Note from BW of Brazil: The stress and concern has been steadily growing over the case of the disappearance of 16-year year old Davi Fiúza in Salvador, Bahia three weeks ago. It is sad and consistent reality in Brazil: another missing black male. The situation is eerily reminiscent of the disappearance of Amarildo de Souza, the 47-year old bricklayer who disappeared in Rio de Janeiro in the custody of the Military Police in mid-July of 2013 and never returned. The case and subsequent “Onde está o Amarildo?” (Where is Amarildo?) campaign garnered national and international attention. Amarildo, who the police thought was a drug dealer, was picked up along with numerous others in a UPP Military Police operation in the Rocinha community of Rio. De Souza’s wife, who spoke out against his disappearance, and his family went into a witness protection program.
We have shown since the inception of the blog the brutality of Brazil’s police, not only in terms of sheer number of killings, but the manners in which they murder. Under the guise of fighting drug trafficking, Military Police throughout the country have a reputation for entering communities with guns blazing, often not caring who they kill, guilty, innocent, with or without prior criminal records. The most recent example, which seemed to be a call for the revenge for the murder of a police soldier, happened in the northern city of Belém in a bloodbath that left nine dead.
In Salvador, Bahia, where today’s story takes place, between police and death squads (who are often off-duty police), there seems to be a death wish for the extermination of black males. Salvador is nicknamed “Roma Negra”, or Black Rome, is the center of Afro-Brazilian culture in the country and has a population that is 80% Afro-Brazilian. The situation in Salvador and Bahia as a whole was one of the reasons that thousands of Brazilians marched for the end of the extermination of black youth in various cities around the country back in August. It is within this context that we bring you yet another difficult story.
Witnesses believe Military Police involved in disappearance of 16-year old Davi Fiúza; victim’s mother offers R$5,000 reward for information lead to son’s whereabouts
The case and investigation
The family of Davi Fiúza, 16, that disappeared on October 24th from São Cristóvão Park, in the Vila Verde region of Salvador (Bahia), will become part of the Programa Nacional de Proteção à Vítima de Direitos Humanos (National Program for the Protection of Victims of Human Rights). The young man’s mother, Ruth Fiúza, and their two daughters, appeared early on Tuesday (11) at a meeting of the Commission on Human Rights and Public Safety of the Legislative Assembly of Bahia (AL-BA). According to information from the state advisory representative Yulo Oiticica (PT), part of the committee, they were referred to the Department of Justice, Citizenship and Human Rights (SJCDH) and await the approval of the application by the minister, Ariselma Pereira.
In testimony before the commission, Ruth affirmed that she hasn’t suffered any direct threats, but that there is a vehicle in front of her house every day. According to her lawyer, she should testify at the 12th Precinct Planning (12th DT / Itapuã), which is responsible for the area. According to the Military Police (MP), although the Civil Police are in charge of the investigation, the Comptroller of the MP is investigating the involvement of military officers in the case, as reported by the boy’s mother. According to Ruth, the boy was talking to a resident of the area when he was approached by police, had his head hooded with his own, his feet tied up, and was placed in the trunk of an unmarked car.
The family that alleges that Davi was picked up after a stop carried out by agents of the Pelotão de Emprego Tático Operacional (PETO or Platoon Tactical Operations) and Rondas Especiais (Rondesp or Special Rounds) is now offering R$5,000 for anyone having information that leads to the whereabouts of the young man.
Ruth Fiúza said that until the morning of Monday (10) did hasn’t received any information about what happened to her son. “As I have not had any response so far, I decided to offer R$5,000 to anyone who has any clue where he is. They don’t need to identify themselves, only give information that leads to where he is. Then we schedule (a time) and I’ll give them the money,” she said.
Ruth reports that neighbors who witnessed the operation saw the moment in which the teen was approached by agents of PETO, and placed in an unmarked police car.
In a statement, the MP said that it is investigating the situation and the victim’s mother and witnesses have been heard by the Magistrate. A spokesperson for the Civil Police said it had not received complaints about the case, nor at the Department of Technical Police (DPT), or the 12th Precinct, which covers the region.
