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Truth | Ulstra Appeals Denied


Caricaturist Latuff tears the Folha de S. Paulo a new one for suggesting in an editorial that the Brazilian dictatorship was some sort of “dictatorship lite” — a ditabranda, punning on the pair branda-dura — soft and hard.

It is, however, true that the savagery of the Argentine generalíssimos knew no bounds, holds the record for gross volume of corpses produced,  and was exported throughout the region as part of Operation Condor.

The iconic photograph of Vlado Herzog hanging in his cell in a supposed suicide maintains its visceral appeal.

Source: GGN.

A federal court has authorized the continuation of the criminal trial of retired colonel  Carlos Alberto Ustra, accused of the aggravated kidnapping and disappearance of stock broker Edgard de Aquino Soares in 1971. The colonel was accused by the federal prosecutor in October of last year, together with police officers Carlos Alberto Augusto and Alcides Singillo.

The accusation was accepted in a federal court of the first instance by judge Hélio Egydio de Matos Nogueira, but the defense appealed. Attorneys for Ustra petitioned to dismiss the case with prejudice, along with the cases of  the two other defendants.

They alleged that they were entitled to the benefits of the Amnesty Law of 1979, which deals with human rights violations during the dictatorship. They also cited the statute of limitations and the duty of hierarchical obedience.

These arguments were not accepted. In an October 2 decision, the federal judge ordered the criminal trial to proceed, and scheduled  the first testimony by plaintiffs for October 9 through October 11.

Edgar Aquino Duarte was kidnapped and illegally taken to DOI-CODI, the Internal Operations Detachment of the Second Army. He was later moved to to the Department of Social and Political Order (Deops-SP). He was imprisoned until sometime during  1973, when he disappeared..His name figures on the list of persons disappeared during  the dictatorship.

In accepting the prosecutor’s thesis, that the crime was not subject to the statute of limitations, the federal court based its reasoning on decisions by the Supreme Court (STF), which authorize the extradition of agents accused by the Argentine state of participating in kidnappings some 30 years ago. The argument concludes that the illegal deprivation of liberty continues in force so long as the whereabouts of the victim are unknown. This means that the crime is ongoing.

As to the Amnesty Law, the court found that it does not apply to this case, which remained in force in 1979, the year the law was created.

Duarte was born in 1941, in the interior of Pernambuco. He became a Marine and joined the Association of Brazilian Sailors and Marines. In 1964, just after the coup, he was expelled from the armed forces, accused of opposing the regime. He went into exile in Mexico, then traveled to Cuba and returned to Brazil in 1968, where he moved to São Paulo under the assumed name of  Ivan Marques Lemos. When arrested he worked as a stockbroker at the São Paulo exchange.

In the late 1970s, he met up with an old friend from the Navy, José Anselmo dos Santos, the famous “Corporal Anselmo”, who had just returned from  Cuba. They wound up sharing an apartment in downtown São Paulo until Anselmo was arrested and began working as a double agent, passing information about leftist movements to agents of the repression. There are suspicions that Duarte was kidnapped because he knew of Anselmo’s dual identity.

In October of last year, in accepting the charges made by the prosecutor, Judge Matos Nogueira cited the STF decision to extradite to Argentina three military men accused of committing crimes in the 1970s. The STF ruled that there is no statute of limitations on forced kidnapping. He also rejected the argument that Ustra never knew of any cases of illegal imprisonment or torture at the headquarters of DOI-Codi.

Recalling that Ustra was the commander in the field of the DOI-Codi of the Second Army between 1970 and 1974 — among the most aggressive units of political repression that flourished under the dictatorship, he twice cited the legal principal of  domínio do fato, later used by the STF in judging the “payola of the PT” case. He argued: ”The accused participated, coordinated, and determined all of the repressive actions practiced there, which unavoidably makes him responsible for crimes over which he had domínio de fato.


Above, Ustra testifying to the federal Truth Commission — a process that does not seem to be going all that well. The Folha is reporting that the panel is experiencing a crisis.

The crisis at the National Truth Commission has led to a four-month interruption of work by investigators responsible for discovering crimes of commission and omission in the Armed Forces during the dictatorship, searching for military documents and information about how the repression was financed by business executives.

Composed of historians and journalists, the group was known internally as the “ninja team,” given that their objective was to investigate and gather affidavits of military personnel and former agents of the repression without causing a scandal. .

Search for documents in U.S. fails

These topics are considered sensitive because of the resistance of the business executives and military men. Their work was disbanded  after the release of the report on the first year of the Commission, in May.

The group had been led by historian Heloísa Starling of  UFMG, who continues to advise the Commission.  “Work ceased in May and since then has not be resumed,” Starling confirmed.

The “ninja squad,” comprising 24 journalists and historians, aroused suspicions and provoked arguments among the commission members.

Maria Rita Kehl, one of seven members of the Commission, uma das sete integrantes da Comissão da Verdade, says that Cláudio Fonteles resigned after an argument about the work of the “ninja squad.” Sought for comment, he said he would not comment.

Internally, Fonteles and Rosa Cardoso, another commissioner, accused Heloísa Starling of misusing public funds in the conducting of the investigation. “There was an audit that found no irregularities, we discussed this at a meeting,” says Maria Rita Kehl.

Officially, the Truth Commission says that no group has been disbanded and denies that an audit was conducted.  Rosa Cardoso and the current coordinator of the Commission, José Carlos Dias, say they have no information on the subject..

When the ninja squad was operating, as the Folha discovered, documents were collected from third parties and from the State. The investigation into private financing of the repression was making progress and one of the witnesses, accused of torture, admitted the practice and pointed to other colleagues who took part in torture sessions.

The general drift of the investigation, which was not followed up on, is not being released.  Three historians — José Murilo de Carvalho, Ângela Castro Gomes and Daniel Aarão Reis — analyzed and approved the investigation in an opinion, as  Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro confirms.