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Brazil top gov't officials allowed executions in military rule

A university professor describes CIA document as “disturbing”

Published in 11/05/2018 - 17:51

By Agência Brasil* Brasília

A document made public by the US State Department shows that former Brazilian president Ernesto Geisel (1974–1979) gave permission to Brazil’s Intelligence Center of the Army (CIE) to continue its summary execution policy against those opposing the military dictatorship in Brazil—a policy adopted under Emílio Garrastazu Médici—adding, however, that killings should be limited to the more “dangerous subversives.”

The memorandum, dated April 11, 1974, signed by then CIA director Willian Colby and directed to then State Secretary Henry Kissinger, says that President Geisel told João Baptista Figueiredo, head of National Information Service (SNI) at the time, who became president 1979 and 1985, that the executions should remain uninterrupted.

Geisel and Figueiredo, the document reports, agreed that when the CIE arrested someone that could be classified as “dangerous subversive”, the CIE head should consult with General Figueiredo, who was subsequently to give permission for the execution.

Figueiredo is reported to have insisted on the continuity of executions, Geisel reportedly made remarks on the potentially harmful aspects of the matter, asking to consider the issue over the weekend before making a decision.

General Ernesto Geisel, Brazil's president from 1974 to 1979- Arquivo Nacional/Divulgação


The document became widely known on Thursday (May 10) thanks to Professor Matias Spektor, coordinator at the International Relations Center of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV). On social media, where he publicized the document, Spektor said that “this is the most disturbing document I’ve read in 20 years of research: Geisel had just took office, and authorized the continuation of the regime’s killing policy, but required the Army Information Center to obtain previous permission from the presidential palace.”

The memorandum recounts that a meeting was held on March 30, 1974, attended by Geisel, Figueiredo, and CIE Generals Milton Tavares de Souza (commandant at the center) and Confúcio Danton de Paula Avelino (who would lead the CIE later on). During the meeting, the document goes on to report, General Milton Tavares de Souza said that some 104 people seen as subversives were summarily executed by the CIE the year before.

The text reveals that, on April 1, Geisel reported to General Figueiredo that the policy should be retained—provided, however, that only “dangerous subversives” should be executed. The military officials also agreed that the CIE should dedicate nearly all of its efforts to fighting “internal subversion.”

In Spektor’s view, the memorandum “is the most blatant evidence of the involvement of the summit of the regime (Médici, Geisel, and Figueiredo) in the policy of killings.”

Memorandum 99 is part of a series entitled Foreign Relations of the United States and documents the history of relations between the US and South America between 1973 and 1976. Even though the US declassified it in 2015, the first and fifth paragraphs of the text on the meeting were still kept under secrecy.

The original document is kept in the archive of the CIA director’s office, in Washington. A transcription is available on a US government–run website.

Brazilian Army

In a note, the Brazilian Army declared that the documents that could confirm the statements were destroyed, in compliance with a rule effective then aiming to protect classified information.

“The Army’s Center for Social Communication states that the confidential documents linked to the period in question which could perhaps confirm the facts related have been destroyed, in observance of norms existing at the time.”

*Additional reporting by Ana Cristina Campos, Macelo Brandão, and Gislene Nogueira

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira Edition: Carolina Pimentel / Mariana Branco

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