30 October 2012

Aristeu Guida da Silva,propietario de la Gazeta de São Fidélis, nunca pensó que las investigaciones sobre corrupción política....

Aristeu Guida da Silva,propietario de la Gazeta de São Fidélis, nunca pensó que las investigaciones sobre corrupción política en su ciudad natal lo llevarían a la muerte. Creía que simplemente cumplía con su trabajo y que ejercía su derecho como votante.Así lo dicen quienes le conocieron. “Pensaba que la pluma era más poderosa,la consideraba un escudo contra sus enemigos”, recordó su amigo y mentor, Edilson Gómes.“Yo solía decirle no seas niño,no seas ingenuo.Esa gente puede venir por ti”, dijo Gómes, periodista de 54 años de la ciudad de São Gonçalo.
Aristeu Guida da Silva, owner of the Gazeta de São Fidélis, never thought his investigations of political corruption in his hometown would get him killed. He believed he was only doing his job and exercising his right as a voter. That’s what his friends say. “He thought the pen was mighty and that it was a shield against his enemies,” recalled his friend and mentor Edilson Gomes. “I used to tell him: ‘Don’t be a child, don’t be naïve; these people could come after you.’“ Gomes, a 54-year-old newspaperman in the town of São Gonçalo, now fears those who attacked Guida could retaliate against him because he is one of the key witnesses in the trial. “When they killed him, it was like they killed my son,” he said. He doubts justice will be served. “One of the killers is out on a writ of habeas corpus and the other is a fugitive, so I live in an apartment with cameras and maximum security. I’m afraid that I won’t be as courageous as I should be.”

Why Was Guida Killed? Guida was brave, honest, decisive and a fan of white clothing. “Color determined his personality,” said Gomes, his face brightening for a moment as he remembered his friend. A devout Baptist, Guida neither smoked nor drank. He decided to launch a newspaper while working as an office clerk at the National Assembly in Rio de Janeiro.While there, he used to read the newspaper published by Gomes, Grande Rio Gomes, who was elected a municipal councilmen in São Gonçalo thanks to his work as a journalist, said “Guida was impressed by the work a local newspaper could do. He had no interest in politics, but wanted to keep tabs on the politicians of his hometown.” Guida published the Gazeta de São Fidélis for four years. The newspaper quickly gained readership and enough local advertising to publish twice a month. Each year, Guida improved his news coverage. “He was more like a private investigator, not a regular journalist,” said the owner of a local radio station. Though he had no journalism training, Guida had that nose for news editors so admire in top journalists. On hearing rumors that City Council President David Loureiro had bought new cars for the city because of his own alleged bad accident, Guida checked the local hospital to see if Loureiro had been treated there. He also found the car involved in the accident and verified it barely had a scratch. A photo of that car was published in the newspaper. “His background was humble, but he was clear about life and morality,” Gomes said. “Those principles were of ten the focus of his stories. I used to tell him not to go into things too deeply; that the law of the land is to kill.” São Fidélis, 94 miles from the Rio de Janeiro state capital, is notorious for its violent criminal gangs. These “extermination bands” work with local criminal groups or drug traffickers -carrying out vendettas, enforcing their own brand of justice or executing people involved in drug deals gone bad. Police officers often are members of these groups. Its proximity to important rivers gave São Fidélis a major role at the beginning of this century. Since then, however, it’s become a dusty little town, nearly forgotten by civilization. It is a major producer of sugar cane, but known for little else other than an annual poetry festival. It is assumed that the death squad in São Fidélis, named Cerol, is responsible for Guida’s murder, among others. Guida knew São Fidélis and its dangers, including the members of Cerol. He was born in the town and lived there most of his life, save for the few years he worked in Rio. His father was a carpenter and his mother a housewife. “Guida never thought they would come after him, because he thought they only went after criminals,” Gomes said angrily. But before Guida died, “he sent me a list of those who wanted to kill him and why,” Gomes added. The Crime Things turned deadly for Guida on May 4, 1995, eight days