Missing Persons on the Rise in Rio – Some Blame Police

Amarildo de Souza went missing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 14, 2013 after being stopped by police for questioning. His disappearance has gained an unprecedented amount of attention -- and police have become the target of blame.

“We’re not going to get my father back alive. All I want now is justice, that’s it,” Anderson de Souza said. “Things have only gotten worse since the police came here. At least when the drug gangs had control, we knew the rules. Now, there is only fear. Police are snatching people up randomly, just like my dad.”

But Amarildo is just one in what has become a steady increase of missing persons in Rio. According to The Washington Post, homicides in Rio are down, but the number of missing person cases in the city and its impoverished outskirts has shot up 33 percent.

From 2007 to 2013, 35,000 people went missing in Rio, reports BBC, according to figures from Rio state's Institute of Public Safety.

It's unclear as to who exactly is behind these disappearances, but according to The Huffington Post, heavy-handed police tactics raise suspicions among those living in slums that authorities are involved.

“These are missing people who are never coming home,” said Antonio Carlos Costa, a pastor who has worked for years in Rio’s slums and runs the anti-violence group Rio de Paz. “We’re talking about numbers far higher than the number killed or disappeared under Brazil’s military dictatorship. These are the disappeared of democracy.”

The Washington Post reports that regardless of who may be responsible, this is a blow to authorities who are working hard to shed Rio's violent image ahead of next year's World Cup soccer tournament.