Latin America & Caribbean

Feared Brazil ex-army intelligence chief Brilhante Ustra dies

Col Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra at Brazil Truth Commission in May 2013 Image copyright Agencia Brasil
Image caption Col Ustra published two books with his account of events during military rule

The former head of the army's intelligence service in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo has died, aged 83.

The retired army Colonel, Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, has been accused by human rights groups of ordering the illegal arrest and torture of some 500 left-wing activists.

He lead the feared Doi-Codi intelligence service from 1970 to 1974, when Brazil was under military rule.

"I fought terrorism," he said at a Truth Commission hearing in May 2013.

The army prevented Brazil from becoming a "dictatorship of the proletariat," he said.

Col Ustra never regretted or apologised for his activities against left-wing groups that fought the military government, which was in power from 1964 to 1985.

"Their aim was to depose the military and implement communism in Brazil. That was written in their programmes," he told the Truth Commission.

"There were no angels" in the Doi-Codi cells, he said.

'Master of life and death'

Col Ustra said the current Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, "belonged to four terrorist organisations" that supported the implementation of a communist dictatorship in the country.

She was arrested and tortured in Sao Paulo in 1970 for her political activities.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ms Rousseff was a member of Brazil's underground resistance

Col Ustra said he never broke the law and only obeyed orders from his superiors in the army.

Former Doi-Codi agent, Marival Dias Chaves, told the Truth Commission, however, that Col Ustra was personally in charge of two torture centres.

"He was the master of life and death on those occasions," he said.

"He decided who was going to live and who was going to die."

A judge found Col Ustra guilty in 2012 of human rights violations and ordered him to pay compensation for the torture of a journalist abducted by secret police officers some 30 years ago.

The former intelligence chief was appealing against the ruling.

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