There has been public outrage and disapproval over a video that has circulated in Brazil, showing how a black teenager reported to having stolen four bars of chocolate from a São Paulo supermarket was whipped several times while naked.
In the video shared on Twitter, the boy, naked and howling in pain, is gagged as an unidentified man repeatedly whips him with an electric cable on his buttocks. Another man videoed the incident.
“Are you going to come back?” asks one of his tormentors. The young boy shakes his head, unable to speak because he has been gagged, reports The Guardian.
NO BRASIL DE BOLSONARO, seguranças de um supermercado (Ricoy) em São Paulo se acham autorizados a torturar um jovem negro com CHICOTADAS e ameaças de morte.— Paulo Pimenta (@DeputadoFederal) September 3, 2019
Estamos em 2019, mas algumas pessoas – certamente apoiadoras de @JairBolsonaro – não saíram da Idade Média. pic.twitter.com/5UuGcW16Nt
The cellphone footage of the boy’s ordeal, which has been widely shared, has been condemned by many, drawing comparisons of the incident with the country’s treatment of black people during the era of slavery.
The detective on the case, Pedro Luis de Souza, has also condemned the act that was instigated by some security guards.
“It is like a scene from centuries ago,” he said, describing the victim as “a defenseless, homeless black man … a victim of society, I would say.”
The Guardian reports that in Brazil, there are common scenes where thieves – often young black men and teenagers – are apprehended, tied up, tortured and even murdered.
De Souza is reported to have been “extremely shocked” when a journalist sent him the video on Monday afternoon. He began an inquiry, interviewed the victim and identified the two security guards.
The young boy said he was stopped after leaving the supermarket by guards who found he had stolen chocolate. “They tied him up and whipped him until he promised to not do it again,” de Souza said, adding that the crime of torture carries a prison sentence of up to eight years.
TV Globo, which interviewed the unnamed young man, reports that the guards threatened him.
“They said if I spoke to anyone, they would kill me,” the teenager said, adding it was the third time he had been assaulted by the same two security guards after stealing from the supermarket.
Brazilian authorities have said that the two security guards from a subcontracted company were no longer working at the supermarket.
Black Brazilians said the scene in the video demonstrated how deeply rooted racism is in Brazil, where more than half of the population identify as black or mixed race.
Humberto Adami, a black lawyer from Rio de Janeiro and president of the Brazilian bar association’s Black Slavery Truth Commission said that the fact that the guards filmed the torture showed how sure they were that they would not get caught.
“All this is connected to the slavery past in Brazil where blacks were whipped night and day.”
Ariel de Castro Alves, a counsellor with the State Human Rights Council (Condepe) has demanded the punishment of those responsible for “barbaric and cruel acts of torture”.