“Where is Amarildo?” 3-week disappearance of black bricklayer after police arrest in Rio garners international support

Family (pictured) and community continue to ask "Where is Amarildo?"
Family (pictured) and community continue to ask “Where is Amarildo?”

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

"I don’t even have to think he’s dead. I know he’s dead," says Elizabete, the wife of the bricklayer Amarildo, who has been missing for more than two weeks.
“I don’t even have to think he’s dead. I know he’s dead,” says Elizabete, the wife of the bricklayer Amarildo, who has been missing for more than two weeks.

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 de Souza, 42, has been missing since July 14th
Amarildo de Souza, 42, has been missing since July 14th

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:

The family of Amarildo, including his wife, Elizabete (in red)
The family of Amarildo, including his wife, Elizabete (in red)

“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.

Sign during recent visit of Pope Francisco: "The Pope is here but where is Amarildo?"
Sign during recent visit of Pope Francisco: “The Pope is here but where is Amarildo?”

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.”

In front the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio: "Where is Amarildo?"
In front the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio: “Where is Amarildo?”

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.

Amarildo with family
Amarildo with family

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.

Elizabete, Amarildo's wife, with niece Michele, issues a statement
Elizabete, Amarildo’s wife, with niece Michele, issues a statement

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.

Governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral , meets with Elizabete
Governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral , meets with Elizabete

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).

In Rio this week, protestors interrumpted rush hour traffic on the Lagoa-Barra highway near the Rocinha favela where Amarildo lived
In Rio this week, protestors interrumpted rush hour traffic on the Lagoa-Barra highway near the Rocinha favela where Amarildo lived

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).”

Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral in a video posted on his official You Tube page stating his commitment to finding Amarildo and those responsible for his disappearance
Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral in a video posted on his official You Tube page stating his commitment to finding Amarildo and those responsible for his disappearance

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

Leader of the Favela Não Se Cala (Favela Don’t Remain Silent) movement, André Luiz Abreu de Souza
Leader of the Favela Não Se Cala (Favela Don’t Remain Silent) movement, André Luiz Abreu de Souza

 “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.”

From France: "Where is Amarildo?"
From France: “Where is Amarildo?”

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.

In Colombia: "Where is Amarildo?"
In Colombia: “Where is Amarildo?”

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.

In the US (New York): "Where is Amarildo?"
In the US (New York): “Where is Amarildo?”

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.

More demonstrations

Mannequins mounted in the sand of Copacabana beach in Rio in memory of Amarildo and many others who have disappeared
Mannequins mounted in the sand of Copacabana beach in Rio in memory of Amarildo and many others who have disappeared

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.

Copacabana 2

“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.

Palestitian: "Where is Amarildo?"
Palestitian: “Where is Amarildo?”

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.

Protest in São Paulo against the disappearance of Amarildo and the governor of São Paulo
Protest in São Paulo against the disappearance of Amarildo and the governor of São Paulo

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.

Source: UOL (1), (2), O GloboAgência Brasil, Jornal do Brasil


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.

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.


  1. Please Amarildo is not a black man in Brazilian society. He is a Pardo. His family are classic Pardos.

    He might have a black niece. He is not black. Please stop with this over north hemisphere discourse. Brazilian society get very defensive.

    In brazil midia don’t write a black man or Pardo man or a white man; not because we are colour blind as many people argue. Because is against our culture. We would say: amarildo a slum citizen. The struggle is asfalto x comunidade ( pavement ( where rich people live) x community ( slum people where poor people live).

    I do think important to recognise a different construction to address the real Brazilian struggle. Might difficult as Pardo doesn’t exist in anglophonic cultures. You will get there.

    • In the original has no mention what so ever of the word black builder.

      Please do not invent things. Translate as it is.

      This is the Brazilian culture speaking about no voice person ( black, pardo or white) Who lives poorly inside the slum. His brave wife is facing the police and the risk of being murder as revenge. She said she had enough. She is a really tough lady. This case is not a isolated event we all know. It is isolated as far as his wife is looking for justice!!

      Amazing lady!

