Note from BW of Brazil: The following story has actually been developing and gaining steam for the past few weeks. A poor, 42-year old (some reports say 47) black man was taken into custody by police in Rio during a “crime sweep” in mid-July. The man’s family was told that he was cleared for release and would return home soon. This never happened. As the days of his disappearance continue, other parts of Brazil and the international community have voiced solidarity with the family in the search for Amarildo. For some, this disappearance (and thousands of others) are reminiscent of the brutal hard line years (1968-1974) of Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) when hundreds were tortured and “disappeared”.
With the recent 20 year remembrance of the massacre in front the Candelária Church, another recent massacre in the poor community of Maré and an apparent ongoing policy of extermination of young, poor, black youth, this is yet another black eye in Brazil’s international image. Not a good look for a country expecting two huge international events such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. As such, a few questions are in need of immediate response. 1) What does this say about security when the country opens its doors to international visitors? 2) Even if state and federal governments try to guarantee the safety of tourists during these events, what does this say about how it treats and will continue to treat its own population? (For more on this story at Global Voices Online)
Missing for more than two weeks, “he’ll remain disappeared for 30 years”, says the wife of missing bricklayer in protest in Rio
By Hanrrikson de Andrade
The wife of Amarildo de Souza, 42, missing since July 14, said on Thursday (August 1) that “there aren’t any answers” in relation to searches for the favela (slum) resident of Rocinha, in southern Rio de Janeiro.
“Nobody tells me where my husband is. Neither the police nor the government. He’ll remain disappeared for 30 years,” said Elizabete Gomes, 48. “And for 30 years, we will close the mouth of the tunnel,” she said, referring to the protest held on that night, that closed down the Lagoa-Barra highway in the affluent neighborhood of São Conrado in south zone Rio.
Amarildo is assistant bricklayer, born and raised in the community. In his 42 years of life, he never managed to rise above the poverty line, always living in a little area known as Pocinho, an area dominated by drug traffic, with open sewers and many cases of tuberculosis. The father of six children, shares with his wife, Elizabeth, and the family a one-room shack with no bathroom and approximately R$300 (about US$133) per month that he earns working on a job in the famous neighborhood of Copacabana.
The story that has terrified the family and thrown suspicion on the UPP (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora or Pacifying Police Unit) (1) officers began sometime after Operação Paz Armada (Operation Armed Peace), which mobilized 300 officers with 58 warrants. The goal was to arrest the “ficha limpa (clean slate)”, those suspected of trafficking who had not been detained by police. Between July 13 and 14, 30 people were arrested, 22 of them based on warrants. According to police, the other eight people were arrested in the act. Amarildo was taken around 8pm on the 14th, a Sunday, in the middle of a soccer game between the Vasco and Flamengo teams, in possession of his documents.
“He was at the door of the birosca (small neighborhood bar), already on his way home when the police arrived. ‘Cara de Macaco’ (meaning Monkey Face, as one of UPP officers is known) put his hand in his pocket. He complained and showed him his documents. The police pretended to check the radio, but almost immediately turned to him and said (he) had to go with them. ‘Cara de Macaco’ knew him and was always implicating him and the family. That cop is bad, he likes to humiliate the poor here ,” said one of the men who witnessed the police raid in bar.
Elizabeth was at home, waiting for her husband to fry the fish he caught on Sunday with his cousin. Advised of Amarildo’s the arrest, she ran to the command post of the UPP, which is on Rua Dois (street), and heard his last words:
“He looked at me and said the police had his papers. Then they said that he would return home and that we could not wait for him at the headquarters of the Parque Ecológico. We went home and waited all night. Then my son went to the commander, who said Amarildo had already been released, but they could not see the images on the UPP cameras because there had been an outage. They think the poor are stupid,” said Elizabeth.
The assistant bricklayer had had two run-ins with the police: one for theft in 1989, when he was 18, and another for having been caught working as a flanelinha (2) in 2005. According to Elizabeth, now working with a signed work card (3), her husband was about to realize a dream:
“He was buying material to build the second floor of our house. The bricks are there on the roof.”
“I live in a cubicle with eight people and I don’t have my husband. UPP came here to pick up a worker. (…) I don’t even have to think he’s dead. I know he’s dead,” she said. “It was the police who killed my husband. And still they disappeared with his documents to say that he is not dead.”
Amarildo’s niece, Michele Lacerda, 26, said she will only come to believe the information of the police when they “show some result.” “I’m like St. Thomas,” she said.
Michele said the family has not received the report on the investigation as promised at the meeting with the Attorney General of Justice Marfan Vieira on Wednesday (July 31). The police chief Rivaldo Barbosa said, according to her, that the most important thing right now is to keep absolute secrecy regarding the investigation work, the traditional methodology of the Homicide Department.
The Civil Police and the state government of Rio announced that they are prioritizing this case that has caused a lot of uproar. The prosecution is already treating the case as a homicide.
Amarindo was arrested after being mistaken for a drug dealer who runs the Rocinha favela and, according to police, then released. The UPP cameras, however, did not record the entry or exit of Amarildo at the location. Police said the equipment was defective.
