Naked and whimpering, his trousers around his ankles, the black teenage boy jerks and howls with pain as he is whipped with electric cable.

“Are you going to come back?” asks one of his tormentors. The youth shakes his head, unable to speak because he has been gagged.

Even by Brazilian standards of racism and cruelty, the whipping of the boy after he was caught stealing four bars of chocolate from a São Paulo supermarket has caused deep shock.

Cellphone footage of the boy’s ordeal has been widely shared, and many – including the detective investigating the case – have drawn comparisons with the country’s treatment of black people during three centuries of slavery.

“It is like a scene from centuries ago,” said detective Pedro Luis de Souza, describing the victim as “a defenceless, homeless black man … A victim of society, I would say.”

Scenes of thieves – often young black men and teenagers – being tied up, tortured and even murdered are common in Brazil.

Even so, Souza said he was “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 youth 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,” Souza said, adding that the crime of torture carries a prison sentence of up to eight years.

The youth, who has not been named, told TV Globo the guards threatened him.

“They said if I spoke to anyone, they would kill me,” he said, adding it was the third time he had been assaulted by the same two security guards after stealing from the supermarket.

In a statement, Ricoy said the two security guards from a subcontracted company were no longer working at the supermarket. “We were shocked by the gratuitous and meaningless torture on a teenage victim,” it said. “We will give all the support needed.”

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.

It was “like the gates of hell had been opened and the demons of Hades come to parade in public. It’s not an isolated incident. But it was filmed,” said Humberto Adami, a black lawyer from Rio de Janeiro and president of the Brazilian bar association’s Black Slavery Truth Commission.

That guards filmed the torture showed how sure they were they would not get caught, Adami said: “All this is connected to the slavery past in Brazil where blacks were whipped night and day.”

Djamila Ribeiro, a black writer, philosopher and television presenter, said the video showed how institutionally racist Brazil was. In 2017, 75% of Brazil’s 65,000 homicide victims were black or mixed race.

“Brazil is still a country with slavery mentality, a colonial country. We need to debate colonialism in Brazil,” she said. “Brazil is in reality an extremely violent country for the black population.”


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