Rio de Janeiro – A member of the Rio de Janeiro state legislature said Monday that he plans to leave Brazil for a month due to death threats from corrupt police who terrorize poor neighborhoods in this city.
Marcelo Freixo, a member of the Socialism and Freedom Party, said that after receiving seven "concrete deaths threats" in the last month, he decided to accept an offer from Amnesty International for temporary refuge abroad.
"I need to protect my family for a while and adjust my security," he said, vowing to return to Brazil and resume his work in the state legislature.
Three years ago, Freixo chaired a legislative committee that investigated the self-styled "militias" of retired and active-duty police who have chased drug gangs out of dozens of Rio slums only to turn around and start preying on those communities.
The militias demand protection payments from residents and merchants and establish monopoly control over utilities, public transportation and other basic services.
"If I were to leave definitively I would be renouncing what I have done up to now," Freixo told CBN radio. "It would not be right. I want to continue in public life, not to give up my work. For me to stop being a lawmaker is no solution."
He described the government's protective measures as "fragile," pointing to the Aug. 12 assassination of Judge Patricia Lourival Acioli, allegedly killed by police angry over her tough stance toward cops involved in "extermination groups" that kill petty criminals, beggars and homeless people in Greater Rio de Janeiro.
The work done by Freixo's investigative panel in 2008 has led to 200 indictments of police, firefighters and politicians.
Freixo said that while the militias "now feel threatened" because of recent arrests and convictions, they remain dangerous, as authorities have yet to expel them from the slums or cut off their sources of income.