Brazil's government declared Monday that human rights activist Marielle Franco was “very likely” killed by “militias,” according to Minister of Public Security Raul Jungmann.
“There are basically one or two promising leads: I would say that in one of them, investigators have moved forward significantly. The most probable hypothesis is the involvement of Rio de Janeiro's militias,” said Jungmann in an interview with local radio CBN.
Militias refer to criminal groups whose members are former police officers or active and corrupted officers, controlling large parts of the city. They function as paramilitary groups and compete with other drug-trafficking groups over the control of favelas, affecting primarily the marginalized populations living there.
Franco was renown for openly denouncing their activities, defending the rights of the poor communities of Rio de Janeiro against police brutality and corruption.
She was raised and lived in Mare, a complex of favelas where about 130,000 residents now must contend with the presence of Rio's two most powerful gangs - the Red Command and the Pure Third Command, along with militias made up of off-duty or retired police and fireman.
In February, soldiers began the occupation of Mare, as they did for over a year between 2014 and 2015, as part of the Brazilian government's military intervention in the state of Rio de Janeiro which began on Feb. 16.