The commanding officer of an elite riot police squad in Rio de Janeiro was removed from his position on Monday after officials confirmed he made Nazi references and urged violence against protesters in a WhatsApp chat with other officers.
Col. Fabio Souza led Rio's riot police during protests in Brazil last summer, when hundreds of thousands of Brazilians took to the streets across the country to protest government spending on the World Cup, an increase in transit fares and corruption. On June 20, Souza was in charge of riot police when they clashed with some radical protesters, resulting in 40 injuries. At the time, The Associated Press reported, "several peaceful protesters were caught up in the crackdown … as police fired tear gas canisters into their midst and at times indiscriminately used pepper spray."
The WhatsApp messages, published over the weekend by Brazilian news magazine Veja, show Souza bragging to fellow officers about shooting one of the protesters in the back with a tear gas canister. He also appeared to suggest that officers should aim at protesters.
Rio de Janiero's Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame told the Rio newspaper O Globo that he first learned of the WhatsApp chat in the Veja report. He said he verified the messages and ordered Souza's dismissal on Monday.
"I was horrified by what was in the conversations," he said.
The messages obtained by Veja were allegedly between a group of military police officers including Souza, and were sent between December of 2013 and January of 2014.
A few excerpts:
"Kill! That way you immobilize them forever … kill them all."
Souza referred to the possibility of his command taking control of military police in Rio as the "Chancellor assuming power." Another officer referred to the "re-establishment of the Reich."
In another chat, Souza bragged about using an AM640— which Veja described as a tear-gas launcher — to shoot a protester from the radical Black Bloc group in the back. Tear gas containers are typically not intended to be shot directly at people, and can cause considerable harm or death if fired from short distances.
"In the last protests, I shot one of the black bloc idiots in the back with a AM640 who was at most 30 meters way. What pride!" he said.
@JaredGoyette is a digital news editor at Fusion.