before he was ambushed on a darkened street as he spoke to a friend who was also a city council member. Guida had been invited that day by City Council President Loureiro to attend the session at which Guida, supposedly,was to be honored. “He called me and said the council was going to give him an award,” Gomes recalled. “I told him, ‘Don’t be naïve. Why would they give you an award if all you give them is hassle?’” Guida took a camera and a tape recorder to the meeting, where he took pictures and recorded the session, including insults directed at him by Loureiro, Juarez Carlos Rodrigues da Silva and Ricardo de Oliveira Barreto. Councilman Nelson Henríques de Souza moved to have the council repudiate the journalist. The council members’ attacks were in response to stories Guida had written recently. One story accused Loureiro of embezzling public funds. Another included a picture of Rodrigues Silva -known as Janhina -with his feet on a desk while the council was in session. The caption referred to Rodrigues Silva’s disrespect for the council. The meeting frightened Guida. On his way home, he was hit in the face several times by some thugs allegedly working for Rodrigues Silva. Guida apparently told Rodrigues Silva that the paper’s next edition would carry a story describing all of Rodrigues Silva’s illicit businesses. Guida called his partner Gomes, who told him to report the attack to the police. At the precinct, however, no one recorded the attack report, so Guida presented his complaint before a local magistrate. The following day the City Council approved a resolution of censure in which Guida’s newspaper was described as practicing “journalism in a manner that is irresponsible, self-serving, untrustworthy and, above all, mercenary.” But the document’s most astonishing section read: “There are limits to the tolerance of human nature for outside interference. There are times when, if we feel our privacy invaded, we may commit irrational acts, no matter how angry we are.” The council presented its resolution to the police and the local court, apparently seeking to find a legal way to close down Guida’s newspaper. The action ignited those who were angry at Guida and feared his next edition. The Crime and the Story Guida was surprised by his killers on May 12, 1995, only eight days after the fateful meeting of the city council.Guida was on Faria Serra Street shortly after 8:00 p.m., talking with his friend Josmar Geraldo Assunção, one of the few council members who did not sign the censure resolution. In his briefcase, Guida carried all the pictures, texts and other information he planned to publish in the next edition of the Gazeta de São Fidélis. The lead story identified Rodrigues Silva, his lawyer, José Estefan, and others involved in a complicated network set up to steal cars. The story also fingered all the leaders of the regional death squad, Cerol. Court documents indicate that councilman Rodrigues Silva paid to have Guida murdered after the journalist told him details of his illegal activities would be published. As Guida stood talking to Assunção, a hooded man approached from behind and fired one bullet into the journalist’s back. Guida’s body crumpled to the pavement; Assunção fled quickly to his home. Two other masked men, riding a red Yamaha motorcycle, approached. The man on the pillion seat finished off Guida with several more shots. The hooded man who was on foot grabbed Guida’s briefcase and fled. São Fidélis buzzed with rumors for the next few days. Everyone spoke in hushed tones. The names of the alleged killers were well known. The local police chief began to interview the council members, who described Guida as a man whose reporting earned him many enemies. Guida’s family soon heard the names of the suspects :Rodrigues Silva; Carlos Marques de Pinho, a military policeman; Isael Dos Santos Rosa (a.k.a.Benzinho), and Vladimir Raienieri Pereira Sobrosa. Several accounts and testimony contained in court records paint a picture of the four concocting a sadistic plan to kill Guida. After the Murder After the murder, witnesses said Marques de Pinho and Dos Santos Rosa drove the motorcycle to a nearby house where they washed their hands in cachaça, the Brazilian rum made from sugar cane aguardiente. The handwashing ritual is a Cerol trademark, according to court testimony. At Guida’s wake, Dos Santos Rosa lit a candle at the foot of the coffin, another Cerol trademark. Guida’s family worked tirelessly to find witnesses for the investigation. A month after the murder the family still could not contact São