      • Julia: A few things here. This blog didn’t translate the article you have attached. ALL of the articles that are translated on this blog ARE translated exactly as they are. In discussions I’ve had with many people everyone says he’s clearly “negro” as in the article links I sent to you in the previous response.

        The second thing is, from this point on, this blog will not make any more responses to you on the topic of “pardo”. It is clear that we disagree on this point and it is a waste of time to continue to discuss this. If you don’t like the “preto + pardo” = “negro” equation please feel free to express it on your own blog as much as you like. The posts on this blog show repeatedly that there are many Brazilians who come to understand the sophistication of racial denial in Brazil before they come to accept an “identidade negra”. In your constant comments on BW of Brazil’s usage of the term “negro/black” you seem to choose to ignore the adaption of an “identidade negra” of people who formerly defined themselves as “pardos” or “morenos” and thus do the same thing you accuse this blog of doing.

        Third: Various Brazilian, I repeat, BRAZILIAN social scientists, define negros as the combination of pretos and pardos even if they accept the term pardo as a color. “Pardo” itself is actually a color, “cor” in the Brazilian census. It is not a “race”. You make a mistake in assuming that a person who may be a “mixture” between an Asian and white will be treated the same and have the same things in common as a person who is a negro/branco mixture and thus lumping everyone in the “pardo” category as if they are all equal. To be clear, this would also happen when placing pretos and pardos in the same category. No one should assume that the fallacious category of “race” is not without contradictions.

        Fourth: There are two recent contradictions in your “pardo” argument (and that’s not counting Amarildo). First, how can you define Bahia as a black state when, according to the census, the Bahia population is made up of 16.8% pretos and 59.8% pardos, with brancos being about 23%? How can you say that the black ideology can be applied to Bahia if, according to your own ideology, Bahia is not majority black? This is a common contradictory argument I’ve had with others in the past. You cannot make this argument unless, one, you accept that many “negros” define themselves as “pardos”, or two, “Preto + Pardo = Negro.”

        The second contradiction is the question of how you can define Amarildo as a “pardo” but accept that Lorena (who you defined as black) (from Bahia), is black. Neither of these people are extremely dark-skinned but brown-skinned but you define them differently.

        Fifth: In a previous comment, you also mentioned the idea that in Africa, a “pardo” (or even some “pretos”) would not be accepted as black. But if you argue that Brazil has a different ideology on race in comparison to the US, why would you even consider how Africa would see a Brazilian? We are not speaking of the African context. This blog discusses the ideology of how Brazil treats persons of visible African ancestry, be they pardo or preto.

        Sixth. You also seem to have a vendetta against what you perceive to be an exclusively American influence on race and racial ideals in Brazil. In fact, many militants of Brazil’s MNU argue against some facets of black American ideals and that is clear as repudiations of Michael Hanchard’s opinions prove. You act as if world movements are exclusive when in fact, many ideals that influenced the black movement in the US were influenced by the thoughts of Ghandi, Frantz Fanon and many others. Global movements are not mutually exclusive. In the 1930s, the editor of an important black American newspaper praised Brazil’s Frente Negra Brasileira. What is the problem with that? Many black Brazilians identify with Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela also. What is the problem with that? Brazilians are free to pick and choose whatever influence they choose to appropriate for their own usage. If the MNU uses some ideologies from the US or African movements it is because they feel that the three struggles have similarities. I don’t agree with what can be labeled American imperialism anywhere but Brazil imports so much American culture as it is. It’s funny that American culture is ALL over Brazil but you don’t point out any of this. Why?

        Seventh: You consistently point out the things you DON’T find on this blog. This is ONE blog. If it doesn’t suit your needs, go to another blog.

        And last: You yourself wrote: “Brazil has no social conscious about anything”. This is part of the reason why many Brazilian scholars and activists define negros as pretos and pardos. Keeping in mind the destructive influence of the media on consciousness, this blog is more likely to accept the thoughts of social scientists than average persons who may see themselves as “pardos” and “morenos” although they are basically treaated as “negros”. When there is a widespread lack of education, persons are much less likely to be conscious of how the society sees them versus how they see themselves. The posts of the various “pardos” and “morenos” who became “negros” on this blog proves this. Many societies in general suffer from a lack of consciousness and education. As long as this is true, mythologies prevail. For this fact, this blog fully accepts the fact that 44% of Brazilians define themselves as “pardos”. But the question is unfortunately not that simple.

