RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Activists pressing for light to be shed on the disappearance of a bricklayer who was last seen in police custody more than two weeks ago staged a protest Wednesday on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.
The case of Amarildo de Souza, a 42-year-old father of six who has not been seen since he was picked up for police questioning on June 14, has sparked widespread outrage here, particularly in the sprawling Rocinha hillside "favela" where he was born and raised.
Souza's case has also shone the spotlight on the nearly 35,000 disappearances reported in the state over the past five years. Activists say that many of the disappeared were likely killed, some by organized crime and others by the police.
Two officers detained Souza at a bar in Rocinha on suspicions he was involved in drug trafficking and took him to a nearby police station for questioning, said Antonio Carlos Costa, whose Rio de Paz organization coordinated Wednesday's protest, citing accounts from Souza's family as well as eyewitnesses.
Police say it was a case of mistaken identity and that Souza was released shortly thereafter. They say he left the building by foot, but images from nearby surveillance cameras don't show any sign of him. Neither of the two surveillance cameras outside the police station were working on the day of Souza's detention, according to media reports.
"In the community of Rocinha, everyone is sure that Amarildo was executed and his body dumped in the woods somewhere," said Costa.
A body discovered in Rocinha on Tuesday was initially thought to be Souza's, but it turned out to be a woman's, the Globo television network reported. A blood stain found on the seat of a police car is being examined to determine whether it could be Souza's, and the results are expected on Friday.
Orlando Zaccone, the police official in charge of the investigation, said Wednesday they're also looking into allegations that a body was ferried out of Rocinha in a garbage truck.
Several officers have been transferred out of Rocinha pending the investigation.