Photo: Col. Paulo Malhaes
The retired army colonel slain last month after testifying that he tortured opponents of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship also admitted to engineering the “disappearance” of dissidents from Argentina, documents release Friday show.
In a statement given in March to Brazil’s Truth Commission, which is investigating the crimes of the dictatorship, Col. Paulo Malhaes said he kidnapped a reputed member of Argentina’s Montonero guerrilla group on orders from the Brazilian junta.
The unnamed Argentine was intercepted at Rio de Janeiro’s international airport while en route to Venezuela, then a refuge for exiles from the military regimes ruling Latin America’s Southern Cone.
Malhaes told the Truth Commission he arranged for a “double” to board the flight to Caracas in place of the reputed Montonero, who was then turned over to Argentine military intelligence.
Thanks to the ruse, the official record showed that the Argentine dissident “disappeared in Venezuela, not in Brazil,” Malhaes said, according to the transcript published Friday.
Malhaes, who testified for more than 20 hours in all, also recounted efforts to monitor and identify other Argentines in Brazil and suggested that some of those individuals were also abducted and killed.
The various Southern Cone dictatorships of the 1970s and ‘80s are known to have collaborated in eliminating each other’s opponents under the aegis of “Plan Condor.”
Malhaes, 74, was found dead April 25 at his home in suburban Rio de Janeiro.
Police originally said the colonel was suffocated by robbers who burst into the home to steal computers and guns from Malhaes’ collection.
The victim’s wife, Cristina Batista Malhaes, who was also inside the home, said the two were tied up in different rooms during the robbery - which lasted nearly nine hours - and that she did not know at what point the robbers killed her husband.
Subsequently, however, Malhaes death was attributed to a heart attack suffered during the robbery, though police continue to treat the case as a possible homicide.
One of the people Malhaes admitted to having tortured and killed was lawmaker Rubens Paiva, whose daughter said last month that she was convinced the colonel was murdered to prevent him from making further revelations.
Vera Paiva told the daily O Dia that agents of the former regime remain active and are seeking to prevent the “historical truth” from being exposed.
She recalled that another admitted torturer, Col. Julio Miguel Molina Dias, who was also implicated in her father’s 1971 kidnap-murder, was killed in an alleged robbery in 2012.