Woe to you, 64

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By FLAVIO AGUIAR*

The Coup of 64 created a kind of black box in everyone's lives. Always há something the difícyl or even impossibleível to completely decipher

Malena Monteiro. To Alfeu de Alcântara Monteiro, in memoriam.

1.

There is one less square in Porto Alegre. This square should be called “Lieutenant-Colonel Aviator Alfeu de Alcântara Monteiro”.

Alfeu de Alcântara Monteiro was born in Itaqui, Rio Grande do Sul, on March 31, 1922. Modern Art Week was a month and a half old. That year the Communist Party of Brazil would also be founded. The boy Alfeu was three and a half months old when the Forte 18 incident occurred in Copacabana.

He was more or less two years old when Captain Luís Carlos Prestes began his column's march, in the same region where he was born, the Missions. He was eight years old during the 1930 Revolution, ten years old during the 32 Revolution, and 20 years old when Brazil entered World War II, alongside the Allies and the Soviet Union, against the Nazi-fascists and the Axis. He would have just turned 44 when he died, on April 4, 1964, as a result of the coup carried out days before.

In 1941 he entered the Realengo Military School, in Rio de Janeiro, and in 1942 he went to the Aeronautical School, where he graduated as a midshipman in 1943, assigned to serve at the Fortaleza air base.

He had a very formal and rapid career, marked by official praise. He has received individual commendations on several occasions. In 1946 he was already an aviator lieutenant and was at the São Paulo Air Base. In 1947 he was back at the Aeronautics School, in Rio de Janeiro, where he received praise, highlighting “his qualities of character and careful education, combined with the correct notion of discipline and professional matters, which make him stand out among the escort officers of the FAB”. He also served in Natal during this period.

Due to his merits, he was part of the team of aviation officers who in 1948 went to collect the Gloster Meteor combat aircraft acquired in the United States. Over the next ten years he served in Natal, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and at the Canoas Air Base, a municipality neighboring Porto Alegre. He received several commendations on his service record for participating in sporting events and field maneuvers, simulating combat. Many of these compliments highlight their ability to overcome difficulties and precariousness caused by a lack of supplies or adequate equipment.

In 1957 he received a written compliment from Air Brigadier Nelson Freire Lavanère Wanderely, from the First Air Zone Command. In 1964, Lieutenant Colonel Alfeu Alcântara Monteiro would be accused of trying to murder Brigadier Lavanère Wanderley at the Canoas Air Base.

In 1958 he took the Air Force General Staff course in Rio de Janeiro. In 1959 he joined it, and in December of that year he was serving in the Foreign Sub-Section of the National Security Command. In the praise received in his service record in this role, the following terms and expressions stand out: “remarkable personality”, “outstanding FAB pilot”, “impeccable presentation”, “correctness and frankness of attitude”, “discreet, hardworking and intelligent”, “spirit of cooperation”. He says in the praise of July 27, 1960: “Although constantly asked to fulfill his duties as a FAB pilot, he is up to date with his duties.”

On January 31, 1964, he received what was probably his last official praise, from Division General Ernestino Gomes de Oliveira, general director of Army Health, in the following terms: “Lieutenant Colonel Aviator Alfeu de Alcântara Monteiro, disciplined officer, competent and proficient, he commanded the transport I used with dexterity and perfection. Always ready for duty, Lieutenant. Cel. Alfeu demonstrated punctuality and military spirit. I therefore praise Lieutenant. Cel. Alfeu and I wish you the best of success in your brilliant career.”

All of this appears in a certified copy of the lieutenant colonel's transcript, which was given to him on March 23, 1964, at the Canoas Air Base, of which I have a reproduction.

2.

Here it is worth transcribing an excerpt from his obituary, published on April 5 of that year, in the Diário de Notícias de Porto Alegre: “[he served] in the National Security Command until February 1961. He was dismissed that month from that body, remaining 90 days without function and without salaries, which they say is because he is anti-January. After the third month of absence, he was classified in Recife. This fact led him to write to an official at the Ministry of Aeronautics, telling him that he only served Porto Alegre, a claim that was satisfied a little later. When Mr. Jânio Quadros resigned and Brigadier Aureliano Passos went to Rio, Alfeu Monteiro assumed command of the Fifth Air Zone, due to his connection with the scheme organized by Mr. Leonel Brizola”.

