On this day, December 24, 1999, President João Figueiredo (1979-1985), the last of the military dictator of Brazil, in died Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While Figueiedo is credited with steering the country back to democracy and promoted the devolution of power to civilian rule, he was also the chief of the Secret Service (SNI) during the term of President Geisel from March 15, 1974 to June 14, 1978. This tenure overlaps with Operation Condor in which the intelligence services of six South American governments received technical support from the United States and the United Kingdom to maintain rightwing authority at the expense of civilian human rights. While João Figueiredo was head of the National Intelligence Service of Brazil. The exiled President João Goulart died of an alleged heart attack in Mercedes, Argentina on December 6, 1976. His body was never submitted to an autopsy, so the true cause of his death remains unknown. In 2000, former governor of Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul Leonel Brizola alleged that ex-presidents João Goulart and Juscelino Kubitschek were assassinated as part of Operation Condor. Since then, evidence has emerged that the order to assassinate Goulart came from Sérgio Paranhos Fleury, head of the Departamento de Ordem Política e Social (Department of Political and Social Order) and the license to kill came from president Ernesto Geisel. In July 2008, a special commission of the Legislative Assembly of Rio Grande do Sul, Goulart's home state, concluded that “the evidence that Jango was willfully assassinated, with knowledge of the Geisel government, is strong.” Similarly, during the period between Figueriredo's time at SNI and his inauguration as president, senior officers of the Uruguayan army secretly crossed the border and entered Porto Alegre, capital of the State of Rio Grande do Sul. There they kidnapped Universindo Rodriguez and Lilian Celiberti, an activist Uruguayan couple of the political opposition, along with her two children, Camilo and Francesca, five and three years old. This is known as "o Sequestro dos Uruguaios", or "the Kidnapping of the Uruguayans." In 1980, Brazilian courts convicted two inspectors of DOPS (Department of Political and Social Order, an official police branch in charge of the political repression during the military regime) for having arrested the journalists in Lilian's apartment in Porto Alegre. They were João Augusto da Rosa and Orandir Portassi Lucas. The reporters and the Uruguayans had identified them as taking part in the kidnapping. This event further confirmed the direct involvement of the Brazilian government in the Condor Operation.
Thomas E. Keefe
Assistant Professor of Humanities,