Cancellations at the University



It wasn't just politicians and members of the clandestine opposition who were the object of the military regime's punitive fury.

Our Interrupted Paths
They have no price or return
everything has been consummated
Everything has been consumed
Of our best time dreaming
(Rosa Godoy)

There is a hard core of Bolsonarism for whom it makes no sense to argue. Its members reject beforehand, any critical argument in relation to the Bolsonaro government, regardless of its consistency or fragility.

What was said above was illustrated by the behavior of a lady I met at Livraria Reading, claiming to be Catholic and a Bolsonaro voter. For her, Pope Francis, as she reiterated, is nothing more than a “communist”. Example of crass ignorance, expressed in rooted Manichaeism. However, many of those who voted for the retired captain do not have unconditional loyalty to the ex-military man. In it, they voted for President because they thought that, despite his aggressive rhetoric – and, they believed, merely electoral – he was the only one, among the other candidates for office, capable of fighting corruption and facing the challenges of public security.

A good part is disappointed with the “myth”, lacking, however, the clarity to understand the indispensability of democracy and, symmetrically, the serious setback that the return of dictatorship would represent. Furthermore, many of them only know the tip of the iceberg of the repression unleashed from 1964 onwards.

It wasn't just politicians and members of the clandestine opposition who were the object of the military regime's punitive fury. Few people know, for example, that thousands of soldiers, just because they did not agree with the coup, were expelled from the Armed Forces, compulsorily retired and many of them even tortured.

Hence the interest in bringing up repressive aspects of the regime, which thrived within society, little publicized, but which produced serious consequences for their victims.

These were punished, without any right of defence, just for peacefully gathering, and exercising freedom of expression, criticizing the military regime – fundamental human rights, which they made use of precisely to guarantee its validity. In fact, the unlimited discretionary power, typical of dictatorships, attributed to the heads of the Armed Forces, was exercised in Brazil with complete brutality, especially after the enactment, in December 1968, of Institutional Act nº 5. The students who faced the dictatorship were, despite their struggle being entirely peaceful, severely persecuted by the military dictatorship.

Punishments for student leaders and their consequences

Among the lesser-known forms of repression during the dictatorship – apart from in politically well-informed circles – are the so-called “cassations” of students, with all their deleterious consequences. They consisted of the deprivation of the right to study for a certain period – but not just that, as we will see later. I can say that I analyze this issue ex cathedra, considering that I was impeached twice when I was studying Law at UFPB, a “double dose” that few students in Brazil have experienced. I am not aware of any study that has addressed this topic in more detail. The central issue of these punishments resides in the fact that they do not have, formally, each one, only the duration of one year, nor were they limited only to the right to study.

This understanding applies, in all its fullness, to my second impeachment, perpetrated based on the AI-5, for having participated, as Delegate of the Faculty of Law of the UFPB to the XXX Congress of the UNE, in Ibiúna (SP), of which resulted in the largest collective prison in Brazil.

It took me some time for myself to understand that the punishment imposed on me lasted, in practice, TEN YEARS, only ceasing its effects with the revocation, in January 1979, of AI-5.

And that I was also, as a result of it, deprived, for the same period, of my right to come and go. I was only able to travel to France, in October 1970, and stay there for five years, because I had deceived the information services with a false address, in Recife, and thus managed to issue a passport.

This was only possible because there was no Federal Police and, consequently, there was no integration between the Departments of Social and Political Order (DOPS) of the States, in charge of surveillance and repression of opponents of the dictatorship.

I was lucky. The day after my trip, the Army came to look for me at my residence. But, at that point, Inês was dead, I was already in Europe.

Another deleterious consequence of my removal was the impossibility, during the aforementioned ten years, of joining the public service.

Here in Paraíba, from 1976 to 1978, the late Linaldo Cavalcanti, then Rector of UFPB, tried three times to hire me, due to the fact that, at the time, I was one of the rare holders, in the Northeast, of the title of Doctor of Law .

In vain, as it could only be done with the nihil obstat from the university's Security Division, where my file had “negative records”. Other universities that I looked for, such as UFRN and the University of Brasília, expressed their desire to hire me. However, the so-called “negative records” prevented them from doing so.

I was not the only one to suffer these consequences of the foreclosures. There is no study about it, but I presume that dozens, or perhaps hundreds of students – generally university students – have also been deprived of their rights in the other States of the Federation.

