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By Lisa Flueckiger, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The investigation into the disappearance and death of bricklayer Amarildo de Souza in Rocinha in 2013 will be reopened. The investigation, led by the Ministerio Publico (Public Prosecutor’s Office), will examine why the BOPE police unit entered Rocinha the night of his disappearance and also try to find out what happened with the victim’s body.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil news
The disappearance of Amarildo was accompanied by protests and search posters, photo by Antonio Carlos Costa/Rio de Paz.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office decided to re-open the investigation as new images from security cameras close to the UPP (Pacifying Police Unit) station in Rocinha were analyzed. The goal is to examine why ten police officers of the BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais) Special Police Unit entered Rocinha on the night of July 14, 2013.

The new images from the camera stem from the night of July 14th, around five hours after Amarildo de Souza had been taken to the UPP station on the hill in Rocinha. Image analysis showed an unidentified mass on one of the BOPE’s cars.

“The presence of BOPE really needs to be clarified. There was an official justification. It was an attack, the imminence of an attack on the UPP, but then we go to hear the drug traffickers and [they say nothing about] an attack concerning the UPP, no comment in this regard. And you have another fact, as police who were there were discharged at exactly the time when the BOPE [action] was launched. So why did the BOPE go there?” justice Carmem Eliza Bastos de Carvalho asked.

Amarildo´s family and other Rocinha residents in protest, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Amarildo de Souza’s family and other Rocinha residents in protest, photo by Fernando Frazão/ABr.

Amarildo de Souza’s wife, Elizabeth Gomes da Silva, celebrated the re-opening of the investigation, but also feared repercussions from the police.

“I loved it, enjoyed it, because the case of my husband almost went unpunished, because we did not know what happened. His body was gone, no one knew until now what had happened, two years we had no answer about Amarildo’s body, and now thanks to God and justice, the case will be re-opened”, she told G1.

Amarildo de Souza was taken by the police on July 14, 2013 as he was suspected to know about the whereabouts of drug traffickers and their products.

From the UPP base down in Rocinha, where he was last caught on camera, he was then taken to the base on the hill and disappeared. The police had claimed to have let him go, but suspiciously all cameras and GPS systems of the units were turned off that night.

Investigators had concluded in October 2013 that de Souza had been held by the police and was subjected to torture behind the UPP container. Twenty-five police officers were charged with torture followed by death. Four were directly involved, twelve stood guard and eight officers were present and didn’t help the victim. However, the body of Amarildo de Souza was never found.

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