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Brazilians Ask ‘Where is Amarildo?', Favela Resident Missing After Arrest

[All links lead to Portuguese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

A campaign questioning the whereabouts of Amarindo Dias de Souza, a missing 47-year-old resident of Rio de Janeiro's Favela da Rocinha [en] who was last seen in the slum as he was arrested by military police assigned to the neighborhood, is spreading throughout Brazilian social media.

Dias de Souza was arrested on July 14, 2013 in Rocinha, known as the largest slum in the world, by agents of the Pacifying Police Unit [en] (UPP). The agents claim he was released shortly after, but Dias de Souza hasn't been seen since.

“Where is Amarildo?”, led by movements and leaders who fight against police violence in Brazil, has been sounding the call about the man's disappearance. Dias de Souza is father of six children and lives with them and his wife in a shed with just one room, subsisting on just 300 Brazilian reais (about 133 US dollars) a month. Since he was allegedly kidnapped by military police in Rio in that Sunday night, his family is starving.

The governor of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, met with Amarildo’s family on July 24 and promised to “mobilize all the government” to find him. Dias de Souza's wife, Elisabeth Gomes da Silva, said that she left the meeting frustrated with the governor, and that no concrete solution has been shown to find her Amarildo.

On the same day, the governor said that Dias de Souza’s family may enter the government program for protection of witnesses. The measure was criticized by state representative Marcelo Freixo on his Facebook account because of the long waiting line to be admitted on this program.

Picture of Amarildo’s family in Rocinha that became viral on Facebook and have been shared hundred times with the hashtag #OndeEstáAmarildo? (#WhereisAmarildo?)

Picture of Amarildo’s family in Rocinha that became viral on Facebook and has been shared hundred times with the hashtag #OndeEstáAmarildo? (#WhereisAmarildo?)

Jorge Antonio Barros, a blogger who specialized in security issues, highlighted to campaign:

Como trata-se de um morador pobre de uma favela do Rio, esse caso tem tudo para cair no esquecimento. Felizmente a onda de protestos mantém a comunidade mobilizada.

Since he is a resident of a poor ‘favela’ in Rio, this case will probably be forgotten. Fortunately the wave of demonstrations keep the community mobilized.

An in another post he added:

O que é preciso de fato é que seja estabelecido o estado de direito democrático na favela pacificada. A polícia tem que agir por lá como age em áreas nobres da cidade

In fact what is necessary is for the democratic rule of law to be established in the pacified favela. Police must act there as they act in rich areas of the city

Profiles of social movements that fight against police violence, such as Mães de Maio (Mothers of May) and Rede de Comunidades e Movimentos contra a Violência (Network of Communities and Movements Against Violence), have promoted the campaign constantly, with strong echoes on Facebook. With images, calls for justice, and solidarity demonstrations around Brazil, Dias de Souza has been widespread in the last weeks of July.

Banner on Facebook page of Mães de Maio. (The world wants to know- Where is Amarildo?)

Banner on the Facebook page of Mães de Maio: “The world wants to know- Where is Amarildo?”

Residents of Favela do Moinho demonstrating their solidarity. Picture: Caio Castor, used with permission.

Residents of Favela do Moinho demonstrating their solidarity. Photo by Caio Castor. Used with permission.

The residents of Favela do Moinho in São Paulo, who suffer property speculation in the city and are organized in an important resistance movement, also demonstrated their solidarity.

On Facebook, translations of the phrase “Where is Amarildo” have been spread in many languages, with the aim to get international support and pressure for this case.

Solidarity came from many places such as Uruguay, EnglandPalestine, USA, France and Spain. A Brazilian man who lives in Berlin created a meme to spread awareness about the campaign in Germany.

On July 18, well-known rapper MV Bill commented on his Twitter:

Amarildo’s family, while affirming that he is not involved with any drug trafficking, says that they want “just a body for a dignified burial”.

Among the demonstrations in the streets and also on social media, a large protest on Twitter was called for the afternoon of July 24 with the hashtag #CadêOAmarildo (WhereIsAmarildo), which became a trending topic of Twitter.

Taking advantage of pope’s visit to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, a group of activists projected a message for the pontiff in a building in downtown city. During the Pope visit to a favela of Rio on July 25, journalist Bolívar Torres (@inner_island) wrote on Twitter:

A journalist said that the Pope “made a strong political speech”. It’s impossible to be strong and political without mentioning #cadeoamarildo

Gianlluca Simi, writing for the magazine O Viés, said:

Não há novidades sobre o paradeiro de Amarildo. O seu caso é frequentemente divulgado em redes sociais e a pressão para esclarecê-lo tem aumentado por todo o Brasil. Sabemos, pela dedilhar do dia-a-dia, que as providências prometidas pelas autoridades não vão necessariamente se tornar realidade. Isso, no entanto, pouco tem a ver com o descrédito às instituições do país em si. Tem muito mais a ver com a mentalidade que cerca o desaparecimento de um negro, pobre e favelado. São dois cenários que, infelizmente, já não nos assustam mais: a polícia que aterroriza e o favelado (suposto criminoso) que desaparece.

There is no news of the whereabouts of Amarildo. His case is frequently spread on social media and the pressure to solve it is increasing throughout all of Brazil. We know, as is usual on daily basis, that measures promised by authorities would not necessarily become true. However, this is not related to the discredit of the country's institutions. This is much more related to the mentality that surrounds the disappearance of a black, poor resident of a favela. There are two scenarios that, unfortunately, no longer scare us: The police that terrify and the resident of favelas (alleged criminal) who disappears.

Written and translated in collaboration with Raphael Tsavkko Garcia.

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