It was only with the revocation of the AI-5, in 1979, ten years after it had been revoked for the second time, in 1969, that I was able to be hired by a public university, the UFPB.

Even my hiring to the Universidade Regional do Nordeste (current Universidade Estadual da Paraíba – URNE), where “I had a hard time”, for three and a half years (March 1976 to July 1979), was only obtained by circumventing its Sector of security, who belatedly became aware of my contract. It should be noted that this occurred even though the URNE was not state-owned and, therefore, not part of the public service!

One of the few references, in the political literature, to the “extended” consequences of the impeachment, was made by the Major General of the Army and Marxist scholar, Nelson Werneck Sodré, himself, deprived of his political rights for ten years.

In his words: “The revocation of rights reduced the individual to marginalization: it isolated them like lepers. They affected, in most cases, the very exercise of the work: the teacher was prohibited from teaching; the aviator, to fly; the researcher, to research and so on”. In this way, they also achieved the “right to earn their daily bread” (2004, p.276).

It is also likely that the curriculum vitae, in my case as in many others, as an active opponent of the military regime, may have had repercussions far beyond those described so far. Thus, in 1988, I was framed in the middle of the constituent process and – according to the version accepted by most historians – with democracy already restored in the country, in the National Security Law (LSN) (EDITORIAL, 1988).

The alleged reason: I had participated, in the vicinity of João Pessoa Airport, in a demonstration, considered subversive, in favor of shortening Sarney's mandate, in which the lawyer Vital do Rego, then President of the OAB-PB, was arrested (RODRIGUES, 19880).At the time, in Paraíba, as leader of ANDES, I coordinated the supra-party Committee for direct elections, but I was never present at that demonstration. If so, what would have motivated me to join the LSN?                        After extensive mobilization, from João Pessoa, led by the Presidents of the OAB, Márcio Thomaz Bastos, and of ANDES, Newton Lima Neto, with national repercussions, the Minister of Justice of Sarney, Paulo Brossard, determined the archiving of the process against the two directors of these entities (BROSSARD, 1988).

From UFPB's retraction to the uncertainties of the current situation  

On a plaque published in 1999, entitled UFPB's retraction, the University Council of that institution recognized that students and professors who were excluded from academic life “had their professional and personal lives tremendously harmed or simply cruelly exterminated” (UNIVERSIDADE… 1999, p.35). On August 27 of that same year, the University Council, in a solemn session, revoked, by unanimous vote, through Resolution nº 16/199 “all punitive acts of the Rectory applied to UFPB students and alumni, acts based on in exceptional legislation”, granting that Resolution the effect of Institutional Withdrawal” (UNIVERSIDADE… 1999, p.49).

It is not known how many institutions, such as the UPPB, recanted the punishments applied during the dictatorship.

Reflection on the extent of the dictatorship’s harmful effects gains more importance when the clouds thicken on the horizon, essentially due to the coup-like behavior of the Messiah Bolsonaro, who claims to have been raised to the Presidency to save the country from corruption and an imaginary “red threat” .

The supposed savior of the Fatherland has been testing, with ever more daring, the degree of resistance and the capacity of institutions to survive his attacks. It reached the point, inadmissible for any head of state, in a democracy, of endorsing demonstrations that preach the closure of the National Congress and the Federal Supreme Court.

Even liberal politicians, who until recently showed a lenient attitude towards the ongoing coup process, are more determined. Even FHC signed, with personalities from all political currents, a manifesto for democracy.

However, the essential remains: cementing this broad front for democracy and taking other equally urgent initiatives, such as calling on the left to defend the democratic legacy inherited from the 1988 Constitution.

Before it's too late.

* Rubens Pinto Lyra, doctor in political science, is Professor Emeritus at UFPB.


BROSSARD, Paul. still the violence. Zero Hour, Porto Alegre, 14.3.1988.

EDITORIAL. Back to the Security Law. Folha de São Paulo, Sao Paulo, 16.3.1988.

LIRA NETO. Castelo: the march to dictatorship. São Paulo: Context, 2004.

RODRIGUES, Newton. I retreat from the farce. Folha de São Paulo, Sao Paulo, 2.4.1988.

FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF PARAIBA. UFPB's retraction. Joao Pessoa: Ed. University, 1999.

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