RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A Sao Paulo gubernatorial candidate’s campaign event in the Paraisopolis neighborhood came to an abrupt halt on Monday when gunfire erupted outside.
Paraisopolis is one of Brazil’s biggest favelas, or slums, and videos of the moment from local media show journalists and Tarcísio Gomes de Freitas crouching below windows.
Sao Paulo Gov. Rodrigo Garcia said in a statement that he had ordered an investigation.
Osvaldo Nico, the head of the state’s police, said in a press conference there was a shooting in the region and one person was killed, but that the incident had no connection with de Freitas’ visit.
On Twitter, de Freitas characterized the shooting as an attack by “criminals.” Later in the day, he told reporters that shootouts in that area aren’t common and he read it as an act of intimidation and a message from organized crime that he isn’t welcome in the favela.
Sao Paulo is the most populous state and its biggest economic power, making its race for governor prominent in any election. But this year there is heightened attention, with the contest seen as a proxy for the presidential race between President Jair Bolsonaro and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
De Freitas was Bolsonaro’s infrastructure minister until he resigned to run for governor. He is running against leftist Fernando Haddad, a staunch ally of da Silva who ran against Bolsonaro in 2018.
If elected, de Freitas has said he will reverse the recent policy to equip Sao Paulo’s police officers with body cameras, claiming that the devices prevent them from doing their jobs. Analysts say the cameras provide much-needed transparency and, since their implementation last year, killings by police have dropped.
Law and order played a central role in the 2018 presidential election, when then-candidate Bolsonaro pledged to give cops permission to use lethal force.
Paraisopolis is controlled by the Brazil’s most powerful criminal gang, known as First Capital Command.
In a debate Sunday night, Bolsonaro accused da Silva of rallying alongside criminals last week when visiting Rio de Janeiro’s Alemao complex of favelas. Da Silva shot back that the poor residents of the favelas who attended his rally were honest workers.