Ruth Fiúza says that since the disappearance of her son, she has gone to precincts, the Legal Medical Institute and even areas having dead bodies. She says that the whole family is mobilized for news about the young man. “I put my house up for sale to raise money. There nothing more that I can do. I’m sure that if he were the son of some general, a congressman, it wouldn’t be like this. As beneath God it’s all about money, so offering the reward is the only thing that comes into my mind,” she says.
The Centro Acadêmico Vladimir Herzog (Vladimir Herzog Academic Center) issued a statement in solidarity with the family of Camila Fiúza, the victim’s sister and a journalism student at the Department of Communication at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBa). In a statement, the center is committed to mobilizing the entire academic community to demand immediate investigation of the relevant organs.
“We believe that the disappearance is not an isolated incident. Daily, throughout Brazil, black youths from the suburbs of the cities are approached in a violent way, from racist assumptions of the police. The result is that about 77% of dead young people – according to figures from Amnesty International – are black,” said a representative.
Police haven’t confirmed involvement of police in disappearance
The Civil Police and the Magistrate of the Military Police still haven’t confirmed the involvement of military officers in the disappearance of the teenager. The case remains under investigation.
Police chief Antônio Carlos Magalhães, investigating the case, said, Thursday (13) that the suspects have not been identified. “Yesterday we began to investigate the case officially. Some people were heard and others will come today. There is news that he had been kidnapped by police, but no witness appeared to confirm this. We’re still hearing people and we cannot rule out any possibility,” he said.
The Comptroller of the PM informed through a statement that the witness suggested to by the mother of the missing teen, pointed to the involvement of the police in the disappearance, “was heard and didn’t present consistent elements of the participation of the Military Police.” The agency adds that other witnesses didn’t “bring consistent elements that contribute to a conclusion about the whereabouts of the teenager.”
The family’s lawyer, Luciano Freitas, disputed the Magistrate’s version, and said two witnesses reported the participation of the police in the crime. “These two people were present at the time of the event and both testified that they saw police at the moment of the fact, putting him in a non-standardized car. Now, this is a matter to be investigated. Not pointing to evidence of the police is very premature,” he says.
The family’s lawyer denied having asked the teen’s mother not to cooperate with the investigation. “If we had done that, we would not be wasting time going to the Military Police or the police station to record the fact. What astonished me most I that this is independent of the demonstration or interest of the mother. It is an aggression against the state and it has to want to investigate independently of the victim wanting it or not. Never did his mother have an orientation of discontinuing the investigation.”
Protest, “Tuitaço” and Facebook
With the objective of collecting information on Davi’s whereabouts, a group organized on a “tuitaço” on Thursday morning. Throughout the morning, they used the hashtags: #CadeDavi (where is Davi) and #SomosTodosDavi (We are all Davi) and posted messages of support to the event on Twitter. “It was an act performed by friends, neighbors, people who know us and want to help,” said Ruth Fiúza.
Family, friends, members of the Reaja ou será morto (React or be killed) group and the Federal University of Bahia (UFBa) staged a protest on Friday (14) at the Department of Public Safety door in the neighborhood Piedade, pressing for information about Davi’s whereabouts.
“We want them [police] to solve this difficult situation for us, which has not been resolved,” said Camila Fiúza, the missing teen’s sister.
In a Facebook community entitled “Cadê Davi Fiúza?”(Where’s Davi Fiúza?), friends and family declare their outrage over the incident and demand answers from the State Government of Bahia. In one of the posts, Ruth, being affected by medication and no longer being able to bear the disappearance of her son, affirmed: “I hope to find my son alive. I stayed up until 3am sitting there [in the house], wrapped in a sheet, waiting for him to return. Whenever a different car passes I think he’ll come out of it.”
Murderous Police – A study by the Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública (Brazilian Forum on Public Safety) and integrating the 8º Anuário de Segurança Pública (8th Annual Public Safety Yearbook) provides telling data: between the years 2009 and 2013, Brazilian police killed an average of six people per day in Brazil. In five years, there have been at least 11,197 deaths – a greater number than the American police killed in 30 years – 11,090. According to the study, police in Rio de Janeiro again killed the most in the country, followed by São Paulo and Bahia.