The “scheme organized by Mr. Leonel Brizola” was the Legality Network, to guarantee the inauguration of João Goulart as Presidency of the Republic in August/September 1961, in the face of the coup disposition of military ministers Odylio Denis, Sílvio Heck and Grum Moss to stop her. In fact, the lieutenant colonel ended up having a decisive role in the events.

In the political turmoil that followed Jânio's unexpected resignation, the obstinacy of the governor of Rio Grande do Sul in not bending in the face of the coup attempt exasperated the military command in Brasília. Forced by circumstances and by several of his subordinates, including generals Pery Bevilacqua and Oromar Osório, the commander of the 3rd Army, general Machado Lopes, also decided to rise up against the coup.

At that moment, the Ministry of War office transmitted the following message to General Machado Lopes, at 6 am on August 28: “The IIIº Army must immediately compel Mr. Leonel Brizola to put an end to the subversive action that has been developing and which translates into the displacement and concentration of troops (…) Make all the troops from Rio Grande do Sul that you deem appropriate converge on Porto Alegre, including the 5ª DI if necessary. Employ the Air Force, including carrying out bombing, if necessary (…)”.

Radio amateurs picked up the message. The definitive password for the air attack, which was also broadcast, was: “Everything is blue in Cumbica. Have a good trip”, because the jets from the Canoas Air Base, after the mission, were supposed to head to that base in São Paulo.

In Canoas, indescribable moments of tension followed. Alerted by Captain Alfredo Daudt, the sergeants at the air base rose up, determined to prevent the officers from taking off. They went to one of the buildings to put on their uniforms. Since then, there have been many reports. Some say the jets' tires were deflated. Others report that the sergeants surrounded the officers in the building, and that everyone, on both sides, had heavy weapons and was ready to fight. Still others held hands in a chain to prevent officers from boarding the jets.

The sergeants managed to send a jeep to the center of Porto Alegre (at that time the communications system was very precarious) to ask for help. The jeep was almost overturned by a crowd angry at the news of the bombing threat. It is said that one of the sergeants only managed to stop the lynching by shouting that he was related to Brizola, which was not true...

The emissaries managed to get through, and General Machado Lopes sent a task force to take control of the situation at the Air Base. An agreement was reached: the base commander, Brigadier Aureliano Passos, and the officers in favor of the coup abandoned it and went to Cumbica. Lieutenant Colonel Alfeu de Alcântara Monteiro, a loyalist, took command.

Upon taking command of the base, the lieutenant colonel made statements aimed at reassuring public opinion. He announced – which confirmed facts known from the day before – that Brigadier Aureliano had left the base with more officers taking the jets that would be used in the bombing of the city, ten in number.

He claimed that this removed the danger of the attack, and, furthermore, he denied the existence of the order that the base had, in fact, received: “In reality, the officers, including the commander of the Fighter Squadron, were against the attitude that the FAB bomb the Government Palace or any other location.” This “any other location” would at least be the towers of Rádio Guaíba, the base of the Legality Network that the Rio Grande do Sul government had already formed on a national scale.

I read, some time ago, a statement by the Minas Gerais writer Oswaldo França Júnior (1936-1989), now deceased, who I met personally at the Dona Lucinha restaurant, in Belo Horizonte, where he had a permanent table, about the events at the Canoas Air Base, where he served as an aviation officer. In his testimony he confirmed the bombing order. He said there had been an intense discussion among the officers whether the order should be carried out or not. The final decision of the majority of officers was positive, and they spent the night preparing for the attack. This only did not happen due to the intervention of sergeants and loyalist officers. Oswaldo França Júnior would end up being revoked and expelled from the Air Force in 1964.

However, a few days later, Lieutenant Colonel Alfeu de Alcântara Monteiro would give another interview to the same newspaper (the Newspaper of the Day), on September 3, in which he denounced maneuvers by Brasília ministers to “disunite” the forces of Legality, according to which he would no longer obey the prevailing orientation in Rio Grande do Sul. The text says: “This is a Ministry maneuver to try to separate the forces of Rio Grande, Third Army, FAB and State government. We are indissolubly united and harmony reigns in the forces of Legality”.

