It is 18 months since the Brazilian military seized power. Since the military coup, at least seven of the twenty-three elected governors have been removed from office. All of the popularly elected governors, including the moderate conservatives, who have been ousted have been replaced by military men loyal to the dictatorship. Primarily the ultraright supporters of the udn (União Democratica Nacional) hold office. While the left-wing governors were jailed, the conservative and liberal office-holders were stripped of their political rights. In some cases governors who were just as conservative in their social and economic views as the military, and even originally sympathized with the military, have been removed simply to stress the military’s role and power in the government. Civilian rule has been replaced by the military to a degree beyond anything Brazilians have yet experienced.
Following the ‘Ato Institucional’ which abrogated constitutional guarantees, there was a wholesale purge of Brazilian public life. Most of those stripped of political rights and office were members of the moderately liberal Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (ptb). Among the 378 leading political figures of diverse liberal and radical persuasion there were two former presidents (Quadros and Kubitschek), six ministers, four presidents of independent government agencies, fifty-eight congressmen, three senators, forty-six high-ranking officers (mostly liberal nationalists), seventy members of state assemblies, ten judges (including two judges of the High Court), two priests, forty-four trade union leaders, eleven professors and seven journalists. (Correio da Manha, April 1st, 1965).
This was accompanied by the jailing of thousands of political figures whose views ranged from liberal Catholic to Communist, from workers to religious leaders. While between 15,000 and 20,000 persons were arrested in the country as a whole, the areas hardest hit were São Paulo (2,000), Rio Grande de Sul (2,000), Pernambuco (2,000), Minas Gerais (1,500), Guanabara (1,500). Thousands were kept in greatly overcrowded prisons for extended periods of time on the charge of ‘suspected
One of the principal vehicles of repression is the Military Police Investigation (Inquerito Policial Militar—ipm). The ipm can enter any person’s residence, at any time (early morning hours appear to be the most convenient) and ask any questions without need of a warrant. It does not respect the right of habeas corpus and can bring charges without the slightest pretence of evidence of ‘subversion’. Correio da Manha, a conservative businessman’s daily newspaper, reported as late as November 8th 1964 that thousands of Brazilian citizens were being forced to submit to this form of intimidation and persecution. Almost a year after the coup of April 1st, Correio da Manha reported that about 40,000 citizens were under close investigation, while 10,000 government employees were fired or forcibly ‘retired’.
The ipm was created after the coup by the dictatorship. Its functions, in addition to its police duties, are closely integrated with the military tribunal on all political offences. In some cases the ipm is both judge and police, superseding the civilian courts. There has been conflict between the ipm and the regular courts, but whether the citizen will be tried in the civilian courts or in the military depends on his ‘connections’, his family background and wealth, and his ability to bring these to bear on the appropriate authorities. Absence of the proper connections inevitably dooms all of the working class and peasant militants who have been tried to the military tribunal. Only for some of the leftist intellectuals from the higher-income brackets and from the better families has there been any pretence of ‘due process’. The ipm apparatus functions on every level of government in every department. This includes the government-reorganized and newly ‘integrated’ trade unions and other previously autonomous associations.