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Brazil February 29, 2012
H.E. Dilma Vana Rousseff
Office of the President
Palacio do Planalto
Praca do Tres Poderes
10.150-900 Brasilia, DF
Federative Republic of Brazil
Fax: (011.55.61) 411.2222
The murders of two Brazilian journalists in a single week this month underscore your country’s deteriorating ranking as a defender of press freedom. The violent deaths of Paulo Roberto Cardoso Rodrigues, known as Paulo Rocaro, and Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes are of great concern not only to us, but to general democracy and freedom in your state.
Rocaro, editor of the local daily, “Jornal da Praca,” and the news website, Mercosul News, frequently covered local politics and had made many enemies by covering cases of alleged corruption. He was driving home from a meeting with an opposition mayoral candidate in the town of Ponta Pora when he was shot by two unknown assailants on a motorcycle, who hit him with at least five of the twelve shots they fired. Rocaro died in the hospital early the next morning.
Editor of the “Vassouras na Net” news website and well known for his continual critiques of corruption in local politics, Marques Lopes had miraculously survived an attempt on his life on July 6, 2011 — when he was shot five times in the head in his home in the town of Vassouras. He and his partner, Maria Aparecida Guimaraes, were kidnapped from Margues Lopes’s new home in Barra do Pirai by three unknown assailants on February 8, 2012, and were found shot dead 22 hours later in another part of the city.
The most disturbing part about these murders was their clear political motivation. Both men attacked corruption in local politics, and their deaths were clear warnings for other journalists covering these and similar cases. If the murderers are not quickly found and punished, these cases will pose a continuing threat to press freedom in Brazil.
While you have stated that you are committed to promoting press freedom, Your Excellency, it is clear that in your country, the cause if faring badly. In this year’s global press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders (RWB), Brazil fell fully 41 places to 99th in total ranking. We urge your government to encourage officials throughout Brazil to take urgent action whenever violent crimes against journalists are committed. The attackers of Rocaro and Margues Lopes should not remain unpunished, and investigations of these crimes should be taken seriously.
The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC), an independent organization that has defended press freedom around the world for over 70 years, is concerned not only for your journalists, but for democracy in your state as a whole. Without freedom of press or speech, Brazil can hardly be called a functioning democracy.
Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Mauro Vieira
Ambassador of Brazil to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Federative Republic of Brazil
3006 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 238.2827
Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeira Viotti
Permanent Mission of the Federative Republic of Brazil to the United Nations
747 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 371.5716
H.E. Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.
U.S. Ambassador to Brazil
Embassy of the United States of America
SES-Quadra 801, Lote 03
70403-900 Brazilia, DF
Fax: (011.55.61) 126.96.36.199/ 36
Rua Irineu Marinbo #35 News
Viarro Cidade Nova 1801
Rio de Janeiro 20230 901
Fax: (011.55.21) 188.8.131.52
O Estado de Sao Paulo
Av. Engenheiro Caetano Alvaez 55, 6 andar Bairro Limao
Sao Paulo 02590 900 S.P.
Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520