Brazil’s Benoni de Arruda Albernaz, an army captain and the head of an interrogators unit and one of the most vicious torturers of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, when she was student leader linked to the guerrilla movement died in 1992 according to Rio’s daily O Globo, which published official documents from 1970.
Captain Albernaz belonged to a military family and his father was one of the officers from the Brazilian expeditionary force that was sent during World War Two to fight in Italy against the German occupation.
Operating from São Paulo, Albernaz was head of the Operation Bandeirante interrogators cell whose task was to extract information from suspects of supporting movements considered subversive by the Brazilian military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 to 1985.
Student Dilma Rousseff at the time was a member of the Var Palmares armed group although she insists to have never been involved in direct actions but rather logistics.
“When I walk in here I leave my heart at home,” was the presentation of interrogator-torturer Albernaz to his victims.
The captain was remembered by Rousseff at the beginning of 2000 in a book titled “Women that went for the armed struggle,” which collects the testimony of the current Brazilian president.
“The boss there was Albernaz; he was the interrogator, he beat and punched prisoners. He began interrogating and if he didn’t like the replies he would punch you in the face”, claimed Rousseff who lost a tooth during one of the torture sessions. This was in 1970. He was 37, she was 23.
She also has difficulties with her jaw when eating, a consequence of the punches and blows.
When he died of a heart attack while with his mistress, Albernaz left three children, hefty debts and charges of fraud. Precisely because of these claims he had to retire from the military and was benefited with the 1979 Amnesty law which impeded taking to court military and police personnel and subversives to trial.
During the Rio +20 summit last June president Rousseff speaking with journalists referred to the tortures she received in the early seventies following the surfacing of her testimonies to human rights organizations when she was a member of the city of Porto Alegre government.
“I don’t feel hatred or vengeance, but I can’t forgive”, said the Brazilian president and underlined it was important for Brazil to turn over the page and bring to light events from the military dictatorship, through the recently created Truth Committee.
Rousseff said she did not know the names of her torturers but decided as a way of live not to choose hatred or vengeance.
“Hating or going after vengeance means becoming dependent from the very person you want to hate or vindicate”.
Dilma the student was detained from January 1970 to December 1972 but the worst part of her imprisonment were the first 22 days when she was regularly tortured and abused.
According to an unedited autobiographical account by Brazil’s first female president published in the media recently, she was subjected to regular torture.
“The interrogation started, generally with electric shocks, growing in intensity, and then there were sessions of “pau de arara” (suspension from a rod by the hands and feet), something people can’t take for too long,” Rousseff said.
Rousseff, 64, recounted her experiences under Brazil’s military regime (1964-1985) over a decade ago at a provincial human rights council that sought to compensate victims of torture, but the full details have just been released.
In 1970, then 22-year-old Rousseff was arrested and imprisoned for three years in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte, where she began to fight with guerrillas at the age of 16.
In Belo Horizonte, Rousseff faced the worst years of repression by the military leadership, which accused her of helping a guerrilla leader escape, something she denies to this day. Rousseff’s torturers often beat and threatened to disfigure her.
“My jaw was dislocated. That still causes me problems until today,” she said, but she added her torture wounds “are a part of me.”
In May, Rousseff inaugurated a truth commission, aimed at shedding light on the crimes committed by the former military leadership.
The commission however does not seek to call into question the 1979 amnesty law that at once permitted exiles to return to the country and offered amnesty to torturers.
According to official estimates, some 400 Brazilians were killed or disappeared during the military regime, compared with 3.200 in Chile and 30.000 in Argentina according to human rights groups.
However the head of the Argentine military Junta, General Jorge Videla in a recent interview with a Spanish journalist said that the number was closer to 9.000 according to the Armed forces registry.