South America’s most populated country will hold crucial presidential elections on October 7 and black female candidates inspired by slain activist Marielle Franco are throwing up a critical challenge.
Brazil’s black female constituencies have recently become more assertive than ever as the country’s critical presidential elections are around the corner.
Many activists and experts say the murder of political activist Marielle Franco, who was assassinated six months ago, has inspired a lot of women to participate in the elections both as candidates and campaigners.
Franco, who was from the country’s capital Rio’s Complexo da Mare, has long fearlessly defended the rights of black women and the well-being of Rio’s low income neighbourhoods against police brutality and injustices.
Franco and her driver were shot to death after they left a fateful event where she urged black women to take their place in the city’s politics. In 2016, she became one of the top five receivers of the votes for city councillors across the country.
Before her assassination, she was overseeing a city committee tasked to monitor the practices of federally-charged military forces in the city’s slums. No arrest has been made since her assassination in March.
“A Rio militia leader, a key suspect in the assassination of Marielle Franco, says her killing was carried out by a highly professional, for-hire murder group composed of police officers & led by high-ranking police officials,” Glenn Greenwald, an American lawyer and author wrote on Twitter.
A Rio militia leader, a key suspect in the assassination of Marielle Franco, says her killing was carried out by a highly professional, for-hire murder group composed of police officers & led by high-ranking police officials. Fee: R$ 200,000 (US$ 50,000) https://t.co/GkDI9hsi53— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 22, 2018
Franco represented Mare, one of the capital’s poorest slums located in the city’s northern zone. She was a member of the Socialist and Liberty Party, one of the new leftist parties in Brazil.
Her life and death have inspired many black female Brazilians to take up her cause and to defend their communities in better terms. Brazil is now experiencing an unprecedented increase in the number of its black female candidates before its upcoming presidential elections according to various reports.
“It's been 200 Days since the vicious assassination of Marielle Franco. 4 bullets to the head attempted to silence her voice. But Black Women in Brazil are rising to take her place,” said Sharrelle Barber, and American academic, on Twitter.
It's been 200 Days since the vicious assassination of #MarielleFranco. 4 bullets to the head attempted to silence her voice. But Black Women in Brazil are rising to take her place...#MarielleVive#MarielleResists #BlackWomenResist #CiteBlackWomen#EleNunca pic.twitter.com/98QKUNpjPZ— Dr. Sharrelle Barber (@HealthEquityDoc) September 30, 2018
“I am because we are,” was Franco’s election slogan, which is a clear indication of her commitment to people whom she grew up with in one of Rio’s poor neighbourhoods.
Before the upcoming elections, Black Women Decide, a social platform, inspired by female politicians like Franco, was established to increase political awareness of black women and to encourage them to participate in Brazil’s partly machista-dominated politics.
According to some estimates, black women correspond to more than a quarter of the Brazilian population. But in the Brazilian Congress, only two percent of the seats belong to them.
In Brazil’s fast-changing demographics, the shifting political attitude of non-whites, who comprise more than half of the population, could stamp its seal on the election results.
More political assertiveness coming from non-whites is also fomenting the consolidation on the side of Brazil’s white communities. The front-runner candidate for the presidential elections is Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing politician and a former military officer, who is defending a kind of Brazilian version of Trump’s “Making America Great Again!”
But last Saturday Brazil’s women were on the streets across the country to protest Bolsonaro and his far-right political agenda. They have already launched an online campaign against him, using the hashtag #EleNao (#NotHim).
Both the right-wing and leftist political campaigns demonstrate that the upcoming Brazilian elections will be a showdown between far-right candidates like Bolsonaro and Franco-minded new leftists progressives.
Ciro Gomes, a left-wing candidate for the presidency, compared Bolsonaro’s political stances to Germany’s Nazi Party in the 1930s, pointing out “egg of the serpent of Nazism, of fascism,” which Brazil “must treat as a serious threat.”
“Of course, it is an exaggerated comparison, but the values of intolerance, hate, misogyny, discrimination against gays and women, militarism, all this is very powerfully there, galvanizing around this caricature [of Bolsonaro].”