This harmony shouldn't be that much. The news itself, further on, curiously said that at the Canoas Air Base there were 216 sergeants, corporals and soldiers prisoners out of around 30 officers. In other words, this shows that, alongside the negotiation on preventing the bombing of the center of Porto Alegre, there had been a formal negotiation on the fate of the orders and counter-orders given, received and in fact not fulfilled.

But in a way, the planes had fulfilled the order received, that is, they took off from Canoas and landed in Cumbica. If they did not carry out the bombing, it is because they did not have bombs on the wings, prevented from boarding by the sub-officers and the presence of the task force sent by General Machado Lopes. At the same time, the rebellious non-commissioned officers and enlisted men remained in the custody of the remaining officers. This delicate balance was maintained by the presence and prestige of lieutenant colonel aviator Alfeu de Alcântara Monteiro. It was still a somewhat Brazilian way out: everything was according to the manuals, and in this way no one's career would be harmed, that's what we can conclude.

The fact is that the bombing order was there, and it was only not carried out thanks to the opposite decision of the sergeants, non-commissioned officers, and loyalist officers, soon after supported by the attitude of the lieutenant colonel, taking command of the Air Base. Compliance with the order would have unpredictable consequences: the Piratini Palace, the target of the bombing, is in a densely populated location; At this time there were even some buildings around. Praça da Matriz (officially Marechal Deodoro), as the population still calls it, in front of the Palace, was always full of people, in those days of mobilization. There would be a massacre, like what happened in June 1955 in Buenos Aires, when Navy and Air Force planes bombed the Casa Rosada and other public buildings in an attempt to overthrow Perón.

3.

My family lived on Rua Demétrio Ribeiro, four blocks from Palácio Piratini. The morning the news of the possible bombing spread, I witnessed scenes worthy of a documentary about the Second World War: families fleeing down the street, carrying suitcases with clothes and other belongings. The night that followed, still under the shadow of the threat, we ourselves went to sleep at a family friend's apartment, many blocks away.

The importance of the events in Canoas was attested to by the fact that the following September Sete de Setembro celebrations began at the Air Base, when the crisis over Goulart's inauguration had already been resolved. At 9 am there was a parade that paid homage to the authorities who moved there: Governor Brizola, General Machado Lopes, the commander of the Military Brigade, the archbishop of Rio Grande do Sul. Basically, those honored by this move were the soldiers , sergeants, non-commissioned officers and base loyalist officers. In the photos published in the press, Lieutenant Colonel Alfeu de Alcântara Monteiro has a prominent place.

At this time, vice-president João Goulart had already embarked for Brasília, after arriving in Porto Alegre at the end of a long trip from China, where he was when Jânio resigned, with a final stop in Montevideo. João Goulart's trip to the capital of the Republic, after his acceptance of the parliamentary amendment, also had special participation from the FAB. An operation was even mounted to shoot down the presidential plane, “Operation Mosquito”. Contrary to it, and with the participation of sergeants and non-commissioned officers from Brasília, a “Tactical Operation” was set up to prevent coup aviators from being able to comply with that determination.

The base of the “Tactical Operation” was Salgado Filho Airport, in Porto Alegre, from where the presidential plane departed. This included initiatives such as preventing other airports along the way from obtaining information about the flight plan, and the dissemination of misleading meteorological data about the south of Brazil, such as that torrential rain prevented the overflight of Porto Alegre. The commander of the “Tactical Operation” was Lieutenant Generoso Resende Lacerda, but the person responsible for all orders, plus messages, whether misleading or not, to the rest of the country, was Lieutenant Colonel Alfeu de Alcântara Monteiro.

This prominent position in the events of 1961 earned him some subsequent promotions. Two are very significant. He became the pilot of the presidential plane, after João Goulart's inauguration. And he was appointed to direct the Superintendency of the Southwest Border, which covered the southern states plus the State of Mato Grosso (today, in the region, Mato Grosso do Sul). But the aviator lieutenant colonel did not remain in his positions. I have no information about the first one as to why or when he left.

