military

Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO – A former army colonel who recently gave evidence of his involvement in the torturing and killing of political adversaries during Brazil’s military dictatorship has been found dead at his Rio home, local media reported on Friday.

Paulo Malhães, 76, was discovered in his apartment in the Nova Iguaçu area, to the north of Rio de Janeiro. The local police homicide division say he was suffocated.

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A British oil worker has been shot dead by two men in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, a Scottish newspaper reported on Saturday.

Peter Campsie, 48, from Montrose in Scotland, was killed in an attempted carjacking as he was returning home after a business meeting, the Aberdeen-based Press and Journal newspaper reported.

Mr Campsie, who worked as operations manager for Diamond Offshore Drilling International and hails, was shot twice as he attempted to leave his car, according to the newspaper.

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Folha newspaper, 1 April 1964.

Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, 1 April 1964: “Congress declares presidency vacant” and “João Goulart (JG) in Rio Grande do Sul (RGS) says he’ll resist”

Brazil has marked 50 years since the 1964 coup d’état which ushered in 21 years of military dictatorship and the disappearance or death of almost 500 people during that time.

Thousands of others were arrested, exiled, tortured and deprived of their political rights.

President Dilma Rousseff, who fought against the dictatorship before being jailed and tortured by the military, said at a special event at the Presidential Palace on Monday that the coup, known as the Golpe, had to be remembered as part of the process which led to Brazil clawing back democracy.

“We learned the value of freedom, the value of an independent, active parliament and judiciary,” Rousseff said in an emotional speech. “We learned the value of a free press, the value of voting.”

“What is required of us today is that we remember and tell the story of what happened: we owe this to all those who died and disappeared, to those who were tortured and persecuted, to their families, and to all Brazilians,” Rousseff concluded.

Tanks in Rio de Janeiro. Golpe 1964. Photo: Arquivo Nacional

Tanks in Rio de Janeiro. Golpe 1964. Photo: Arquivo Nacional

On March 31, 1964, troops led by General Olímpio Mourão headed for Rio de Janeiro from neighbouring Minas Gerais state to execute the coup which had been years in the planning.

Battling a spluttering economy and dwindling support President João Goulart, known as “Jango”, was ousted from power and eventually fled with his family to the Uruguayan capital, Montevideo.

Investigations ongoing

Pedro Simon, who is still a senator at the age of 84 and was a personal friend of President Goulart, told UOL news website that the coup “took everyone by surprise” and that “no one thought things would erupt the way they did”.

Goulart died 12 years later in exile in Argentina, in what was reported at the time as a heart attack.

However, suspicions that he had been killed, possibly poisoned as part of Operation Condor to rid South America of left-wing politicians and their supporters, have never faded.

In March 2013, a National Truth Commission in Brazil, sanctioned by President Rousseff to investigate human rights violations for a period which includes the military dictatorship, announced that it would look into Goulart’s death at his family’s behest.  His body was exhumed in November and taken to Brasília for formal analysis.

There has been mixed reaction to the Commission, whose mandate includes attempting to establish what happened during the years of military rule through witnesses and re-examining available evidence.

Critics of the investigation from the military say they believe the inquiry is an attempt by the political left to exact revenge.

As recently as last week Colonel Paulo Malhães gave testimony to the Commission in which he admitted killing political prisoners and disfiguring and hiding their bodies.

Golpe anniversary protest. São Paulo. Photo: Estadão

Victims of the repressions mark the 50th anniversary of the Golpe at a protest in São Paulo. Photo: Estadão Conteúdo

Opening old wounds

But a 1979 amnesty law, according to which no one can be tried for any human rights abuses committed during the dictatorship, means that Malhães will not stand trial.

That’s one reason why the NTC has come under fire from relatives of those who were lost, some of whom believe it has done little more than open up old wounds with minimal gain.

And although there have been a small number of ceremonies and protests, including from the victims of the military era and others, unthinkably, urging today’s military to topple President Rousseff’s centre-left government by force, Brazilians appear by and large to have chosen to consign this chapter of recent history to the past.

Written for Anadolu Agency  |  SÃO PAULO  |  31 March 2014

Rio police drag woman along road. Photo: reprodução/Globo Extra.

Amateur video shows police dragging Cláudio da Silva Ferreira, 38, along a road in Rio de Janeiro on her way to hospital. Image: Reprodução/Globo Extra

Three military police officers have been arrested after a dying woman was dragged along a road by a police car that was meant to be taking her to hospital in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, the military police service confirmed on Monday.

The woman, 38-year-old Cláudia da Silva Ferreira, had reportedly gone out to buy bread on Sunday morning when she was shot twice by what police described as “stray bullets” in gunfire between officers and drugs traffickers in an operation in the Morro da Congonha favela (slum) community in Madureira, in Rio’s North Zone.

Officers then put the mother-of-four into the trunk of their police car to drive her to hospital and at some point during the journey to hospital, as amateur mobile phone footage testified, the trunk opened and she was dragged along the road for approximately 250 metres.

