SAO PAULO—An armed group entered a bar in the Brazilian northern city of Belem on Sunday, May 19, and fired at patrons, killing 11 people and leaving one wounded, according to local media reports.
The armed group, whose members were wearing masks to cover their faces, arrived in cars and a motorbike before shooting dead six women and five men in the bar in a poor, violent neighborhood in the capital of Para state, said G1 news website.
There was no information regarding possible motivation for the crime and no arrests had been made by early Sunday evening. The identities of the victims were not given.
“Of course we have some lines of investigation, which are confidential, but all of them will be analyzed very carefully, very strictly,” secretary of public security in Pará Ualame Machado said at a news conference Sunday.
Some videos taken right after the shooting were posted on social media, showing slain people laying on the ground and a dead woman on top of the bar’s counter.
The killings took place in the Guamá neighborhood, one of the seven most violent spots in the metropolitan Belem area where federal troops were sent in March to boost security.
There were 756 violent deaths in Pará state in the first quarter.
Much of Brazil’s violence is gang-related. In January, gangs attacked across Fortaleza, bringing that city to a standstill with as commerce, buses, and taxis shut down.
Rio de Janeiro, the country’s second biggest city, experiences daily shootouts between rival gangs and also between police and criminals, battles that often result in the deaths of innocent bystanders. Fogo Cruzado, a group that monitors shootings in the Rio metropolitan area, says there were 2,300 shootings in Rio and its suburbs during the first 100 days of this year.
Killings attributed to police gunfire in Rio de Janeiro state have reached a record high, rising 18 percent in the first three months, in a spike partly attributed to a campaign of a zero tolerance for criminals being pushed by state leaders.
Loosened Gun Laws in Murder-Ridden Brazil
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed a temporary decree earlier this year making it easier for Brazilians to buy guns, delivering on a campaign promise to overturn strict regulations in a country suffering from a record wave of murders.
Bolsonaro won the presidency by running on a law-and-order platform, and often delighted supporters at campaign stops with his signature “guns up” hand gesture. His maverick presidential run energized a base of rural landowners, Christian conservatives, and free-market hawks who wanted a tougher response to years of rising violence and political graft.
Brazil hit a record high of 64,000 homicides in 2017, 70 percent of which were due to firearms, according to official statistics.
A former paratrooper who took office on Jan. 1, Bolsonaro eventually wants to overturn a 2003 law that effectively banned the civilian purchase of guns.
“To guarantee citizens their legitimate right to defense, I, as president, will use this weapon,” Bolsonaro said, holding up the pen he used to sign the decree.
Gun laws toughened considerably under former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva who signed sweeping measures in 2003 that prevented ordinary citizens from carrying guns. The law mandated background checks for gun purchases and gave federal police the right to reject applications for gun ownership for any reason.
However, Silva’s attempts to deepen gun control foundered in a 2005 referendum, when about 65 percent of Brazilians voted against a proposal to completely ban gun sales.
By Maria Carolina Marcello and Gabriel Stargardter
NTD News staff and The Associated Press contributed to this article.