João Cândido Felisberto

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By CHICO ALENCAR*

Open letter to the Navy commander about the Revolt of the Whip

Hon. Mr. Marcos Sampaio Olsen, Commander of the Brazilian Navy; with copy to José Múcio Monteiro, Minister of Defense and to deputy Aliel Machado, president of the Culture Committee of the Chamber of Deputies.

Mr. Admiral: The inscription of the name of João Cândido Felisberto, leader of the Revolt against the Whip, in 1910, in the Book of Heroes of the Fatherland, already approved in the Senate (PL 340/2018), is under analysis in the Chamber of Deputies, where is being processed (PL 4046/21).

Your Excellency. joined the debate, sending a letter to the president of the Culture Commission, deputy Aliel Machado (PSB-PR). It's legitimate, the People's House must always be democratic.

Although correctly pointing out that “it is not the responsibility of the Brazilian Navy to judge arguments from members of the Legislative House”, Your Excellency. judged and condemned the proposal.

He said that the Revolt that ended corporal punishment in the Navy “is an obnoxious fact in history (…) that was caused by the actions of abject sailors (…) to blackmail the nation”.

He stated that the rebels, “in addition to the fair demand for the revocation of the repulsive practice of whipping, sought corporate and illegitimate advantages” – thus considering the demands for improved pay, removal of torturing officers and reduction of strenuous working hours.

In his letter, there are at least 10 derogatory adjectives in relation to João Cândido – engaged in the Navy since he was 14 years old – and the movement he led, whose trigger was the 250 public lashes on sailor Marcelino Rodrigues Marques, which continued even when he passed out and totally bloodied.

By the way, João Cândido said, indignantly, that “the flesh of a servant of the Fatherland will only be cut by the weapons of the enemy, never by the whip of his brothers!” (interview with Correio da Manhã, in November 1910).

The rebels, contrary to Your Excellency's statement, did not shoot “at random” at the then capital of the young Republic, still permeated by slavery practices. They were warning shots.

The tragic death of two children, highlighted by Your Excellency, was considered by João Cândido a serious mistake, and the object of his only regret: “it was a disgrace! From the miserable salary we received, we got two hundred thousand réis and sent it to the family to bury the boys” – he said to Edmar Morel, author of a seminal book on the insurrection, which I recommend reading (The Revolt of the Whip.

João Cândido and his companions, at one point, even maneuvered (with unusual dexterity) the mutinous ships out of Guanabara Bay: “I would sink the destroyers with half a dozen shots (…) What I didn’t want was the useless sacrifice of lives , side by side” – he said.

Your Excellency. mentions the amnesty given by Congress, but not the brutal repression, persecution, banishment, arrests and deaths of sailors that followed it.

The expulsions from the Navy in 1911 affected 1216 sailors. The massacre on Snake Island and the shootings on the ship “Satellite” claimed dozens of “undesirable” lives and revealed cruel, monstrous hatred and revenge on the part of those in power.

They could not stand the rebellion of “black and illiterate sailors” – even against the abominable “routine” of torture, still practiced in the Navy 22 years after Abolition.

It is curious that the contempt for João Cândido is not transferred to the white admiral Saldanha da Gama, who led (and lost) the violent Revolt of the Armada in 1893, against the government of Marshal Floriano Peixoto, seen as “consolidator of the Republic”.

Your Excellency. condemns the “inclusion of João Cândido and any other participant in that deplorable page of national history in the Book of Heroes of the Fatherland”.

In the language of the dictatorship, which even censored several excerpts from the anthological samba The Master of the Seas (by Aldir Blanc and João Bosco), you conclude that the proposal “highlights passages notorious for subversion”.

As a parliamentarian and history teacher, I completely disagree with your view – now reiterated as the official one, of the Navy. That remarkable historical event provided a new level of civilization for the Brazilian Navy (once again offended by the cowardly tortures carried out by Cenimar/Doi-Codi against political prisoners, during the corporate military dictatorship initiated by the 1964 coup).

I align myself, with thousands of historians and citizens, with Adalberto Cândido, 85 years old, youngest son of João Cândido, who states: “my father is in the history of the country (…) but he was always persecuted. To this day, the Navy maintains a grudge against him, a damned grudge. (…) They should thank the sailors of 1910 for the Navy that exists today” (The Globe, 27/4/2024).

What most corrodes hierarchy and discipline, in any human organization, is injustice, arbitrariness and authoritarianism.

Revisiting history, which is not a field of dogmas and absolute certainties, is also seeing it from the perspective of the defeated, who courageously fought against all oppression.

“Glory to all the inglorious struggles/ that throughout our History/ we never forget!”

Long live João Cândido, the Black Admiral, and all the sailors who said no to torture and humiliation!

At your disposal for the continuation of the debate, respectfully.

* Chico Alencar He is a federal deputy (PSol-RJ), full member of the Constitution, Justice and Citizenship Committee of the Chamber of Deputies.


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