Seven people, including a businessman and former local councillor, and a police officer were arrested two days ago by Maranhão state police investigating the murder of the Brazilian journalist and blogger Décio Sá, gunned down on 23 April in a bar in São Luis.
It now seems likely that the killing was related to his work since the main suspects had been criticized by the murder victim, who ran his own blog and also worked as a political journalist for the daily O Estado de Maranhão.
“The progress in the investigation is most welcome. We hope that justice will be served swiftly on behalf of Décio Sá, whose murder is a reminder of the great risks incurred by journalists who dare to tackle the subjects of organized crime and corruption,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We expect similar progress in other unsolved cases such as those of Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes and Paulo Rocaro, both killed in February.”
Glaúcio Alencar Pontes Carvalho, 34, a businessman and former local councillor, and his father Alencar Miranda Carvalho, 72, were accused of ordering Sá’s murder.
An associate of Glaúcio Alencar’s, Raimundo Sales Charles Júnior, 38, and two other men, Fábio Aurélio do Lago e Silva, 32, and Airton Martins Monroe, 24, were alleged to have hired hitman Jhonathan de Souza Silva, 24, to carry out the killing.
Silva, who also faces drug trafficking charges, has admitted 20 other murders of a total of 49 he is suspected to have carried out in the states of Maranhão and Pará.
Also arrested was Fábio Aurélio Saraiva, a former captain in the Maranhão military police strike force, who was suspected of supplying the killer with the gun used in the murder.
Another suspect, Valdênio José da Silva, was arrested two days after Sá’s death and subsequently released. He himself was murdered the day before the police swoop. The seventh person taken custody was named as Fábio Roberto Calvacante Lima.
According to the police, Sá was believed to have been killed because he knew of Glaúcio Alencar’s alleged involvement in loan sharking and racketeering and, especially, his alleged implication in the murder of a pawnbroker. A solution to the Sá murder would allow the police to dismantle a veritable crime network that includes those involved in the case among others.
24.04.12 - Popular blogger Décio Sá gunned down in Maranhão state
Décio Sá, a political reporter and high-profile blogger based in São Luís, the capital of the northeastern state of Maranhão, was gunned down in a bar yesterday. He had worked for 17 years on the political desk of O Estado do Maranhão, a regional paper owned by the Mirante de Comunicação group. His blog, Blog do Décio, was one of the most popular in the northeast.
“Every effort must be made to shed light on Sá’s murder, which was clearly planned with great care,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We hope it will serve as warning to the authorities in the north and northeast about the dangers to which reporters are exposed. The authorities must ensure that journalists are able to work freely and safely when investigating corruption or the various kinds of trafficking.
“With three journalists killed, 2011 was already a deadly year for the Brazilian media but frequency of violence seems to be increasing with four journalists murdered in the past four months.”
Maranhão state public safety secretary Aluísio Mendes told local media: “This was an instigated murder. The killers came into the bar with the intention of executing this journalist and they did not even try to cover their faces. This is a murder that requires a special investigation. We will investigate this very thoroughly.”
Aged 42, Sá was gunned down in the Estrela Dalva bar in a waterfront area of São Luís that is popular with tourists. Witnesses said a man shot him six times and then left with an accomplice who was waiting for him outside on a motorcycle. A magazine compatible with the kind of bullets used in the murder was found at the scene. The murder weapon was of type used exclusively by the police, raising questions about the identity of the killers.
In the five years that Sá had keeping Blog do Décio, it had become one of the most widely read blogs in the state. He wrote about local politics, corruption and organized crime, which is endemic in the region.
Brazil fell 41 places in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index and is now ranked 99th out of 179 countries.