I only said my name

Karen Chekerdjian, Imprisonment, 2017
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By ADRIANO DIOGO*

Commentary on Camilo Vannuchi's recently released book

1.

I only said my name, by Camilo Vannuchi, which deals with one of the most shocking crimes of the military dictatorship. Alexandre Vannucchi Leme, a young geology student at USP, was kidnapped and killed under torture by the DOI-Codi of São Paulo, headed by then Major Brilhante Ustra, on March 17, 1973. He was 22 years old.

The authorities released more than one official (and false) version of his death, falsely attributing it to a “suicide” and then to a fictitious “run over” in an attempt to escape. His colleagues at the college asked Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns to say a mass at the university, but the Cardinal decided to hold the mass at the Sé Cathedral. Three to five thousand people attended the service, at a time when large gatherings of people were still prohibited. by the military regime.

Camilo Vannuchi wrote the work as a journalist and as a relative: Alexandre was a cousin of the author's father, Paulo de Tarso Vannuchi. Before this book, other family members had already published about Alexandre's death: his parents, Egle Vannucchi Leme and José de Oliveira Leme gave their testimonies in the book My son Alexandre Vannucchi;[I] his uncle, Aldo Vannucchi, wrote Alexandre Vannucchi Leme: young man, student, killed by the dictatorship.[ii]

As for me, I write this review because I was president of the São Paulo State Truth Commission “Rubens Paiva”, who included this important case in his report.[iii]

I also write because I was a colleague of Alexandre, our “Minhoca”, at the USP geology faculty, because he was also a member of the ALN (Ação Libertadora Nacional) and because he was kidnapped and tortured by repression.

Unlike Alexandre, I survived. In recent decades, I have reported the torture and murder of this former colleague several times. For this reason, I was very happy to read Camilo Vannuchi's book, which recognizes the importance that the case had for the fight against the military dictatorship and remembers it with its important repercussions.

2.

The book begins with an experience of the author from his student days: the father of a colleague, during a trip, wanted to know his relationship with “Vannucchi from USP”. From this prologue, the author goes directly to the founding of the ALN (“the most important armed resistance organization”, says Camilo Vannuchi on page 17) by Carlos Marighella, who had left the PCB. Marighella defended, against the so-called Party, armed resistance against the dictatorship. Alexander, however, it must be remembered, never took up arms.

In that same first chapter, he tells how his torture by the DOI-Codi of São Paulo was. His last words are reported, which give the title to the book: “My name is Alexandre Vannucchi Leme – he managed to say, out loud. – I am a Geology student. They accuse me of being from the ALN. I only said my name” (p. 22).

From this dramatic moment, Camilo Vannuchi continues in retrospect: the next chapter deals with the story of the author's grandparents, uncles and parents, until reaching Alexandre's entry into college, where he was an excellent student, the “best freshman” ( p. 34). Chapter 3 talks about ALN at USP; I am referred to with my nickname at the time, Mug. The following chapters deal with Alexandre's last Christmas in Sorocaba and his death. I have already reported several times this speech by the torturer Brilhante Ustra, threatening me and confessing to Vannucchi's murder, which Camilo Vannuchi collected in the book:

Ustra prepares the bare wires and the dragon's chair.

– Do you know Minhoca? – the torturer wants to know. – Aren’t you friends with Minhoca? Tell the truth, fat man. I just sent Worm to the Celestial Popular Vanguard. And you'll be next, fucking terrorist. (p. 54)

It should be remembered that Brilhante Ustra was officially recognized by the Brazilian courts as a torturer in a civil action filed by the Almeida Teles family, whose story was recently told in a book by Pádua Fernandes.[iv] Alexandre Vannucchi Leme was one of his victims.

The following chapters tell what happened immediately after the death: the false report signed by coroners Isaac Abramovitch and Orlando Brandão, the false news published by the press, the family's search for his body and the historic mass at the Sé Cathedral. Sérgio Ricardo sang at it The Dungeon, a song composed for another student killed by repression, Edson Luís de Lima Souto.

