last week, a judge ordered that they be tried by a grand jury. How did the family receive this news?
Anielle Franco: We understand this another step forward. We know this is not the end, but it was at least like turning the first page. We don’t have answers as to who sent them (Ronnie and Élcio) even though they are in jail. They can still appeal. For us, it’s just another step forward in the investigations. It isn’t a victory, we have nothing to celebrate.
BDF: The heads of the Public Prosecutors Office (PGR) defend the case that will be judged on March 31st by the Supreme Court, be turned federal. What is the position of your family on where the investigation is heading and a possible transfer of the case out of Rio de Janeiro?
AF: We are still opposed to the case being made federal. We understand that the prosecutors and Public Attorney’s offices have been doing an ok job so far. My parents are always there with them. We are still not interested in making it a federal case. We need to understand who would benefit from the case becoming a federal one.
The political assassination of Marielle Franco gave other black women the incentive to occupy a larger space in Brazilian politics. How do you see this coming into the 2020 elections. Will we see more “seeds of Marielle” candidates? Will you be one of them?
Anielle Franco: I will not be a candidate in 2020. This is certain. It has already been decided.
I don’t know which black women will be running in 2020 yet. I haven’t had access, but I think that the attitude in itself, of running to work at a place like that, the City Council Chamber, is an act of courage and I hope many of them will come forward.
BDF: The story of Marielle became the theme of the film “Marielle – the documentary” and of a fictional series slated to begin in 2021. What is your analysis of the criticism toward Antônia Pellegrino, one of the intellectual forces behind the project?
AF: The documentary had nothing to do with Antônia. It’s worth noting that. It’s obvious that it’s a documentary, whether it airs on Globo, SBT, or whatever medium, it’s important to have to sort of immortalize Mari’s life. The criticism from the black movement is very pertinent. They are criticisms that should not only relate to Marielle’s case, but the radio, the TV, the newspaper etc. The amount of black people we see in the media to tell these stories. I think it’s important.
Now we have to evaluate what these criticisms were, if they can really listen and learn from them, to create a better ending and allowing us to tell our stories.
BDF: Were you consulted on these two projects?
AF: The two projects were independent. Brazilian law currently states that you don’t need the family’s permission for a biography to be done. To be consulted on whether or not they can do it in the first place is different than saying, “We are already doing it and will continue to do so”. When we get shown things, everything is ready and done. The family accepting it or not doesn’t matter. That’s what people need to understand. Independent of being consulted or not, independent of our consent, we don’t have any control over Marielle’s image. So, it was gonna happen with or without us.
BDF: The Marielle House was opened at the beginning of March in Rio, as one of the projects of the Marielle Franco Institute. How do these spaces work?
AF: Today we run the institute as a way to try and have conversations with society not just here in Rio, but on a national and global level. The House is here temporarily, for 30 days. Only during March. We don’t know yet if we will keep here, or take it somewhere else.
We have work to do that requires a lot of responsibility, because it’s not only about maintaining her legacy, but being able to reach out to those we hope to inspire. It’s not a simple task. The House has stayed open. The exhibit is very beautiful. We are financing this through crowd funding. It wouldn’t be possible without all the people that donated. We have more than 900 registered donors, who contributed with the intention of keeping this place alive. I hope it’s a start.
It’s a year in which we are structuring the Institute. We need a structure, to listen to advisors and the people who have a lot of experience in the field. I have a big dream: to make the institute grow on the world stage, so we can have a dialogue with the left, the right, the center, and at some point explain that this murder was a political femicide and must be solved. No life deserves to be taken in this way. The institute is here to grow a lot still. It is something I really hope happens and I am putting a lot dedication and effort into it.
BDF: What are your main areas of focus today?
AF: These days, we have four pillars that guide our mission and values: to fight for justice, keep Marielle’s memory alive, defend her legacy and keep planting more “seeds of Marielle.” We don’t have plans for the Marielle House in April since we’ll only be able to have it up and running after March 14th, when the 2nd Justice for Marielle and Anderson Festival takes place, and it’s consuming all of our energy. Crowd sourcing is available. We have some goals to achieve with this money, some projects you can see on our website: institutomariellefranco.org.
Translated by: Ítalo Piva
Edited by: Mariana Pitasse