Police Think Brazilian Activist Was Murdered Because Of LGBT Identity

An LGBTQ activist in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was murdered and then burned. Drug traffickers appear to be involved, and hate may have been a motivation.

Matheusa Passarelli, 21, an audio-visual arts student at the State University of Rio De Janeiro, was executed and then burned. The LGBTQ activist was one of the first in their family to go to college.

Passarelli’s murderer(s) is still on the loose.

The student, who openly fought for LGBTQ rights, did not identify as male or female. The non-binary activist is believed to have been killed at a “favela,” or slum, in the north part of the city. Brazilian news websites claim that Passarelli was killed by gangs.

The activist had been missing since April 29, so their family started a campaign called “Where Is Matheus Passarelli?” instead of using “Matheusa.”

On May 6, Gabriel Passarelli, the victim’s brother, wrote on Facebook that the family had learned that their beloved sibling had been killed.

On May 9, a vigil was held at the university where friends and admirers celebrated Passarelli’s life.

Police reportedly think that the victim’s identity may have been a motivation behind the crime, but they have not confirmed the speculation. Regardless, this isn’t the first killing involving LGBTQ activists in Rio in recent months.

City councilwoman Marielle Franco, 38, was shot and killed while inside of a vehicle in Rio earlier this year. Her driver was also fatally shot.

Franco had a daughter and was openly gay. She was engaged to marry her partner, Mônica Benício, when the deadly attack happened. After her death, Brazil President Michel Temer ordered a federal investigation into her death and the further deployment of military troops to Rio de Janeiro. Ironically, it was under this heavily militarized police state that Passarelli was killed.

The reality for the poor in Rio de Janeiro continues to be one of hardship.

As the drug war gives state and federal police the excuse to continue to use deadly force in the slums on anyone, countless innocent victims lose their lives simply by being caught in the cross fire between traffickers and police. 

Others lose their lives for simply being who they are.

Minority leaders and activists, such as Franco and Passarelli, know this reality well and are doing all they can to change it despite the risk of being murdered.

These tragic deaths cannot be in vain and must not continue. Preventative measures need to be taken to curb the senseless killings of people who are only trying to improve the quality of life for their communities. 

 Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters/ Aly Song

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