Brazil: trial begins for rich boys who set fire to Indian

The trial of five middle-class boys who burnt an Indian to death for a laugh has begun, amid “pressure” against the prosecution.

The Pataxo Indian Galdino Jesus dos Santos had been celebrating Indian Day on 19th April, 1997. The worse for alcohol, having missed his bus home, he decided to sleep in a bus stop in Asa Sul, Brasilia, the most luxurious zone of the capital city of Brazil. This was his worst mistake.

In the early hours of the following morning, five boys from rich families, four aged 18/19 and one 17, were passing in an expensive car, saw the Indian and thought up a prank. They went to a nearby garage, bought a two-litre bottle of alcohol, poured it over the sleeping Indian and set fire to him. They were heard laughing hysterically as they ran to their car. The Indian died in hospital shortly afterwards, with 95% of his body burnt. Only the soles of his feet escaped.

Although they were seen by three eyewitnesses, the case is not so simple. This is Brazil, the country of political influences, death threats and corruption, where the rich basically do what they want at the expense of the poor, who are denied any voice by the system. The case of Galdino is a good example. Two of the five accused are sons of high officials in the Brazilian justice system, one ex-Minister of the Superior Electoral Court and one senior judge.

The main prosecution lawyer, Maria Jose Miranda, dropped the case five days before it is due to be heard in court, alleging “tiredness”. The real reason, according to rumours in the Brasilia Palace of Justice, is “external pressure”, a common euphemism in Brazil for death threats, threat of termination of contract, mutilation and torture of family members and the like.

The trial judge is Sandra de Santis, who in 1997 declassified the case from homicide to bodily harm, followed by death, a less serious offence which would afford the perpetrators lesser sentences. The new prosecution lawyer, Mauricio Miranda, declares that the trial judge is incompetent to try the case.

The trial begins today (November 6th) and is bound to create the greatest public attention in Brazil, a country whose 170 million population is starting to wake up after years of US-backed fascist dictatorship, horrified by yet another example of violence by the rich against the poor.

Although the system may try to engineer the result, the public is watching.


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Author`s name: Editorial Team