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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July, 2005, 19:51 GMT 20:51 UK
Brazilian's death was 'third-world error'
By Steve Kingstone
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Matozinhos Otonio da Silva embraces a relative as he holds a picture of his son, in Gonzaga, Brazil
Mr Menezes' father said they had hoped for financial support from their son
Brazilian music legend Caetano Veloso recorded 'London, London' in 1971 telling of "crossing the streets without fear" and describing a group of people who see a policeman. "He seems so pleased to please them," sings Veloso.

London was a place of refuge for leading Brazilian artists who were opposed to their country's then military government.

For Brazilians, the shooting by London police officers of 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes has turned conventional human rights wisdom on its head.

"Here in Brazil it's common for the police to act violently, especially against poor and black people," says Maria Luisa Mendonca of the Network for Justice and Human Rights in Sao Paulo.

"For us the police in England were always a model," she adds. "Human rights groups always studied how officers acted there. But not any more, after this situation."

In recent years, UK police officers have even travelled to Brazil to offer training, as part of a scheme run by the British Council.

Between 2000 and 2003 the UK government invested 100,000 in three workshops for Brazilian officers, who were taught to secure crime scenes and given tips on interviewing.

The British Council has also run workshops on human rights aspects of policing, and on building trust between the police and crime-ridden communities.

Legal action

Police violence has long been a fact of life in Brazil. Amnesty International reports that in 2004 there were 663 killings by officers in Sao Paulo state, and 983 in Rio de Janeiro State.

But few here would expect the same to happen in the UK. "The police committed a gross, stupid, third-world error," says Maria do Socorro Alves, a cousin of the dead man.

Maria Otonio de Menezes, Mr Menezes' mother, is comforted by relatives, in Gonzaga, Brazil
Mrs Menezes said she feared for her son's life after the 7 July terrorist attack
Speaking from her small, simple family home in Sao Paulo, 48-year-old Mrs Alves explains that the family is considering suing the Metropolitan Police.

"Of course we might sue," she says defiantly. "We Brazilians aren't just going to fold our arms and watch. We want the facts cleared up, and we'll see what the police are going to do for us."

The parents of Mr Menezes received a knock on the door on Saturday morning. Their home, in the tiny town on Gonzaga in south-eastern Brazil, has no phone.

At the door was the town's mayor, who broke the news of the shooting.

"I went into town two weeks ago to try to phone Jean," said his mother, Maria Otonio de Menezes, to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

"I wanted him out of England while they were having these terrorist attacks. I was scared he would be killed by terrorists."

Mr Menezes' father, Matuzinhos Otonio da Silva, told the newspaper the family survives on subsistence agriculture, and had hoped for financial help from his son.

"Here, there's barely enough to eat," he said. "He was our hope for a slightly better income."

Media irritation

In the Brazilian media, the killing has become the lead story, knocking a long-running government corruption scandal off the front pages.

British government's attitude irritates Brazil
O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper
"The order is still shoot to kill," was the headline in Monday's O Globo. The newspaper criticised the UK Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, who said the police were to be "congratulated" for their work in the investigation.

Jornal do Brasil wrote: "Instead of apologising, the English authorities came out in defence of those responsible for this disastrous [police] action."

The headline in O Estado de Sao Paulo read: "British government's attitude irritates Brazil."

At a political level, the Brazilian government has been quick to reiterate its support for the war on terror, although it says anti-terrorist operations must show respect for human rights.

But others are more openly critical of UK policy. Some make a direct link between the 7 July attacks on London, and Britain's involvement in the Iraq war, which Brazil opposed.

"What the British government is doing in Iraq is a clear example of human rights violations," says Ms Mendonca. "And the reaction is happening against its own population."


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