Shocked onlookers said the police were only alerted to what was happening by pedestrians and drivers when the car pulled up at traffic signals.

Health officials say Ferreira was pronounced dead upon arrival at hospital.

A police spokesperson said Ferreira should have been in the back seat alongside an officer and that the case was already being investigated internally by the military police:

“This type of conduct did not fit with the principal values of the corporation – which are the preservation of life and human dignity,” the spokesperson told reporters.

The investigation will also seek to establish whether Ferreira had been shot by police or traffickers in the anti-trafficking operation.

But local people took to the streets on Monday to protest the woman’s death, bringing a major local road to a halt as protesters burned piles of trash and accused the military police of killing favela residents indiscriminately.

‘Treated like an animal’

Ferreira, who took care of four relatives as well as raising four of her own children, was buried on Monday afternoon at a local cemetery.

“They [the police] treated her like an animal. Not even the worst trafficker in the world would have been treated like that,” Ferreira’s husband, 41-year-old security guard Alexandre da Silva was quoted by Brazilian daily Folha de S.Paulo as saying at the funeral service.

Silva said he believed his wife would have survived the gunshot wounds if she had not subsequently been dragged behind the police car.

Tensions have been running higher than usual in a number of favelas in Rio after new communities were ‘pacified’ – forcibly brought under police control – and previously-pacified areas reinforced by tactical squadrons after an increase in the number of attacks against police, including the notorious North Zone swathe of favelas known as the Complexo do Alemão.

Indeed an officer at one of the city’s UPPs – so-called “police pacification units” installed inside newly-pacified favelas – was killed last week after criminals attacked the station in Vila Cruzeiro, part of the Complexo da Penha group of favela communities.

Adding to the tension is an ongoing investigation into the alleged torture and murder of Rio bricklayer Amarildo Dias da Souza who disappeared in 2013. Local UPP police officers are the main suspects and proceedings against them have begun.

In 2008 Rio policymakers set out plans to ‘pacify’ forty favela communities and install UPPs. Last week saw the installation of Rio’s 38th UPP, in Vila Kennedy in the west of the city.

The policy of pacification has been largely praised by the wider community, but there remains significant distrust between favela community residents – which make up around 22 percent of Rio’s population – and military police.

Written for Anadolu Agency

Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Complexo do Alemão, Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Police called in reinforcements in favelas (slum areas) in the north of Rio de Janeiro earlier on Wednesday, despite the area having been previously ‘pacified’ as part of the city’s policy of ridding poorer communities of armed criminal gangs and integrating them into the wider city.

Military police have ramped up their presence in the Complexo do Alemão (see photo gallery), a sprawl of favelas in the north of the city, after unrest in the area on Tuesday, which included a protest by residents following the arrest of two young men on Monday.

Police say the pair had arrest warrants issued against them for drugs charges, but around 100 residents took to the streets to protest, defending their innocence. Police used non-lethal force – including tear gas and pepper spray – to disperse crowds, and are now investing whether there were criminal factions behind the protests.

Local media reports that, during the unrest, at least on man took out a gun and fired into the air, and a group of ‘activists’ threatened to set fire to a fuel tanker being used a barricade along with burning tyres and trash cans, further increasing the tension.

Later on Tuesday, the Nova Brasília Police Pacification Unit (UPP) – part of the Complexo do Alemão – came under attack in what appears to be a reprisal, and police battled gunmen into the favela. Investigations are ongoing to establish who the gunmen were.

On Wednesday both military and civil police forces searched vehicles in the favela complex, including those from the local UPP.

Rio’s 38th UPP

Meanwhile, in the west of Rio, police are preparing for the city’s newest UPP in Vila Kennedy – the 38th of the forty UPPs that Rio security secretary José Beltrame announced in 2011, and only the second in the west of the city.

The city has traditionally prioritised areas frequented by tourists and close to new sporting venues, but is now reaching areas located further away from the center.

Police previously announced they would occupy Vila Kennedy, planned for tomorrow (Thursday), due to the high levels of violence seen in the area: 29,372 cases were registered in 2013 alone – up over seven percent on the previous year.

Local media say the region is now calm afte criminals set to be flushed from the area shot at electricity transformers, leaving parts of the district without power. The wider area has since seen a significantly-increased police presence.

Correspondents say that although some UPPs have been successful in bringing greater security to favela communities, there is often still an overwhelming sense of distrust on both sides and armed battles have occurred sporadically.

Some 22 percent of Rio’s population, estimated to be around 7 million people, live in favela communities.

Police, which have faced running battles with armed gangs engaged in both drugs and arms trafficking, have been accused of brutality against local residents – and the notorious case of favela resident Amarildo Dias da Souza, who disappeared from the city’s largest favela, Rocinha, in July 2013, remains fresh in the minds of Rio’s poorer communities.

Investigators say, along with drugs gangs in the area, the main suspects in the bricklayer’s disappearance – and suspected torture and murder – remain police officers from the local UPP.

Extended version of article written for Anadolu Agency