US government documents show that the country closely followed the operation of the Brazilian military dictatorship that resulted in the assassination of Carlos Lamarca, army captain and guerrilla commander. The death that took place in the interior of Bahia completes 50 years today.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, born in Morro de São Carlos, in downtown Rio, Lamarca was one of the protagonists of the armed struggle. He graduated from the prestigious Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras, in Resende (RJ) and deserted the Army at the age of 32, in 1969. His group took 63 rifles and machine guns from a barracks in Osasco, Greater São Paulo.
leader of VPR (People’s Revolutionary Vanguard), carried out bank robberies and kidnappings such as that of Swiss ambassador Giovanni Bucher, in 1970, which resulted in the release of 70 political prisoners.
In March 1971, six months before he died, Lamarca left the VPR to join the MR-8 (October 8th Revolutionary Movement). Last year, had escaped a gigantic army encirclement in Vale do Ribeira, interior of São Paulo.
“It is undeniable that after the murder of Carlos Marighella [em 4 de novembro de 1969, na cidade de São Paulo], Lamarca has become the main target of the dictatorship,” says journalist and former deputy Emiliano José, co-author from the book “Lamarca – O Capitão da Guerrilha”, written in partnership with Oldack Miranda.
The report analyzed 18 reports, reports, telegrams and communications to the US Department of State sent by its diplomats between February 1969 and September 1971. The documents provide information about Lamarca and members of his group, such as then Sergeant Darcy Rodrigues, in addition to other leaders from VPR and MR-8.
O UOL had access to files of the so-called “disclosed documents” of the US Department of State, about the period of the Brazilian military dictatorship.
Telegram sent by the US ambassador to Brazil, William Rountree, on August 26, 1971, shows how the hunt for Carlos Lamarca was closely monitored by the US government.
“A DOI-Code [Destacamento de Operações e Informações – Centro de Operações de Operações e Defesa Interna, órgão repressor da ditadura] organized an operation to capture Lamarca, and it is believed that he is now under siege, with only a 40 percent chance of escaping the siege,” Rountree wrote to the State Department in Washington.
When the US ambassador sent his telegram, Lamarca was in the backlands of Bahia, where he was unsuccessfully trying to build a base for his guerrilla.
The Army’s operation to capture and kill him was costly. A reserved report by the Ministry of the Army at the time of the military dictatorship reveals that Cr$ 582,218.58 – or R$ 833,152.67 in current values - were spent on the special action mounted by the repressive forces to eliminate Carlos Lamarca in 1971. Operation Pajussara.
Wanted by the report, the Ministry of Defense did not comment.
Operation Pajussara had 215 soldiers and police from Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Pernambuco and São Paulo, including delegate Sérgio Paranhos Fleury, and had as commander Major Nilton de Albuquerque Cerqueira, chief of the 2nd Section of the General Staff of the 6th Military Region and DOI commander in Salvador.
According to the military report, the mission also had the support of three large companies that sent personnel, vehicles and aircraft: Companhia de Mineração Boquira, Petrobras and TransMinas.
“Transportation was initially carried out with the extensive cooperation of Cia. Mineração Boquira, which, in addition to providing its plane, fully supported land displacement with vehicles, thus enabling the successful infiltration of teams in the area, making it difficult a possible work by the terrorist group’s informants,” wrote Brigadier General Argus Lima, commander of the 6th Military Region, on September 19, 1971.
The offensive carried out Captain Lamarca and José Campos Barreto – Zequinha Barreto – in the village of Pintada, in Ipupiara, in the interior of Bahia; Iara Iavelberg – companion of Lamarca – in Salvador; Luiz Antônio Santa Bárbara and Otoniel Barreto, in Brotas de Macaúbas (BA).
The location of the captain in the interior of Bahia had collaboration between the information services of the Air Force (CISA) and the Army (CIE). Between identifying the point where Lamarca was, making the siege and executing it, 21 days elapsed, from 28 August 1971 until the afternoon of 17 September. Helicopters were even used for the action.
Who saw Lamarca and Zequinha in the middle of the caatinga was the driver of one of the cars transporting the soldiers, identified as Fumanchu, according to the reserved Army report. “Major, there are two men lying under the tree,” the driver would have said.