        With these points made, feel free to comment as much as you like. The blog’s ideology will continue as it always has regardless of your rejections.

        Thank you for your attention!

  2. That is fine….clearly you don’t represent me and Brazilians ….the reason academics use those terms is because north hemisphere influence if you never study power construction you can’t ignore the dictatorship of Western ideology everywhere.

    I mention my Africa friend because race is SOCIAL construct. Your links are all extreme left wings and HIGH linked to Afro movements. The jb article don’t say once he is black, only quote a friend who said that. How would I know if this man is a black militant dreaming of becoming an American Afro militant.? Good the midia quote his words.

    What categorise someone Pardo or Negro is how African you look like. Lorena looks African descendant. The two black beauty contestants don’t. If you get out of northeast this theory were black categorise themselves as pardos has no value. Why must you destroy the Pardo? If northeast is not the MAJORITY of Brazilian people?

    It is a fascism. Not surprise your rules your measurements get upset if I stand up and challenge it.

    Your long email and anger just show me how you can’t listen to me who is half black and half japonese and who feels Parda. You ( read the anglophonization of Brazilian culture) have to patronise dismiss my identity and feelings to please north hemisphere audiences. North hemispheres academics discourses.

    Quote Fanon again: colonisers do that, remove our sense of identity (Parda) and suddenly we all become colonisers (the Afro American militant). Classic give power and you see corrupted mind. Ideology and lack of critical thinking and respect for different culture it is the worst thing you can face. Even though the good intention of the coloniser. As far as I know never existed a nice coloniser.

    • How do I know as well if the JB article wrote negro; as you are NOT ALLOWED to write moreninho, queimadinho, escurinho because common people don’t use the word Pardo. But with all the African American movement surveillance the news must write NEGRO. Never ever again Moreno, escurinho, mais cafezinho….or any other expression to addresss aAMARILDO IS A NON WHITE but this doesn’t make him a negro

      We will never know.

  3. The same happened where Luciana mello and her Jewish husband. In the interracial marriage. Luciana is not carrying her baby. Is a relative from her husband. But the articles manipulate the opinions.

    • The article omit her husband is Jewish. But luciana mello is super proud of her African roots and have always used a Afro hair.

      Different from camila Pitanga, who only dated WHITE man and received a article talking about being negra. Good she and beyonce can hold hands.

      She would be a great example of racist when chosen a partner to clear her blood. As the article puts. luciana melo doesnt diserve at all to be there. she is suoe black militant.
      Two measures here has lots.

      It is not because is made by Brazilians doesn’t have manipulation and north hemisphere influence on it.

      Get over the world is a small space. Highly patronised by western audience and ideology.

      I will bring critique when needed. As I said has lots of beautiful things which I read here.

      The fascism of north hemisphere is almost everywhere and it is dangerous…if you cant see ….one discourse is the truth….sounds church to me…..

      Part of the north hemisphere critique is important. When north hemisphere became the truth as you put it! Gosh it is sad and very dangerous!

  4. Had a time we thought we are all mixed, now we are in time we are all segregated…..is not because of western influence? Your critique of gilberto Freyre. It is high linked to what was fashion in USA. He studied there. Now our new intellectuals are still studying and reading western thinkers. In fact the only truly Brazilian thinker we had was Paulo Freire. The rest always high influenced by western thinkers.

    Paulo Freire is categorised by westerns as a Marxist and someone who didn’t address race.i love bell hooks, but she might be wrong, because she looks at Paulo as Afro American ….so she will never see him as Brazilian. We must please the north hemisphere constructions and ideology.

    But he once said: I will never get westerns because they define me as a Marxist. I wonder what they mean by that? I am here reflecting my Brazilian struggle. My northeast struggle. My recife struggle, my family who starved struggle. That is only what I am doing. But they insist in label and put me somewhere UNDER a western thinker, otherwise I am not a thinker. I think what they do is remove my possibility to think brazil and create a thinker who thinks brazil according to the western ideas.

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