Brazil’s president furious over report linking him to Marielle Franco murder

Claim man charged with the murder visited Bolsonaro’s gated community hours before the killing

The councilwoman whose assassination convulsed Brazil. Marielle Franco was a rising force in Rio politics when she was killed by shots fired from a car which pulled alongside the one she was travelling in. Photograph: Renan Olaz

Brazil's far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has reacted with fury to a media report linking him to the murder of Marielle Franco, the Rio de Janeiro city council member whose assassination convulsed the country.

On Tuesday night Globo, Brazil’s biggest television network reported that one of the two men charged with Ms Franco’s murder visited the gated community in Rio where Mr Bolsonaro lives just hours before the killing took place in March of last year.

According to evidence taken from the security guard on duty, Élcio Vieira de Queiroz said he was there to visit Mr Bolsonaro, then a deputy in Brazil's lower house of congress. The guard noted Mr Queiroz instead went to the house of Ronnie Lessa, the other man charged with Ms Franco's murder.

Mr Bolsonaro responded to the report by Globo by recording a 23-minute video from Saudi Arabia, where he is on an official visit, in which he denied any link the Ms Franco's murder. The recording turned into a rambling and at times tearful attack on Brazil's media and other politicians. He accused Rio's governor Wilson Witzel, once an ally, of trying to incriminate him in the Franco case and even threatened not to renew Globo's television licence.


Security guard

On Wednesday Mr Bolsonaro said he had asked justice minister Sergio Moro have the federal police under his command reinterview the security guard. The guard said that on the day of the murder he twice called Mr Bolsonaro's residence and spoke to a man he identified as the then deputy. But congressional records and clips on social media indicate that on the day in question Mr Bolsonaro was in Brasília. Mr Moro said the testimony provided by the security guard could simply be wrong or else manipulated by an unidentified "third party".

Gay, black and from one of Rio's biggest slums, Ms Franco was a rising force in Rio politics when she was killed by shots fired from a car which pulled alongside the one she was travelling in. Her driver Anderson Gomes was also killed.

Illegal militias

Members of Rio’s illegal militias composed of corrupt serving and former police officers have been leading suspects in Ms Franco’s murder. With the arrest in May of Mr Lessa and Mr Queiroz, allegedly the gunman and driver respectively, the focus of the investigation has switched to who ordered the killing.

The Bolsonaro family have a number of links to the militias dating back over a decade, including employing relatives of known militia leaders on their parliamentary staff.

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan

Tom Hennigan is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South America