But he left the latter on January 20, 1963, sending the following telegram to the competent authorities: “I inform you that I will soon be replaced by Superintendência Fronteira Sudoeste due to the imposition of governor Leonel Brizola and president PTB Rio Grande do Sul, the foreigner [sic] João Caruso. The real reason not mentioned by President Jango is that I am not a politician and therefore I will never allow the organization under my direction to be transformed into a job site for electoral leaders who will be involved in the upcoming elections for mayor of Palegre and other municipalities in the RGS. I can tell you that personally I only suffer from that role. These losses were being compensated with a view to possibilities to patriotically promote socioeconomic development in the Southwest Border area, in the shortest space of time, with maximum savings, naturally counting on objective and fruitful government cooperation with you and other governors, as accredited elements [in] this State and others included the Southwest border, who were there and witnessed my administrative guidance given to the body. I regret to inform you of these facts, but I intend to highlight my responsibility in the case and give a name to the matter, so that the people of the four states, which are part of the area, are not left in the dark about the matter. Feeling that I can no longer dedicate my efforts in this direction, I take my leave with kindness. Alfeu de Alcântar Monteiro, lieutenant colonel aviator.”

4.

Shortly after leaving the superintendence, the lieutenant colonel was involved in a street fight in Porto Alegre, when he was questioned by traffic police in a way he considered inappropriate. The episode took place at 23 pm on a Saturday, in February, and ended up at the Police Headquarters, in addition to being published with fanfare in the newspapers the following day.

By that time, the lieutenant colonel had separated from his wife and started a new family. The first was to live in Rio. But throughout 1963 he ended up reconsidering his situation. He reconciled with his first wife, deciding to return to live together. Wanting to head to Rio, he went to the Canoas Air Base to collect documents and belongings he had left there. And that's where he was when the coup began, between March 31 and 1º April, deposing President João Goulart. The base commander, Brigadier Otelo da Rocha Ferraz, left the place after being appointed new commander by the coup plotters, Brigadier Nelson Lavanère Wanderely. But the sergeants and non-commissioned officers, unsatisfied, rebelled. And along with them was their former Legality Commander.

It's difficult to know exactly what happened next. Lavanère Wanderley arrived at the base accompanied by aviator colonel Roberto Hipólito da Costa. At around 21pm on Saturday, April 4, 1964, they met in a command room with the lieutenant colonel. There were just the three of them. According to press reports, there was a shootout. The published version established that, upon receiving an arrest order, or having to present himself in Rio de Janeiro, Lieutenant Colonel Alfeu rose up, drew his weapon, fired five shots at the brigadier, at close range, hitting one or two of his scratch. In the future, when he was sworn in as Minister of Aeronautics, the brigadier had, according to the minister who transferred the position to him, the scar of a graze wound to his eye. One version says that “security elements” came and shot the lieutenant colonel.

Another, which was the version taken to trial, established that the person who fired shots at the lieutenant colonel was Colonel Hipólito. The official note distributed by the Air Force on April 5 said that the lieutenant colonel was killed by a “bystander”. In general, the comments highlighted that the dead officer had “brizzolista tendencies” (sic). In one circumstance, at least, he was called a “fanatic.”

Some time later, Colonel Hipólito went on trial in Rio de Janeiro, being acquitted. According to the news, the defense's claim was that of self-defense against third parties. The case is still mentioned today in publications of all types, printed or on the internet, from those that list the victims of the dictatorship to those that condone the coup and accuse the lieutenant colonel of having attempted the life of Brigadier Lavanère. The extreme versions speak of murder with 16 machine gun shots, or with a single shot, fired by Colonel Hipólito in defense of the brigadier. Regarding the event, he obtained a statement from the lieutenant colonel's daughter, Malena Monteiro.