Residents and community leaders in the Rocinha slum, in the south of Rio de Janeiro, started, around 7pm, a protest against the disappearance of Amarildo Souza, removed from the door of his house last July 14 and taken by police officers to the headquarters of the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP). At 9pm, they reached Aristides Espindola street, in the Leblon neighborhood, where the state governor, Sergio Cabral, lives and where about 50 people have been camped out since Sunday night (28).
The protesters chanted slogans against the governor – “Cabral bandido, cadê o Amarildo (Cabral thug, where’s Amarildo)?” – And sang a snippet of the song “Rap da Felicidade (Rap of Happiness) – “Eu só quero é ser feliz, andar tranqüilamente na favela onde eu nasci (I just want to be happy, walking quietly in the slum where I was born).”
During the march, they closed both directions of Highway Lagoa-Barra and the Zuzu Angel tunnel. The leader of the Favela Não Se Cala (Favela Don’t Remain Silent) movement, André Luiz Abreu de Souza, 38, one of the groups that called the march, said the governor Sérgio Cabral (PMDB) is “desperate” due to the media impact of Amarildo’s disappearance.
“Cabral is desperate,” says community leader from Rocinha on disappearance of Amarildo
“Of course he is worn out. And will try in every way to find the body and guilty party because he is desperate due to the repercussions of Amarildo. He is seeing that the UPPs, the flagship of his government, does not guarantee safety public, but rather a process of social cleansing,” he said. “The UPP is the last board he’s clinging to before sinking.”
For Souza, the disappearance of Amarildo is “just another” case of disappearance in pacified communities. “We want to know where the ‘Amarildos’ are. Many people have disappeared in suspicious circumstances with this security policy adopted by Cabral,” said the leader of the Favela Não Se Cala movement.
Questioned about an alleged relationship between the Amarildo’s disappearance and the activities of drug traffickers in the region, Souza said it was “easy for the state government to criminalize the Amarildo case” because the police have only shown interest in investigating after the disappearance of the Rocinha resident was highlighted in the press. “They will have difficulty finding the body. It’s easier to blame the drug trade,” he added.
Sought by UOL (news), the governor’s press representative said he has already made a statement on the case. “Is the Pacification Police Unit perfect? Of course not. If Amarildo disappeared from [in Rocinha], we will find out where Amarildo is,” Cabral said on Wednesday (31) during the ceremony for the reopening of the NGO headquarters Afroreggae in the community of Alemão.
On the famed Copacabana Beach in Rio, a symbolic act took place on July 31st in memory of the missing bricklayer. Members of NGO Rio de Paz (Rio of Peace) stuck in the sand ten mannequins covered by a white cloth symbolizing disappearances recorded by the Civil Police in the state and that have not been solved. Among them is that of Amarildo.
“Rio is full of clandestine cemeteries. They are people who never returned to their families. This embarrasses us and saddens us to know that these families will never see their loved ones again,” said the president of the Rio de Paz, Antônio Carlos Costa. According to the Instituto de Segurança Pública (Public Security Institute or ISP), there have been nearly 35,000 disappearances from January 2007 to May of this year.
Amarildo’s wife, children and relatives were expected to be in attendance at the act in Copacabana, however, they were affected by the news that a body was found in the Rocinha favela that night. The Civil Police, however, said it was the body of a woman
The case, which was investigated by the 15ª Delegacia de Polícia (15th Police Precinct) (Gávea), was sent today to the Delegacia de Homicídios (Homicide Division or DH). The DNA of one of Amarildo’s sons was to be collected for comparison with traces of blood found in the backseat of a car of the Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP), where Mason was brought in on day he disappeared.
In São Paulo, a protest ended with thirteen being detained in a demonstration against the Amarildo’s disappearance, against São Paulo’s governor Geraldo Alckmin and asking for demilitarization of the police. The protesters were arrested at the end of the act, on Avenida Paulista near Consolação street for writing graffiti on a pharmacy. This is the third protest made in São Paulo with these goals and brought together a total of about 300 people, according to estimates of the Military Police.
1. The Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora, Pacifying Police Unit or Police Pacification Unit), abbreviated UPP, is a law enforcement and social services program pioneered in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which aims at reclaiming territories, more commonly favelas, controlled by gangs of drug dealers. The program was created and implemented by State Public Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame, with the backing of Rio Governor Sérgio Cabral. The stated goal of Rio’s government is to install 40 UPPs by 2014. Source: Wiki
2. Term used for people who offer to help drivers park their cars (act as a guide while the driver pulls closer to the curb) and watch their vehicles until the owners return to their cars in exchange for an undetermined amount of money. This money can be secured through the consent of the driver or by the coercion of the flanelinha.
3. Refers to the carteira assinada (signed card), which is an official document recognizing someone as a participant in the job market. In 2008, research showed that domestic workers working without a signed card earned 27% less than the same worker with a signed card. For black women, the situation is even worse: 59% don’t possess this formal contract of employment and they received only 67.4% of the official minimum monthly salary in 2008, which was about R$415 (Brazilian reais or about $230 American dollars). More on workers rights here.