The Brazilian man accused of infiltrating a group of students opposed to the government of Michel Temer has been exposed as Willian Pina Botelho, an Army captain working in the intelligence division, El Pais reported.
The paper said that a friend of Botelho, who wished to remain anonymous, was able to identify him based on a photo that has been circulating online.
“We studied together at the Gammon Institute, in the city of Lavras,” said the anonymous source.
Botelho is believed to be the man behind the arbitrary arrest of 26 youth last week shortly before a massive anti-coup demonstration in the city of São Paulo.
The arrest of the youth before they could even participate in the rally drew widespread condemnation. A group of Brazilian lawyers signed an open letter describing the arrest and treatment of the youth as an “attack on democracy and fundamental rights.”
The victims said they grew suspicious of Botelho, known to them as Baltazar Mendes, when he was taken away in a separate vehicle and did not show up at the police station for processing.
It later emerged that it was Botelho who suggested the group of students change their meet-up point to the São Paulo Cultural Center, where the arrests eventually took place.
Botelho was apparently able to infiltrate the informal group of students, which had come together over concerns there might be police repression at the rally, through the use of social media networks, including the Tinder dating app.
The circumstances of students’ arrest also raised questions. Police claimed they apprehended the students by chance after officers saw a suspicious looking group.
But those arrested said they were detained while inside the cultural center and there was no way the police could have seen them from the street, as the police had alleged.
The victims said that their detention had the hallmarks of a planned police operation, suggesting that police were being intentionally deceptive when they claimed the arrests happened by chance.
A Brazilian government transparency portal shows Botelho joined the Armed Forces in 1998 and is listed as active, meaning he infiltrated the group as an active officer.
The revelation that Botelho is in reality an Army officer appears to confirm students’ theory that their arrest was part of a broader operation.
The arrests were carried out by the Military Police of São Paulo, which despite the name is not affiliated with the Brazilian Armed Forces, meaning the operation was apparently carried out as part of a joint operation between the police and the Army.
Last Sunday’s 100,000-person-strong rally in São Paulo was the largest to date since the ouster of democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff by the Brazilian Congress.
The peaceful rally ended in violence after police attacked the crowd with teargas just as people began to disperse and demonstrators headed for metro entrances.
Activists opposed to the coup have warned that the Temer regime will likely resort to repression in order to overcome resistance and implement their neoliberal political agenda.