In the middle of the afternoon on June 12, a Saturday, tourism worker Antonio Rengifo Vargas left his home in Santa Rosa (Peru), crossed the Solimões River by boat, and arrived in Tabatinga (AM) to celebrate his 20th birthday from the day before.
He was then detained by the Military Police of Amazonas, and found dead the following day in the city's garbage dump, alongside two other bodies. After investigating on his own, his father, tourism businessman Antonio Rengifo Baldino, 50, has no doubt that he was tortured and murdered by the military police. Feeling threatened, he did not seek out any Brazilian authorities and went to the Colombian consulate in the city.
The son of a Brazilian and, like his son, of dual Peruvian and Colombian nationality, the businessman was the only one —among the family of the seven dead and two disappearances attributed to the Military Police of Amazonas—who agreed to give an interview for security reasons.
My son had served in the military in Peru and was working with me at my floating hotel. On the 12th, the day after his birthday, he said he would celebrate with his colleagues. He crossed to Tabatinga around 15:30, 16:00.
I'm investigating because I don't want my son's death to go unpunished. The latest version I have right now is that my son arrived at the port, took a motorcycle taxi, and went up to the city. On the way there, he was stopped by a patrol of the Military Police.
The patrol asked for nationality. When he took out the document and showed that he was Peruvian, the police put it in the car and took it away.
From then on, we had no more news of my son. On Sunday, a young man told my brother that several bodies of murdered people were in the trash dump. My brother went there, but when he saw the bodies, he couldn't identify his nephew. He couldn't believe it.
Then my oldest son got an anonymous call saying that his brother had been killed. My son came looking for me at work. By then, the firefighters had already retrieved the body. So my brother went to the UPA (Emergency Care Unit). The social worker asked what my son's name was and confirmed that he had a corpse with that name.
When my brother asked for his documents, she said they were with the police. When he got there, the policeman asked:
"Who are you?"
"I'm the uncle."
"Oh, you are a son of a bitch."
"I didn't come to ask for your opinions. I came to ask for my nephew's documents."
"Look at this bandit's document. See if it's on the list."
"Stop that. I'm a civil servant."
"I don't care who you are."
When they got the criminal record and didn't find anything, the policeman said: "Watch what you say, if you don't want something to happen to you."
My son had no criminal record, he hadn't been arrested or anything. His dream was to be a military man. All the time he wore military-cut hair.
When my brother came back to the hospital and said he wanted to get the medical report to go to the registry, to get the body, to bury, the policeman said: "Watch what you're going to say." He took the report and said: "But here there's nothing I'm seeing on my nephew's body."
The policeman said: "Shut up and take it as you are there." Then the doctor said something, and the policeman: "Shut up and do what I say."
The police were on top all the time. These signatures here are fake. The people listed here were not present—neither the delegate nor these two experts. A doctor signed it in the presence of a police officer. And the policeman said: "Do as I say."
According to the medical report, he was shot four times. One was in the back of the head, one in the chest, two in the neck. That's what the medical report says. Only, behind his head, he had three bullet wounds. And on his chest, there was a hole of 2, 3 cm, a big cut. And he had a lot of torture, his body was all beaten up, his hand was cut. This does not appear in the medical report. The body was flat. His hand was all black, as if they had been tied up, burned. Before killing him, they tortured the boy.
When we took the body, my brother didn't want to tell me what had happened. He said that if we didn't cover the boy's body, the police would stop the wake.
I said, "That doesn't exist. We've never done anything bad."
The only veiled corpse was my son's. It was sad, every ten minutes, a mother passed with her child, they were all buried on the same day.
During the wake, the police passed more than 30 times in their car, very slowly, aiming their rifle. The police went to my brother's house to intimidate him too. They threatened the boy who transported us on the day of the funeral.
I don't feel safe going to the Civil Police. The situation is so critical that, as a Colombian, I went to my consulate.
The consulate has already sent letters to the Civil, Military, and Federal police, and they will try to clarify everything so that my son's death does not go unpunished. The consul himself told me not to go to the police. When the authorities are telling you not to look, it's for something.
Days later, I learned that the death was around 3:45 in the morning. They took him out of the police station, and the police asked: "What are you doing with this boy? Do we let go?." And then a voice came from inside: "Kill all those bad guys." His face was all broken up, his nasal septum was broken. Then they threw him into the car. They said my son was in the wrong place, and that had happened.
I imagine the boy calling for his father, calling for his mother.
I just want justice so that tomorrow it doesn't happen to another mother. In the Constitution, there is no death penalty. The population is now more afraid of the police than the bandits. The bandits take you from behind, but the police come forward and kill you. I feel really scared.
Not all cops are bad. I know good cops. At the tourist agency, I had the opportunity to guide federal and civil police. But I can't find an explanation. It is not for a human being to have the courage to do what they did to my son's body.
All my life I have been dedicated to tourism. Since I was eight years old, I started as a shoeshine boy, then I was a hotel messenger, and then I studied as a guide. I built the Rio Javari National Reserve, in Atalaia do Norte (AM), in 1992. I built the Paumari nature reserve, also on the Brazilian side. I have a project on the Brazilian side, on the Peruvian side, I have an agency.
You can be sure that my son was not part of any faction. My son worked with me on the tourist ferry. An audio is circulating telling the police that they killed a lot of innocent people.
If my son's death even serves to stop this slaughter they're doing, it will be the best thing he will have contributed in the short time he has been on Earth.
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon