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The Case of the Dead Brazilian Torturer Gets Murkier

Then there’s the matter of additional post mortem findings that were due out the end of this week, but which have yet to appear. If I understand the process correctly, analysis of tissue samples removed from the cadaver, along with DNA-rich evidence inadvertently deposited by the perpetrators, was expected to more completely flush out how the victim died, and who was on hand to witness or speed his demise. But it is now reported that the police are balking at having the results made public. The agent in charge of the homicide division, Pedro Medina, speaking at a press conference several days ago, described the awaited report as “not important” because it might hamper the ongoing investigation. Medina stressed that, since his unit’s top priority was to catch the fugitives, the report might tip their hand, especially if it names the “third man?” The thought occurs, of course, that this man’s identity might need to be protected.

Is what appears as obfuscation and double talk by the investigators to be taken simply as the legitimate privilege of the police to play a close hand in a controversial case until all the facts are in? Or do Brazil’s Civil Police, viewed institutionally, have some skin in this game in what looks like an effort to eliminate the assassination hypothesis entirely, and, depending on the arrangements they have established within the local communities where they operate, to suppress talk of vigilante practices which they have traditionally ignored or tolerated? Despite the rising popular outcry in Brazil directed at corruption, it seems widely expected that the police will operate outside the law as circumstances dictate. And thus far those in government at whatever level haven’t mobilized the political will to bring the country’s civil, much less military, police under tighter statutory control.

Operating on a loftier political plain than the police, the proud and patriarchal Brazilian Armed Forces have, since the creation of the truth commissions last year, stubbornly refused to join the national conversation in Brazil on the public’s right to know the extent to which the military dictators used torture and murder against those who resisted their rule. Suppression of information that might undermine self perpetuating prerogatives to operate without close supervision or beyond public scrutiny is what unites the interests of the police in the Fluminense Lowlands and their military counterparts who might have acted to silence a big mouth like Paulo Malhaes as a warning for others to think twice before following his example. For the moment the case rests here.
 

Michael Uhl is the author of "Vietnam Awakening," a war memoir, and co-author of "G.I. Guinea Pigs," the first book-length treatment of agent orange health problems among Vietnam veterans. He has written often for such national publications as the Nation, Geo Magazine, Forbes, the Progressive, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. He wrote this article for ThisCantBeHappening!

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