“The whole team, at this point, was already in line. The element that gave the alarm started to run, then the shooting started. The second got up, trying to run as well…. This one was shot down 15 meters to forward, falling to the ground, while the one who had given the alarm, despite being wounded, continued to flee,” reported General Argus Lima.
Since the 1990s, the Brazilian State has recognized that Lamarca was assassinated by the military dictatorship. On September 18, 1996, the Official Gazette of the Union published the decision of the Special Commission on the Dead and Disappeared, linked at the time to the Ministry of Justice. By five votes to two, the Union recognized that it was responsible for Lamarca’s death.
Turned off by AI-5
In early 1969, General-President Artur da Costa e Silva dismissed Lamarca from the Army under Institutional Act No. 5, AI-5, for “having committed acts of a disgraceful nature to military dignity” and being considered a deserter.
Lamarca’s accusation of being a traitor to the Army was built by the dictatorship over the years, as revealed by an intelligence report from the US Embassy in Brazil on June 12, 1969. The Americans say he deserted the army, stole weapons and was “the leader of the terrorist guerrilla in São Paulo”.
“Lamarca proved to be an excellent actor. He gave no indication of involvement in anything suspicious and remained oblivious to aggressive harassment from agitators and students. Furthermore, in the wake of numerous bank robberies in São Paulo, Lamarca conducted training in target shooting for employees and bank tellers,” describes the US report.
US attachés in Brazil tried to keep up with Lamarca’s every step. “Mrs. Lamarca and Sgt. Darcy’s wife and their respective children allegedly left Brazil on January 22 or 23 [de 1969] to Havana via Rome” points out another secret State Department report.
The lady Lamarca referred to in the text is Maria Pavan, and Sergeant Darcy’s wife is Rosalina.
Darcy himself, now captain of the reserve, recounts:
“They boarded the plane on January 24th, at around 10 pm. Lamarca and I went to say goodbye to them at Congonhas airport, in São Paulo,” says Darcy in an interview with UOL. They traveled to Rome and then on to Cuba.
Right-hand man of Lamarca, Darcy Rodrigues explains that the military coup of March 31, 1964 was not accepted by many members of the Armed Forces who had pledged, under oath to the flag, to defend order and law.
“They betrayed their commitment. I recently met a soldier from the academy and said, once again, that they accused us (Darcy and Lamarca) of a crime that they themselves had committed. We didn’t, we defended the president of the Republic, who was João Goulart. We had the decency to leave the Army to fight the Army,” he said.
Rodrigues also claims that Lamarca “was an extraordinary person from every point of view and a faithful soldier,” he said. “He was a great commander.”
The US embassy, in its reports, points out problems related to the military command to justify the actions of Captain Lamarca:
“Army Minister (Aurélio) Lyra Tavares holds (Colonel Antonio) Lepiane responsible for the lack of vigor in the follow-up action after we had prior knowledge that Lamarca might be acting in the wrong way (within the Army)”, according to a secret document from the USA.
Lepiane was Chief of Staff of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division in São Paulo and assumed command of Oban (Operation Bandeirante), the body that preceded DOI-CODI.
On the day of the action that practically emptied the arms magazine of the barracks of the 4th Infantry Regiment of Quitauna, in Osasco, in Osasco, the head of the guard at the barracks was under the responsibility of then sergeant Darcy Rodrigues, according to journalists Emiliano José and Oldack Miranda, authors of a biography of Lamarca.
Next to him were Corporal José Mariane and soldier Carlos Roberto Zanirato, who became one of the most wanted “terrorists” in Brazil at the time, with their faces stamped on posters with the word “Procura-se” throughout the country.
One of the 70 political prisoners released after the kidnapping of the Swiss ambassador, Roque Aparecido da Silva, of the VPR, was arrested on February 2, 1969, weeks after Lamarca left the barracks in Osasco.
“I was imprisoned for two years and ended up being replaced by the Swiss ambassador. I went straight to Chile,” says Roque today. Later, in Chile, the former member of the VPR learned of Lamarca’s murder by the Chilean press.
“Materia reported the death of a terrorist leader in Brazil,” says Roque.
Darcy Rodrigues, in turn, received the news of Lamarca’s death in Cuba.
“I was coming home from school with my children. Dona Ester, a Cuban woman called me to listen to the news on the radio at her house. It was Rádio Relógio, which repeated the news every hour”, says Rodrigues.
“It was a really big hit.”