How Ustra, Bolsonaro’s hero, was declared a torturer – 03/30/2024 – Power

How Ustra, Bolsonaro’s hero, was declared a torturer – 03/30/2024 – Power


It was the 1990s when Janaína de Almeida Teles learned that lawyer Fábio Konder Comparato was defending former political prisoner Inês Etienne Romeu in a lawsuit filed against the Federal Union, for the torture and rape she had suffered in the House of Death in Petrópolis, a clandestine center for torture in the dictatorship of which she was the only survivor.

The process had a peculiarity: the applicant did not ask for compensation or penalties; he only sought recognition that he was a victim of crimes committed by State agents during the military regime — the so-called declaratory action. Janaína went after Comparato in search of something similar.

After all, not only her, but several members of her family were also victims of the dictatorship. Her parents, Maria Amélia de Almeida Teles (Amelinha) and César Augusto Teles, and her aunt, Criméia Schmidt de Almeida, were tortured at DOI-Codi in São Paulo between 1972 and 1973 –Criméia while she was seven months pregnant. Her son, João Carlos, was born while she was still in prison and did not even know her father, André Grabois, who was killed by repression.

Janaína was 5 years old at the time and her brother, Edson, was 4. The two were taken to the scene and saw their parents convalescent and with marks of torture.

Years later, after leaving a letter for Comparato in his office (without response), Janaína managed to find him, in the early 2000s, thanks to the help of sociologist Maria Victoria Benevides, then her professor in the master’s degree in history at USP and a friend of attorney. She told him her family saga, and Comparato agreed to take on the case.

They decided that they would file an “action merely declaring the occurrence of moral damages”, which was done in 2005. Unlike Etienne Romeu’s lawsuit, however, this was filed by five people, members of the Almeida Teles family, and, the largest differential, not against the State, but against an agent of the dictatorship, the same soldier they accused of having tortured each and every one: Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra.

Cut to the middle of the last decade, when signs were emerging of the strengthening of the right and the extreme right in Brazil. Lawyer, poet and writer Pádua Fernandes realized that Ustra had become a hero of many activists who wore yellow and called for military intervention, including the then federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro, who praised him when he voted for Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment in 2016.

“It all made me choke up,” says Fernandes. He had been researching documents from the dictatorship since 2006. He had already used the brutality of the dictatorship as material for some of his award-winning books. He had advised Comparato in his doctorate in law at USP. And he met Amelinha Teles when she worked, in 2014, at the São Paulo State Truth Commission.

He then decided to write another book, this time without poetry or fiction. “Absolute Illicit – The Almeida Teles family, Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra and torture”, recently released by the publisher Patuá (after being selected in a notice from Proac, the culture incentive program of the Government of SP), highlights the historical character of that judicial process.

For the first time, an agent of the dictatorship was held responsible for torture – in an action that was also pioneering because it was brought by the victims, and not by the Public Ministry, as was more common since redemocratization.

In both the case of Inês Etienne and the Almeida Teles, Comparato’s idea in opting for declaratory action was to circumvent the current interpretation in the courts that the 1979 Amnesty Law prevented the conviction of agents of the dictatorship.

“Since the 1970s, the Union had already been convicted in torture cases, but the people who committed the crimes thought they were fully guaranteed by the Amnesty Law”, observes Pádua Fernandes.

But the law, Comparato wrote in the initial petition, was not an impediment to the action because it only guaranteed “criminal amnesty to those involved in the period of the military dictatorship”, but did not provide “any safeguard in relation to civil compensation or even judicial declarations”.

The authors said that Ustra was “personally responsible for the persecution and torture” against them and asked the Court to “declare that the defendant, by acting with intent and committing an illicit act subject to reparation, caused moral damage and damage to the physical integrity of the authors” .

Ustra lost in every instance. In 2008, judge Gustavo Santini Teodoro, of the 23rd Civil Court of São Paulo, stated in his decision that “torture, even in a period of constitutional exception and attacks against State security, was unacceptable, in light of international law, binding For the country”.

