Warning: Distressing Content
A video of a black teenager getting whipped with electric cable for allegedly stealing chocolate in Brazil has sparked outrage.
Stripped naked and gagged, the 17-year-old boy was forced to endure the torture by two security guards last month at a supermarket in the South Zone of São Paulo.
Police opened an inquiry on Monday (September 2) – approximately one month after the beating happened – due to the video going viral on social media.
In the video we will not publish in this article the teenager can be seen crying out in pain as he is repeatedly whipped by the guards. When one of the guards asks, ‘Are you going to come back?’, the boy can only respond by shaking his head due to the gag in his mouth.
This inhumane treatment came about after the boy allegedly stole four bars of chocolate from a Ricoy supermarket, The Guardian reports. Sparking outrage among many who have drawn comparisons with Brazil’s centuries-long treatment of black people when the country still imported slaves, the video has since been widely shared.
The detective investigating the case, Pedro Luis de Souza, said the incident was ‘like a scene from centuries ago’, adding that the victim was a defenceless, homeless black man. ‘A victim of society,’ he added.
The teenager, who has been living on the streets since he was 12 years old, said he was beaten for approximately 40 minutes without a break, local newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reports (translated to English). Investigators said the teenager did not want to file a police report because ‘he feared for his life’.
In an interview with TV Globo, as per The Guardian, the 17-year-old said this was the third time he had been assaulted by the same two security guards after stealing from the store.
He said they threatened him to keep quiet, telling the television network:
They said if I spoke to anyone, they would kill me.
Detective Souza said he will indict the security guards for torture, a crime which carries a prison sentence of up to eight years. Describing the incident as a ‘cowardly, extremely violent, and nameless’ crime, Souza said he couldn’t watch the video until the end because of its ‘barbaric’ nature.
In a statement, the supermarket said the two guards – from a subcontracted company – were no longer working at the supermarket.
The statement read, as per The Guardian:
We were shocked by the gratuitous and meaningless torture on a teenage victim. We will give all the support needed.
Although the majority of people in Brazil (50.7 per cent) are black or mixed race – according to the country’s last census in 2011, as per The Guardian – racism still has a profound impact on Brazilian society.
Not only are incidents such as this one common, with young black men and teenagers often being tied up, tortured and even murdered in the country, racial inequalities also persist in education.
According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), while only 3.9 per cent of white people were illiterate in Brazil in 2018, this increased to 9.1 per cent for black people. And while 55.8 per cent of white people had completed at least the basic cycle of education, only 40.3 per cent of black people had.
So while slavery was abolished in the country in 1888 – making Brazil the last country to abolish slavery in the western hemisphere, as per political website openDemocracy – outdated attitudes ensure a racial divide remains throughout Brazil.
Two suspects, aged 37 and 49, have been identified by police and will testify in court on Wednesday (September 4).
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).