Fidélis’ police chief to begin the inquiry. Then it was revealed that the chief, Feliciano Silva Guimarães Filho, was a close associate of Rodrigues Silva and the other suspected killers. This information came from court documents and legal sources interviewed in Rio de Janeiro. According to Gomes and court documents, the police chief had received gifs from Cerol, including a stolen car. The investigation of Guida’s murder did not start until July 3, 1995, when Gomes published a story in his newspaper Grande Rio. Witnesses began coming forward. The Investigation The judge and prosecutor, both women, have investigated the case exhaustively. Their work has been exemplary, in light of the fact that the judge initially assigned to the case had to be removed after receiving death threats supposedly from the alleged killers. The case file has more than 700 pages of legal documents. The judge and prosecutor have taken great care to document every detail. In a case summary prepared for the public ministry of Rio de Janeiro state, Prosecutor Ana Cristina Huth Macedo wrote, “It is known that the crime affects a large number of influential groups because city council members are identified as having paid for the murder,and members of Cerol, the death squad group, as having carried it out.” Cerol’s tentacles reached even into police headquarters. On November 26, 1996, Prosecutor Macedo Viana wrote to the Rio de Janeiro state attorney general’s office requesting that the murder investigations be conducted in Rio because the chiefs of police in São Fidélis and in the nearby city of Campos had business ties to the murder suspects. The prosecution’s charges were based on the testimony from more than a dozen witnesses, including a convict serving time in a crime unrelated to Guida’s. The documents, collected in seven volumes at the São Fidélis courthouse, detailed a complex plan for murder and an even more complex attempt to keep the Guida case from coming to trial. According to the case file the killers are: Juarez Carlos Rodrigues Silva, Carlos Marqués de Pinho, Isael Dos Santos Rosa and Vladimir Raienieri Pereira Sobrosa. The documents say Rodrigues Silva planned and paid for the murder, and the other three -all acquaintances of Guida -were hired to kill him. The judge said she could not determine who actually shot Guida, but in her sentence, issued June 30, 1998, she said, “They all collaborated by appearing at the scene of the crime on a motorcycle. And while one shot at the victim, the others acted as lookouts, and covered up the crime.” However, many witnesses -faced with death threats -have retracted their testimony during the past two years. “At this rate I am the only one left who will testify,” Gomes said. “Now I have to enter São Fidélis in a military caravan and wearing a bulletproof vest to avoid getting shot at.” A few witnesses have complained about harassment and even death threats; others have simply retracted their statements or disappeared. Luciano de Azevedo Rodrigues, married to Guida’s niece, said he was followed by an armed man on a motorcycle and that other men have followed his friends. He told the court he feared for his life and his family’s safety. Witness Delcio Mello Mouta, another Guida friend who testified about threats against the journalist’s life, had a change of heart. He later told the court that during his earlier testimony he was in therapy for a head injury, which left him delirious and led him to make false claims. The truth is that São Fidélis could be described as a lawless town. Guida’s family is afraid, too. His sister, Angela de Fátima Guida da Silva, refused to talk to an IAPA interviewer. “I only talk with my lawyer present,” she said softly. She lives with her parents in a modest São Fidélis home. Guida’s father ignored the IAPA visitors and walked to the back of the house. Guida’s wife has become less interested in pursuing the case. She now works for the City Council. A few days after the visit to the family, the sister was more forthcoming. “We are all careful because everyone in town knows who killed him and who ordered him killed,” she said. However, her lawyer, Gerardo Machado, refused to cooperate with the IAPA. “Why should I trust you?” he replied when told that the IAPA hoped to complete its investigation successfully. He advised the family not to talk or cooperate with the IAPA mission. Things became more tense in São Fidélis in May 1997 when Rodrigues Silva was released from jail on a writ of habeas corpus. His lawyers convinced the judge that he was not a threat to witnesses. The