Murders, killings by police rose in Brazil last year, report shows

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Both murders and killings by police rose in Brazil during 2020 despite the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data published on Thursday, reversing gains made in the first years of President Jair Bolsonaro's term.

The Brazilian Yearbook of Public Security showed homicides in Brazil rose 4% in 2020, with 50,033 people killed, giving Latin America's biggest country a murder rate of 23.6 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the country's police killed 6,416 people, up 0.3% compared with the previous year, the report showed.

Violence in Brazil, the country with the world's highest number of murders, fell during the first years of Bolsonaro's administration. He was elected in 2018 with a promise to snuff out violent gangs and end years of corruption among the country's political and business elite.

But Thursday's report shows that some of those gains have been erased, as a sharp rise in gun ownership, a measure pushed by Bolsonaro, has coincided with a rise in killings.

Nearly 200,000 new guns were registered in Brazil in 2020 after a loosening of restrictions, nearly double the number in the previous year, the data showed. There are now nearly 1.3 million guns registered with Brazil's federal police, the report said, over double the number in 2017.

The report, published by the Brazilian Public Security Forum, found that 76.2% of people murdered in Brazil were Black, with the vast majority young men. The numbers for those killed by police were similar, with 78.9% Black and most of them also young men.

During the same period, under 200 police officers were killed in the line of duty, it said, less than half the number that died from COVID-19.

(Reporting by Gabrieal Stargardter; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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