Posted by Rebecca J. Atencio
Retired Army Colonel Paulo Malhães was found dead of asphyxia today, following an invasion of his home by three unknown men. Malhães testified before the National Truth Commission (Comissão Nacional da Verdade, CNV) last March and is considered one of the dictatorship agents who has been most forthcoming in providing new information about human rights crimes during the authoritarian period. In his testimony, the retired officer admitted to participating in tortures and assumed responsibility for the political disappearance of congressman Rubens Paiva.
President of the Rio de Janeiro truth commission, Wadih Damous, has called for a full investigation of the murder, saying that the killers may have been motivated by a desire to silence Malhães from making further revelations (for an article in English, see here).
Malhães’s murder is also bringing renewed scrutiny to similar cases. For instance, in November 2012, another retired Army Colonel, Júlio Miguel Molinas Dias, was killed in Porto Alegre in what was believed to be an attempted robbery. In that case, three officers of the Rio Grande do Sul state militarized police force (Polícia Militar, PM) were found guilty of what was ruled to be a “common [ie not politically-motivated] crime.”
Both cases are reminiscent of the highly suspicious death of notorious police torturer Sérgio Paranhos Fleury in May 1979. Fleury supposedly slipped while on a boat, hit his head, and died; however, the timing (only a few months before the passage of the Amnesty Law), circumstances (there are rumors Fleury was about to go public with his knowledge of the repression), and lack of a serious investigation into his death (no autopsy was performed) have long fed suspicions that the torturer was silenced by regime hit men.