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Colonel Telhada & The Legacy of Carandiru


Nationwide trends from yesterday’s Brazilian municipals indicate that the left is gaining ground in muncipal governments while the center and center-right are losing it — and the just plain Socialists in perhaps the most dramatic fashion.

Here in Sambodia, the sudden collapse of a third-party candidate who had a surprising run at the top of the polls leads to a certain anticlimax — PT and PSDB candidates Haddad and Serra, near technically tied, will contend in the runoff election.

The most interesting story continues to be the PSDB candidate for alderman, Col. Telhada. G1 reports:

Col. Telhada (PSDB), former commander of the São Paulo state military police unit ROTA, wound in fifth place among aspirants for 55 city council seats this Sunday. With 89,053 votes, Paulo Adriano Lopes Lucinda Telhada, 50, says he is “moved” by the result.

“It was a response from the people. The people want fresh faces who understand their problems,” Telhada said. According to the ex-colonel, his campaign cost a mere R$ 200,000.

The four city council candidates with the most votes were: Roberto Tripoli (Green), with 132,313 votes; Andrea Matarazzo (PSDB), with 117,617 votes, Antonio Goulart (PSD), with 104,301 votos; and Milton Leite (DEM), with 101,664 votos.

Matarazzo — scion of an aristocratic coffee family –served the Serra and Kassab city adminstrations as coordinator of subprefectures and Karl Rovean chief of staff. I always wonder why he does not put his own name forward for mayor or governor?

Telhada has a history of killings during police actions and has caused a stir on the social networks with some of his statements. In September, for example, he praised a ROTA operation that left nine persons dead in Várzea Paulista, in inland São Paulo, and congratulated the troopers involved on the Internet.

Telhada told G1 that he is a victim of ideological correctness and that the military police are subject to prejudice. “No one dislikes violence more than I do. It’s just that I like bad guys [even less],” he said.  “In this country, when say what you think it is taken as controversial, violent.”Telhada has more than 59,000 Facebook followers.

Telhada says he intends to submit bills on public safety and other areas to the city legislature. One of his ideas is to increase Operation Delegada, which allows police to “moonlight” for the city government, working, for example, as inspectors during their off-duty hours. He plains to offer the program to the Guarda Civil Metropolitana (GCM) as well. Telhada also says he wants to improve career opportunities for civil servants.

The colonel, an evangelical and the father of two, says it may be possible to submit bills in partnership with Conte Lopes, another ex-ROTA member and city council member for the  PTB.

The case of the political colonel is nothing terribly new: consider the precedent of Ubiratã Guimarães, the military police official who presided over the Carandiru massacre in the 1990s.

Col. Ubiratã ran successfully for the state assemly in 2002, before being gunned down by a jealous lover. His ballot code was 111 — the number of fatalities in said massacre.

Caramante Interviewed in Exile: Preface

This week, Brazil Indymedia interviews the Folha de S. Paulo crime reporter who was targeted by a campaign of abuse and threats after running an unflattering profile of Telhada.

Correction: Indymedia runs an interview with the reporter by Eliane Brum of Época magazine.


From the preface:

In response to an article written by Caramante, Telhada called on his Facebook followers to write letters to the editor against the reporter, to whom he referred as “a notorious defender of bandits.” From that moment on, social networks, blogs and the Folha Web site were infested with anti-Caramante comments, which ranged from calling him “a terrible reporter” to defending his execution, with slogans such as “put a bullet in him.” In early September the tone grew more violent: the death threats were no longer confined to the Internet and were extended to family members as well.

The story of the colonel and the reporter is revealing and obliges us to reflect. Today, one of Brazil’s most respected crime and law enforcement reporters, employed by one of Brazil’s most influential dailies, is hiding in another country with his family since September 12, in fear for his life.

Today, Coronel Telhada, who commanded ROTA until November 2011, celebrates his election with 89,053 votos and the campaign slogan “A New ROTA in São Paulo Politics.”

What does this mean?

Caramante’s 13-year careers as a police reporter have been notable for the serious treatment and rigorous investigation of police abuses in São Paulo state. His work was recognized twice by the Folha prize for journalism. Caramante has brought to light seven death squads made up of legislative and military police and ex-police.

Caramante maintains his own database of persons killed by police and offers a systematic interpretation of the data on “resistance followed by death” cases, generally involving poorer citizens.

Caramante’s professionalism has earned him the respect of those calling for efficient police work within the bounds of legality — and the hatred of a truculent minority within the police — the bad cops —  along with politicians whose personal projects are tied to this faction.

Caramante Interview: Highlights

Caramante — As I said, there is nothing new in this situation. It has simply become more serious. It could have something to do with the election season or with other interests I have not yet identifiede.  One of these, for example, might be the desires of some persons to achieve power or maintain themselves in power.

Who? Can you be more precise?

Caramante — I cannot give names, because this is where we start to get into information that comes from behind the scenes, and these tendencies are closely tied to my sources and invetstigations.

In São Paulo, the issue of the police extends well beyond the walls of police institutions. Since redemocratization,São Paulo has never been so intensively militarized. Under Kassab, 30 of its 31 subprefeituras are run by military police reserve officers.

With Operation Delegada, the official duties of military police involving working for the city government as well as for the police force. We see that opportunities for political power are growing and there are many contenders. And this is without taking into account the city legislature.

Why is this happening? Why, for example, are these 30 of  31 suprefectures led by reserve officers? How would you describe this project to gain power?

Caramante — This process was visible when PM Colonel Álvaro Batista Camilo, a candidate for the city legislature for the PSD, approached Mayor Kassab, at a time when he was commandant of the state military police. As we know, the hallmark of Kassab’s government has been a strategy of siege. We have seen notorious cases in the banning of soup kitchens for homeless persons, of  parties in the periphery, of street fairs in Roosevelt Square and downtown São Paulo, and many others

What do death threats against a journalist from a major newspaper have to tell us about violence in S. Paulo state?

Caramante — It is a subject that reflect more than just the issue of violence. It is a tangible part of the whole context as I have just described it. The relation of police and power is currently the most important aspect.  Since redemocratization, this may well be the moment of greatest influence on politics by military police officers. When power is at stake, tempers run hot.

Why now? What is at stake?

Caramante — This is a significant moment because of the unprecedented close relations between police and other spheres of public authority.  Many PM officers have observed, and are trying to make public, that there are other areas into which to expand their operations and their power.