There were suggestions at the time of their arrest the pair had close connections with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his son Flavio – while largely ignored by the US media, Brazilian news giant Jornal Nacional broadcast a bombshell report on the evening of 29th October alleging mere hours before Franco’s murder, one of her accused killers visited his fellow suspect at Bolsanaro’s residential condominium.
A doorman at the gated community told Jornal Nacional that on 14th March 14 2018, the day of of Franco’s execution, de Queiroz identified himself as a visitor to Bolsonaro’s residence - when the doorman phoned the house to confirm, a man known as “Mr. Jair” said to allow the visitor through.
The doorman kept an eye on de Quieroz’s car via CCTV, and saw the vehicle instead heading to Lessa’s home inside the complex instead – he phoned Bolsonaro’s residence again, only for “Mr. Jair” to say he knew where de Quieroz was going and to let him continue.
Brazil's justice minister Sergio Moro said doorman at Bolsonaro condominium could have made a "possible mistake" and asked prosecutor-general to investigate. That seems a remarkable comment for a former judge who has always claimed impartiality to make. https://t.co/9VluZ2Y8ek— Dom Phillips (@domphillips) October 30, 2019
The President was in the country’s capital of Brasilia that day for two plenary votes - prosecutors are said to be searching for audio recordings of the calls made by the doorman to identify who precisely was in Bolsonaro’s home.
In response to the shocking expose, Bolsonaro took to Facebook to issue an impassioned 20-minute-long tirade against the “foul, lowlife, immoral media” – at times vicious, at others tearful, he strenuously denied any involvement in the crime and claimed the report was an attempt to undermine his government, claiming the charge “will not stick”.
He went on to threaten to rescind Globo’s broadcasting license, saying the station made his life “hell” with its “scheming”, and entreating the network to let him govern unmolested, his voice breaking frequently. The unhinged livestream has already been widely condemned by opposition politicians and journalists.
“Bolsonaro’s reaction may gain him the support of his base, but a more impartial observer saw an uncontrolled president saying he didn’t kill anyone,” columnist Igor Gielow wrote in Sao Paulo newspaper Folha.
Brazil’s upper courts are now deciding whether to open an investigation – Bolsonaro has immunity from prosecution in the lower– and Franco’s supporters within and without the country are demanding an official inquiry.
When allegations of the President’s ties with the pair first surfaced, he flatly denied knowing either personally – although it’s since been demonstrated he and Lessa lived in the same upscale condominium in Rio prior to the 2018 election, and their children once dated. Moreover, a photo of de Queiroz and Bolsonaro in a friendly embrace has also surfaced.
Franco, who was 38 at the time of her death, was elected in 2016 as the only black woman on Rio’s 51-person city council. A champion of the poor and Afro-Brazilians, she was also a determined critic of Brazil’s security forces – after her murder, journalist Glenn Greenwald, whose husband David Miranda is a fellow City Council member and was a close personal friend of Franco's, hailed Franco’s “relentless and brave activism against the most lawless police battalions, her opposition to military intervention, and, most threateningly of all, her growing power as a black, gay woman from the favela seeking not to join Brazil’s power structure, but to subvert it.”