townsfolk viewed the release as a victory for Rodrigues Silva and his friends. The councilman ran for re-election and won. Some in town said he won by buying votes, a practice popular in the region. “You have to understand this town,” Gomes said. “They are the mafia and they run everything, so of course, people are terrified. They know how to buy off or frighten everybody.” Fear increased when Marques de Pinho, one of Guida’s accused killers, escaped from jail. He is a former corporal with the military police in Campos, São Fidélis and surrounding areas. He escaped from his cell in the Battalion #8 headquarters, where he was being held as well for the murder of a local businessman. A wanted poster is posted in the drab battalion headquarters. “It was somebody’s negligence,” said Lt. Gen. Tavares, the battalion’s commander. Twelve policemen are under investigation in connection with Marques de Pinho’s flight. Guida’s family called Gomes as soon as they heard about the escape. “Of course, I ’m afraid,” Gomes said. “He’s one of the murderers.” Police headquarters in São Fidélis is a dusty building with dirty gray walls. Police Chief Antari Quirós, a swarthy man with graying hair, was upset over the arrival of a new prisoner, Vladimir Raienieri Pereira Sobrosa. “He is not my prisoner,” he argued by phone with a police official in Rio de Janeiro. “Why should I have him in my jail?” Raienieri managed to get transferred to the São Fidélis jail, despite a judge’s order to keep him in a Rio prison. “I was sent here by the friendly police chief of a jail where I was recently held," Raienieri said in an interview. “He took pity on me because I am innocent,” he said. “I ’ve been dragged into this mess because of a convict’s statement. Nobody else has said I took part in the crime.” Raienieri described himself as a hard-working man, “who should not be in jail.” He said he did not know Guida or anybody else in this case. He also complained about the jails where he’s been detained. “They are inhuman,” he said, pointing in the direction where a prisoner’s screams could be heard. “I was sent to this high-security prison. A man came and tried to get me off my bed. I told him he’d have to kill me first,” he said, describing the situation at the prison where he was last detained. Will there be justice in the Guida case? Gomes was asked. “I don’t know,” he answered. “The trial should not be in São Fidélis, but in Rio. Anywhere else, those killers will have their way, either by killing more people, or by buying everyone off.” As of May 1999, the Guida murder case awaited start of the trial -no date has yet been set -of the three defendants. The judge was transferred to other legal duties in São Fidélis. It was expected that the trial would be presided over by Judge Pedro Henrique Alves, who was appointed to the São Fidélis criminal court on February 5, 1999. Presumably there will be a jury trial, consisting of seven jurors selected from a local pool, rather than a judgment and sentence imposed by a presiding judge. The number of legal, decision-delaying appeals available to defendants during the trial process, added to the transfers of judges and lawyers, have contributed to the slow pace of crime-solving in Brazil and, largely, to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators. Of the four accused by the state’s public ministry, only Raienieri is in jail. The former military policeman Marqués de Pinho and Dos Santos Rosa are fugitives. The fourth defendant, Councilman Rodrigues Silva, was murdered on August 16, 1998, by four shots -two in the back and two to the face -when he arrived at a girlfriend’s house in downtown São Fidélis. He had spent barely six weeks in jail on the Guida murder charge because the legal system released him during the case investigation. Marqués de Pinho, the ex-policeman, escaped from the Battalion 8 prison in Campos, headquarters for the Rio de Janeiro state military police, on August 18, 1997. Isael Dos Santos Rosa was freed after being cleared in another crime. By the time he was charged with the Guida murder, he had already disappeared and his whererabouts remained unknown. As the only defendant in custody, Pereira Sobrosa will be tried separately. What this case proves once again is that with crimes committed in violence-racked areas, neither the police, the jails nor the court system act with the diligence required to keep the accused in jail during the trial period. The sluggishness of the legal process allows suspects to remain free or escape, just as happens with suspects who are out on bail.