He further wrote that “torture, which is an absolute illegal act, gives rise to, between its author and the victim, a legal relationship of civil liability”, that between the authors of the action and Ustra there existed such a relationship, “born from the practice of an illegal act , generating moral damages”, and that actions aimed at compensating for violations of fundamental human rights are imprescriptible.

The sentence was upheld by the SP Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice. In 2015, the STF rejected Ustra’s last appeal attempt, a month after the colonel’s death.

Comparato reveals modesty about his performance. “I think the process was a success, but I cannot present myself as being the owner of this success. It is necessary, first of all, not to lose this horror in our collective memory”, he told Sheet.

Adding historical context to the intricacies of the process, Pádua Fernandes helps to understand why Ustra —who from September 1970 to January 1974 commanded the DOI-Codi of the 2nd Army, in São Paulo, one of the main torture centers of the military regime— became is an extremely symbolic figure for the memory of the military dictatorship.

It tells, for example, the trajectory of reports of violations committed by the military, since the pioneering one in 1975, nicknamed Bagulhão, in which political prisoners from São Paulo placed him at the top of a list of 233 torturers. And he lists other legal actions against Ustra, many inspired by the one that is the main object of the book.

The colonel – who at the time of DOI-Codi was a major, codenamed Dr. Tibiriçá – never admitted to having tortured, but said that excesses may have occurred, as “nowhere in the world can terrorism be fought with flowers”. He often repeated, as he did when testifying to the Truth Commission in 2013, that he always followed Army orders.

With the help of his wife and faithful squire Joseíta, he wrote two books to defend himself and tell his version of the period, “Rompendo o Silêncio” and “A Verdade Sufocada”. The latter became a best-seller among Bolsonaristas. The former president himself has already declared that it was his bedside book.

For Criméia de Almeida, the growing mythification of Ustra in recent years shows that “those who voted for Bolsonaro were greatly deceived, they received a version of history in which Brazil is a racial democracy, without the killing of indigenous people and distorted mainly in relation to the dictatorship” .

“It was like this”, he adds, “that Bolsonaro promoted Ustra to a hero. But for the military who respect the Geneva Convention, Ustra was never a hero – he was just a henchman, a captain of the bush.”

Like many human rights activists and families of the dead and missing, Crimea criticizes President Lula (PT) for avoiding remembering the dictatorship and determining that his ministers do not do so.

“It was in the past, but it has not passed. The attempted coup on January 8 is a reflection of this. So much so that the military was not punished and returned to power. Rehashing is necessary, because there are still obstacles in the way, and only justice can be done punishing those responsible for crimes.”

Janaína Teles observes that, despite Lula’s conciliatory history, the PT member normally acted behind the scenes. “What is surprising at this moment is that he does this openly, publicly.”

She recalls the episode, reported by Comparato, of a dinner on the eve of the trial in the STF of the OAB action that could allow punishment for torturers despite the Amnesty Law, in which Lula would have asked the ministers to vote against the action – which would end up rejected by the court.

Such stances taken by post-dictatorship authorities raised skepticism in Janaína about government action. “But at least we are doing something. We have obtained several victories over these 30 years, even though we knew there would be limitations – we have always pushed the limits of political action. What doesn’t work is inaction, it’s not trying”, she says , PhD in social history from USP, professor at the State University of Minas Gerais, researcher and author of books and articles on transitional justice and the right to memory.

“Reconciling or doing nothing, or pretending that nothing is happening, as the government and Lula are proposing, is not the best way, because they come back. The traumatic past comes back, as a symptom. That’s what’s happening.”

In the case in which her family won against Ustra, the judge did not recognize that Janaína and her brother were kidnapped and psychologically tortured — after DOI-Codi, the children were taken to Belo Horizonte and lived for six months in private prison under the guardianship of a delegate linked to the repression who was married to one of their aunts, but that party did not participate in the action.

In June last year, the two received a formal apology from the Brazilian State and compensation of R$100,000 each – the ceiling stipulated by the Amnesty Commission, which finally concluded the judgment of a request made in 2005.


Source link