MUTUM OPERATION – July 11, 1975 – The testimonies

(Episode 37)

It was six o’clock in the morning when I left Marta on the bus that would take her to Aimorés.
He had promised her that he would not return to Belo Horizonte before she returned to Mutum “any of these days”, she had said.
Standing there, watching the bus disappear at the corner of Pracinha da Padaria, I tried to put order in ideals. I knew that I needed to get Marta out of my thoughts and concentrate on the events connected with the only bomb that still needed to be found and on the guerrillas’ prison.
I had the impression that something was missing from that story. Why, I thought, had the news of Commander Mário’s arrest and the cables been released so quickly and no news was given about the bombs? I remembered Manfredo Kurt saying “There is something here”. They said that his intuition had never failed him. And, from what I was proving this time in Mutum, once again Manfredo Kurt had a confirmed intuition. The government’s interest in the region was not only in those stray bombs. The presence of the captured guerrillas was proof that there was more to it.
That was one of the doubts that intrigued me. Why did Commander Mário end up in Mutum and how did he get there? Would anyone remain, linked to the government’s resistance movements in the region? What would the military say about this?
My questions were asked only mentally. But, although I didn’t do them out loud, it didn’t take long for them to start being answered.
On that Friday afternoon, July 11, without a court order and without prior notice, some people began to be summoned to appear at the headquarters of the Military Command, at the Municipal Stadium.
So Neca was the first to be summoned and the first to go and give statements to the military. Until he was expected to have to explain, after all, he is the one who had sold the farm in Imbiriçu to Paulo Otávio, a false name for Sergeant Flores, codenamed Commander Mário.
So Neca gave testimonies to Major Fortunato, of the Army, for four uninterrupted hours. When he left the barracks, when asked about what had been asked and what he had said, he just said “I can’t say anything”.
Then, Zeca da Guia and Miguel do Boqueirão were heard.
Zeca da Guia, as his nickname indicated, was the son of Dona Guia, widow of farmer Procópio Martins. He lived on a farm in the Córrego Rico.
He was an Agricultural Engineer and had studied and graduated at the Federal Rural University, in Campo Grande, in Rio de Janeiro.
He had been part of the group of students who participated, in 1963, in the excursion made to Mutum to spread the communist ideas in Brazil, sponsored by the unionist Paulo de Sá, brother of Professor Carlos de Sá, and his friends from the Brazilian Communist Party – PC of B.
Miguel do Boqueirão had also studied at the Federal Rural University, in Campo Grande, in Rio de Janeiro, at the same time as Zéca da Guia and, like him, had also been part of the tour to Mutum, in 1963. He had a degree in Rural Economics. He ran the Águia Dourada farm in Remanso, owned by his parents, Virgílio Pontes de Castro and Dona Rosenilda.
Zéca da Guia and Miguel do Boqueirão testified at the same time. Zéca before Major Fortunato, the same one who had heard the testimony of Sô Neca and Miguel before Major Cristiano, also from the Army.
When their testimonies were finished, it was already dark. As they left the barracks, they also said, each one, when asked about how the testimonies went, an “I can’t speak”.
By order of the Military Command that night a curfew was decreed. All civilians that night were to stay in their homes and were forbidden to walk the streets after 10 pm unless they had a safe-conduct issued by the Military Search Command. Nobody objected. After all, the country was under the practical effects of Institutional Act No. 5 – AI-5, issued on December 13, 1968, by then President Arthur da Costa e Silva, which marked the hardening of the military dictatorship responsible for the 1964 Coup.
The AI-5 gave the government a series of powers to suppress the opposition that was emerging in various regions, such as closing the National Congress and other legislative houses (measure regulated by Complementary Act 38, of December 13, 1968), revoke elective mandates, suspend the political rights of any citizen for ten years, intervene in states and municipalities, decree the confiscation of assets for illicit enrichment and suspend the right of habeas corpus for political crimes.
Three months after the issue of AI-5, political investigators were able to determine the detention of any civilian citizen for sixty days, ten of which the detainee would remain incommunicado where he was detained.

In Mutum, I was absolutely sure that, in addition to the search for bombs, something more serious was happening in the city.
The night was full of mysteries and expectations about what the next day would be like.
(To be continued next week)

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