Marcelo Freixo, left, Rio de Janeiro state deputy for the Socialism and Liberty party, and Monica Benicio attend a rally of Brazilian leftist parties in Rio de Janeiro on 2 April. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/ AFP/ Getty Images
” I knew this[ city] government wouldn’t aim well but I never imagined it would objective so badly ,” said Marcelo Freixo, a crusading MP from the leftist Socialism and Liberty party who was Franco’s political mentor and friend.
” The government is coming to an end with the
former governor under arrest; the former president of the legislative assembly under arrest; the other chairwoman of the legislative assembly under arrest; the leader of the governmental forces under arrest; and the current governor waiting to be arrested. This is a very serious metastasis and got a real impact in people’s lives. There is no government .”
Grappling with a growing sense of crisis, many
cariocas , as Rio’s residents are known, say they want out. Two recent polls found more than 70% would leave if they could because of the rising violence.
Benicio, who met Franco in the colossal Mare favela where both women were raised, recalled taunting her about the wisdom of diving into this morass of political “filth”. But she said the apparently endless the reporting of bloodshed and sleaze had fired up Franco , not discouraged her.
Franco was convinced Brazilian politics required renewal: more black faces, more female faces, more LGBT faces, more favela faces, and- with Brazil mired in what some call
the biggest corruption scandal in history– more honest faces.
In 2016, after years of grassroots activism, she ran for office with the slogan” I am since we are “.
Freixo, Franco’s boss since 2007, said he was thrilled by his protege’s move:” The world is weeping out for Marielles .” Rio agreed, electing Franco with virtually 47,000 elections- the fifth-highest number received without a city councillor. At her swearing in on 1 January 2017
the young, black, gay, female, favela-born politician vowed to “oxygenate” Rio’s stale political scene.
Not everybody seems to have welcomed Franco’s triumph. Friends and relatives are convinced she was the victim of a political assassination, a theory authorities say they are aggressively pursuing.
” I don’t question at all that it was a political crime ,” said Benicio.” She was our only black female councillor- a black, lesbian woman from the favelas occupying a position of power that’s predominantly reserved for the white all those people who make up this’ Brazilian upper-clas ‘.”
who has long lived under armed guard because of his fight against Rio’s mafia, concurred.” The only thing I don’t know is what politics lay behind it; who ordered it; what the motivation was and what the message was .”
He admitted police faced a devilishly complex investigation.” We know this case won’t be solved with the velocity … our anguish demands. But I think it will be solved .”
Monica Benicio and Marielle Franco. Photograph: Family Photo figcaption > source >
Determined to hold Franco’s cause alive, Beniciohas thrown herself into public activism,
addressing legislators in Brasilia and taking to the stage with Lula and Katy Perry in Rio.
She said her first chore, however, was simply surviving. For a fortnight after the crime, Benicio told, she was unable to devour solid food.” Eating meant accepting I would have to go on .”
Benicio said she clung to the memory of her final moments with Franco after a rare lunch together at her office.
” I dedicated her a quick kiss, got into the lift- and the last image I have ,” she told, pausing to compose herself,” is of her stood there in the door, smiling and waving goodbye, and the lift doorway closing .”
The next time she set eyes on her partner was through a small glass window in Franco’s redwood coffin.” It didn’t look like her … Her face was a little swollen but there was nothing grotesque or morbid. It’s just that I couldn’t see my woman in that face … So I still can’t believe it .”
” I’m waiting for her to come back ,” Benicio acknowledged, her voice trembling
. “ em> Any time now .”