OPERATION MUTUM /THE VISIT
In 1967, when he was one year in prison for Paulo de Sá, his brother Carlos received important information: Paulo had been located. He was incarcerated for some time at the DOPS in Belo Horizonte. The Department of Political and Social Order: DOPS / MG, created in 1956, had as its general duties, according to its constitutive act, the prevention and repression of crimes of a political and social nature, the inspection of manufacture, import, export, trade and use of weapons, ammunition, explosives and chemicals, inspection of railway stations, highways and airports, in addition to the issuing of safe-conduct in the event of war.
The police-political service of the State of Minas Gerais has existed since 1927, with the creation of the Police Station for Personal Security and Political and Social Order, which was responsible for maintaining public order, guaranteeing individual rights and investigating crimes against life and physical integrity.
Extinct in 1931, its original functions, which were related to the investigation and repression of political crime, were transferred to the Public Order Police Station, which later became the dreaded Department of Political and Social Order / DOPS.
After learning about the situation and confirming the presence of his brother at the DOPS in Belo Horizonte, Carlos de Sá then began to move heaven and earth to obtain, from someone and in some way, authorization to visit him in prison.
I was fortunate that the State Department of Education promoted, in Belo Horizonte, a training course for teachers to be held at the Faculty of Education / FAE, of the Federal University of Minas Gerais / UFMG, through the Campaign for Improvement and Development of Education Secondary – CADES, and Carlos de Sá was one of the nominees, from Mutum, to attend the course, which would take place throughout the month of July 1967.
Recently graduated from high school, I had also been appointed to take the same course, since I would be hired as a History and Geography teacher for the junior high school, starting in the second semester.
Another six teachers from Mutum made up the group to be trained with us.
One morning, before starting classes, when we were walking down the FAE corridor, Carlos de Sá took me by the arm and said “I need your help”. When I asked him what had happened, he told me that he had been allowed to visit his brother, Paulo, that afternoon. And that he had been advised, by a state deputy friend, to be accompanied by someone else. For security, he told me. That was the help that was expected of me. May I keep you company on the way to DOPS to visit your brother. I accepted the invitation without any discussion.
At the agreed time, resigned and very apprehensive, we drove to the DOPS headquarters, which was located on Avenida Afonso Pena, just above the Instituto de Educação.
At the entrance, we presented our identities, went through a thorough search to see if we had any weapons, signed a control book and waited for them to authorize us to start the visit.
A few minutes passed before a detective, carrying a machine gun, signaled us to accompany him. We went down a ladder and entered a room at the bottom of the building, a kind of basement, with no windows.
There, sitting in a chair leaning against the wall at the back of the room, was Paulo de Sá. Handcuffed. He looked at us without saying anything. We, too, were watching him, silent, under the impact of the figure we saw in front of us.
Thin, dejected, aged and, in my opinion, totally defeated. That was not Paulo de Sá that I had met. That was not Paulo de Sá who spoke to us of communism advancing on capitalist countries. That Paulo de Sá was quite another, a stranger. Just a prisoner. I saw tears in Professor Carlos de Sá’s eyes.
The detective with us, machine gun in hand, laughed wryly when he realized that Carlos de Sá was crying. The four of us stayed there, silent most of the time, with the silence only being broken a few times by the brothers. I was not allowed to say anything. Until the visit time was up. Ten minutes that seemed like a century.
When we left DOPS, already on the street, while we were walking back, Professor Carlos de Sá held out his hand to me, thanked him for the company and said only “Thank God Paulo is still alive”.
Paulo de Sá never returned to Havana to finish guerrilla training. He was imprisoned until 1979, when, benefiting from the Amnesty Law, he left the windowless cellars of repression and returned to his family. Professor Carlos de Sá had already moved from Mutum with his family when his brother Paulo was released. I had already graduated as a journalist and worked in Belo Horizonte.
As Nestor had said before, Brazil was still run by military authorities, who still had all the political power. As I was able to prove that day, when I entered as a visitor, in that basement, watched by that detective who carried a machine gun in his hands and an insolent, ironic but superior smile on his lips, for being him, during all the time we were in that room. , the sole owner of the situation. And the truth. The only one recognized as an authority.
(To be continued next week)