Between the 1970s and 1980s, a special route unit of the São Paulo Military Police carried out a series of murders on young people (mostly black and poor) that were later faked to make it look like they were shootings – that is, as if the victims had reacted, and there had not been police executions there. At the same time, a young reporter from Rio Grande do Sul decided to investigate these cases.
After seven years of investigation, Caco Barcellos (now one of the most famous and awarded journalists in Brazil) concluded that the police officers who participated in Route 66 executed around 4,200 people, carrying out a true genocide of the poor population.
The cases only began to draw some attention in the press when the group killed three upper-class youths. Before that, the deaths were lauded by newspapers as Popular News and by broadcasters who have built a career praising the “cleaning” done by the police.
All this journalistic investigation was brought together and gave rise to the book Route 66, released by Caco Barcellos in 1992, and awarded the Jabuti in 1993. Thirty years later, this whole story is being retold in the miniseries Route 66: The Police That Killsavailable on Globoplay, which rescues the tragic case of this lethal police for generations that did not follow the case.
Route 66: a reconstruction focused on victims and journalistic work
Route 66: The Police That Kills it is a strong and urgent series. The story told there – which is not committed to being a completely faithful reconstitution of the book-report by Caco Barcellos – seeks to bring the murders through the lens that was less prioritized by journalism at the time, which used to simply report the deaths and “buy” the idea that there was an ultra-efficient police force in fighting crime.
In the series, Barcellos is played by actor Humberto Carrão, who manages to dignify the tensions that surrounded the reserved reporter (there is even a surprise to know so many details about his life in the series). The proposal of Route 66, therefore, it is to humanize the cases of subjects executed by the police through the eyes of the families of thousands of victims.
There is, for example, the case of Anabela (Naruna Costa), a pregnant housewife whose husband Divino (Felipe Odádélè) dies on his way home from work, carrying an umbrella, and who is later framed by broadcasters as a bandit. There is that of Lunga (Ariclenes Barroso), who survives the execution by a miracle and becomes a live target of the military police. There is also Homero (Ailton Graça), a sergeant responsible for training police officers and who sees his belief in the institution collapse after Route 66 murders his son, who has just graduated from law school.
But apart from the murder case, Route 66 it also does the public a service by focusing on the guts of the work done to the public by journalists – but not all of them. When showing Caco Barcellos’ hard and sacrificed work for seven years (which involved his constant absence from family life and the damage to his relationships, veiled and explicit death threats, intimidation, etc.), there is an almost value pedagogical by revealing to the population that journalism, when it fulfills its function, has the role of bringing to the public what we would never know if we did not count on the efforts of these professionals.
And there is another message here: “journalism” (here in quotes) is a tool that can also be used to harm the country. This is evident in the coverage that was made by the newspapers that praised the executions of Route 66 (it is very clear that this is the Popular Newsa legendary newspaper that circulated in São Paulo between 1963 and 2001) or by broadcasters who built their careers by surfing the idea that “a good bandit is a dead bandit”, a premise that continues to cause enormous damage to this day.
Why is it urgent to watch Route 66: The Police That Kills?
(Source: Globoplay)Source: Globoplay
Narrated in 8 chapters, Route 66 arises at a historical moment in which the confusion between truth and lies has never been so well engendered. There are many people who are inclined to believe today that a killer police may be necessary for the betterment of the country.
Therefore, it is more than necessary that, once again, a well-told story exposes the obvious: that there is no death penalty in Brazil. And, even if it did, it would not be carried out by a police force, which would never accumulate the roles of citizen protection and criminal judgment. In other words: when this happens (and we can be sure that this continues to happen in some places), we are facing corrupt police, or, at worst, psychopathic professionals.
surgically, Route 66 organizes its narrative by building a path that leads from the murders of the route to the present moment. We see how the tone of demonization of the press (in the series, Caco Barcellos appears being cursed by popular people, as if he had, with his reports, dismantled a protective police) is escalating to the present day, in an obvious articulation developed by certain groups. politicians.
It is not by chance that the series will go up to the Carandiru massacre, in 1992, when 111 inmates were killed inside the São Paulo prison. Looks like Route 66 seeks to clarify, between the lines: the idea of the dehumanization of subjects, no matter who they are, is a real shot in the foot, a weapon that turns against the shooters themselves all the time.
And more than that: there is a good layer of society (involving politicians, parts of the police, journalists) that directly benefits from this discourse – which mainly victimizes the poor and black population of the country. Not by chance, the story only became a scandal when the route killed the children of rich people. But until then, thousands of people had already been murdered, without any public indignation.
With a lot of courage to move this wasp nest, Route 66: The Police That Kills it’s a hit by Globoplay that comes at a very opportune moment. It would be very desirable for the series to end up on open TV, so that the message it carries could reach many more people.