We spoke on May 22, 1983, in Brasília, after a correspondence that began in 1980. He characterized his father as an impulsive man, somewhat authoritarian and at the same time affectionate, torn at home between maintaining order and taking care of his socks and shoes. and the children's clothes. He was a nationalist, not a leftist. He also said that on the occasion of his father's death, the family received five tickets to go from Rio to Porto Alegre da Varig, but they arrived late for the burial, which took place on April 5th, in the São Miguel e Almas cemetery, with honors. military. Later, in Rio, they were persecuted and threatened by Air Force officers, which made their mother move to England.

On the day of her father's death, she said the three of them, Lavanère, Alfeu and Hipólito, went to an office at the HQ. They locked themselves inside, and after an argument, shots were fired.

The lieutenant colonel was hit by eight shots, four in the back and four in the front. As the shots were in an ascending line, a machine gun was suspected, but it is true that an automatic pistol would have the same effect. It is assumed that when he was hit in the back, he turned around and received new shots from the front. Such a gesture raises the hypothesis that Brigadier Lavanère was grazed by one of the bullets fired by Colonel Hipólito. In this case, Lieutenant Colonel Alfeu did not shoot first, and if he drew his weapon it was to defend himself, contrary to the official version, in which he was the aggressor.

There is a version of events that states that the lieutenant colonel merely threatened the brigadier with his gun, and that with the arrival of Colonel Hipólito and other advisors “an exchange of fire” began.

But, according to Malena, the person who rushed in from outside was the lieutenant colonel's aide-de-camp. When he entered, he was faced with the consummate scene. He told me that this boy was also pursued by the winners of the coup, as well as several sergeants and officers from the base, including Captain Alfredo Daudt, who was present at the base at the time of the shooting.

His father was taken to the Hospital do Pronto Socorro in Porto Alegre, where he arrived alive and still survived for half an hour. He didn't talk about the events, only about his children. She said that the family learned about some of these facts from a nun, who was present at the hospital, and that the doctor who treated her father decided to remain silent, for fear of the consequences. At the time I interviewed her, Colonel Hipólito had already died. Brigadier Lavanère too, or died some time later. At no time, in any document, did I find reference to ballistics examination of the weapons present.

What exactly happened in that room? It will never be known. It became a black box. It could only be known with ballistics tests that were impossible at that time, with an examination of the room in search of possible traces that may have remained after so many years, with the exhumation of the lieutenant colonel's mortal remains. Malena's testimony, based on that of the nun and the aide-de-camp, is consistent.

The version that his father fired five shots at close range and missed them all is implausible. It is also the case that he was hit by a single shot, as he was still transported to the Hospital do Pronto Socorro in Porto Alegre and survived there for half an hour, and talking. It is true that he was hit several times and died as a result of hemorrhage and organ failure.

The version that he was hit by “sixteen shots” fits with the one that he took eight, because as we know, a shot, in the conditions they were in, goes through the body. If the lieutenant colonel was hit by eight, he would have 16 holes in his body. And it is even possible that one of the bullets fired by Colonel Hipólito injured the brigadier, leaving the lieutenant colonel's body or passing by his side as he turned around. The versions released officially or unofficially contradict each other in their multiplicity.

But the important thing to highlight is that the Coup of 64 created this type of black box in everyone's lives. There is always something that is difficult or even impossible to completely decipher. In this case, this black box refers to the life of a man to whom the city and people of Porto Alegre have an undying debt. He, the loyalist officers and sergeants saved the city from a criminal bombing.

In December 2017, judge Fábio Hassan Ismael, from the 2a. The Federal Court of the municipality of Canoas, in a process opened at the request of the Public Prosecutor's Office, ordered the removal of the expression “self-defense” from the lieutenant colonel's obituary. It was established that he was “executed”, that is, murdered. In 2015, the city's City Council decided to name a square next to Getúlio Vargas Avenue after him, with a bust in his honor. The square that doesn't exist in Porto Alegre ended up being created in neighboring Canoas.

In her statement, Malena highlighted that her father liked to fly. That's where I thought it would be a suitable tribute square to him, as they tend to be home to many birds, and these also like to fly. Besides, all I can say is that when I asked her to tell me what her father was like, she had a look that I would like to see on my daughters' faces, if they ever ask them anything about me.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/48UDikx]

Corrected and updated version of article published on 02/04/2014, on Blog do Velho Mundo – Rede Brasil Atual.


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