A 32-page iconographic notebook, with family photos, reproductions of press reports and documents separates this first part from the following chapters.

Camilo tells the story of the song Cup, by Chico Buarque and Gilberto Gil, with Chico's statement that he remembered Vannucchi's death, but could not “guarantee that we thought about his case in particular, because deaths were a constant” (p. 134).[v]

The book then explains the resumption of USP's DCE in 1976 under the name of Alexandre, tells the beautiful moment of the solidarity note that Gabriel García Márquez wrote for the inauguration of Praça Alexandre Vannucchi Leme in Sorocaba in 1978, as well as the various attacks on the Square and thefts from the Vannucchi family’s tombs. Camilo Vannuchi also deals with the return of his body to his family in 1983: he had been buried as a pauper, although the authorities knew his identity, which happened to several victims of repression, whose bodies were denied to their families.

At the end, the author tells a curious case: the astral map that was made for him after he finished a major report with Clara Charf, José Dirceu and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva about the fight against the dictatorship. The astrologer indicated that he “could be a reincarnation of the martyr Alexander” (p. 157). He didn't believe it, however, years later, he wanted to find the map and the k7 tape with the explanation while writing this book, but he didn't find them.

The book ends with a chapter reevaluating the present past, with the author revisiting his undergraduate days and his classes with professors who resisted the dictatorship, such as Bernardo Kucinski, the tributes to Alexandre at USP, the appointment of Paulo Vannuchi, the author's father and Alexandre's cousin, for the Special Secretariat for Human Rights in the first Lula government, and the granting of posthumous political amnesty to Alexandre in the government of Dilma Rousseff.

Also during the government of President Dilma Rousseff, the death certificate was corrected, to include as cause of death “injuries caused by torture” in DOI-Codi (p. 170).

The epilogue is a personal reflection by the author on the impact of Alexandre's death on the family and his experience of having studied at USP as a relative of the student, one of the University's political dead, who gave him the title for the DCE.

Attached, a text written in the first person was included, “My name is Alexandre Vannucchi Leme”, which the author made to be read by Celso Frateschi on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Alexandre's death, at the Faculty of Law of USP, in 17 March 2023.

In this way, Camilo gave back a voice to this relative of his who the dictatorship tried to silence, but whose story is still alive today.

*Adriano Diogo, geologist, is a former councilor for the city of São Paulo and former state deputy in São Paulo for the Workers' Party. “Rubens Paiva” presided over the Truth Commission of the State of São Paulo.

Reference


Camilo Vannuchi. I just said my name: Alexandre Vannucchi Leme. São Paulo, Editora Discurso Direto\ Instituto Vladimir Herzog, 2024, 192 pages.

Notes


[I] Teodomiro Braga and Paulo Barbosa. My son Paulo Vannucchi – Testimonials from Egle and José Vannucchi. São Paulo, Edition S. A, 1978.

[ii] Aldo Vannucchi. Alexandre Vannuchi Leme: young man, student, killed by the dictatorship. São Paulo: Context, 2014.

[iii] The profile of Alexandre Vannucchi Leme on the Truth Commission of the State of São Paulo “Rubens Paiva” can be consulted via this link: https://web.archive.org/web/20190212111109/https://comissaodaverdade.al.sp.gov.br/mortos-desaparecidos/alexandre-vannucchi-leme

[iv] Brilhante Ustra was defeated in the first instance in 2008, in the second in 2012 and the decision was ratified by the Superior Court of Justice in 2014: Pádua Fernandes. Absolute illicit: the Almeida Teles family, Colonel CA Brilhante Ustra and torture. São Paulo: Patuá, 2023.

[v] By the way, Caio Túlio Costa, in “Cale-se”, told the story of this song, the show that Gilberto Gil gave for students at USP in 1973 and the impact of Alexandre's death on the student community: Caio Túlio Costa, shut up. São Paulo: The Giraffe, 2006.


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