Cablegate: Fear and Intimidation Evident in Murder Case Of
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BRASILIA 002745
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB KCRM KJUS CASC SOCI BR
SUBJECT: FEAR AND INTIMIDATION EVIDENT IN MURDER CASE OF
BRAZILIAN LABOR INSPECTORS
REF: A. A) RIO 1001
B. B) RIO 111
C. C) RIO 90
D. D) BRASILIA 248
E. E) RIO 1287
1. (SBU) INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY: In an October 15, 2004
meeting with poloff, a Brazilian Ministry of Labor (MOL)
Inspection Counselor agreed with recent press reports that
finger local agricultural magnates in the January 28, 2004
assassination of three MOL labor inspectors and their driver
near the rural city of Unai, Minas Gerais (reftels).
Stepping beyond views expressed by the media, MOL Inspection
Counselor Marcelo Campos speculated that tax evasion could
have been the principal motive, since relatively low
labor-related fines were hardly worth a crime of this scale.
When separately interviewed by poloffs on October 25, 2004
the Labor Inspector responsible for Unai was more
circumspect, characterizing the evidence in the case to date
as "circumstantial." Despite her denials and repeated
professions of faith in higher powers, poloffs sensed that
fear and intimidation played a role in her evasiveness. The
major suspects in the killings are currently in custody and
awaiting trial in the state capital of Belo Horizonte. END
TAX EVASION A POTENTIAL MOTIVE?
2. (SBU) In an October 15, 2004 meeting in Brasilia,
Ministry of Labor (MOL) Inspection Counselor Marcelo Campos
shared his views about the murder of three MOL inspectors and
their driver in January 2004. The four were ambushed in
their car on a rural road in western Minas Gerais state, near
the small town of Unai. Campos concurred with recent
indictments that placed responsibility for the killings on
local Unai agriculture magnate Noberto Manica, a longtime
violator of Brazilian labor laws. An indictment has also
been issued against his brother Anterio, who was recently
elected mayor of Unai in spite of his bad press.
Characterizing the Unai region as "lawless," Campos was
unflinching in his belief that Norberto Manica was guilty and
asserted that the government possessed "robust proof" to that
effect. Going beyond all previously released information,
Campos speculated that Manica feared the inspectors would
discover tax evasion in which penalties would far exceed
fines levied for labor violations.
3. (SBU) According to Campos, the murder case is currently
being handled by a federal court in Belo Horizonte, the state
capital. Eight indictments have already been issued against
Noberto Manica, the alleged triggermen, and their
accomplices. The suspects (save Anterio Manica) await trial
at a detention facility in Belo Horizonte. As an elected
official, Anterio Manica will be tried by the federal
Superior Court of Justice in Brasilia. He was recently freed
pending further investigation concerning the scope of his
EVASIVENESS AND FEAR
4. (SBU) Unlike Campos, MOL Chief Inspector in charge of the
region (including Unai) Dalia Maria Chaves Ulhoa was evasive
and offered little substantive information about the case
when interviewed on October 25, 2004 in her Paracatu office.
Paracatu is a small town that sits approximately 90 km away
from Uani in rural Minas Gerais. When asked whether tax
evasion could have prompted the killings, Ulhoa instead
declared that a "lack of love and understanding" along with a
"capital-labor mismatch" were the causes. Ulhoa acknowledged
that she herself was a suspect in the investigation and
emphatically dismissed the accusation as "slander." Pressed
for more information, Ulhoa emphasized her faith in divine
forces and evaded any reference to the pertinent facts of the
case. The Labor Inspector admitted she had received death
threats and now traveled to Unai only with police escort.
Denying she was personally afraid, Ulhoa asserted that her
faith kept her going.
5. (SBU) COMMENT: Despite Chief Inspector Ulhoa's
professions of faith, her seeming unwillingness to provide
direct answers suggests fear -- in sharp contrast with the
Brasilia-based Campos, whose distance from agricultural
magnates in Unai granted him the ability to speak frankly.
Federal jurisdiction over the case has allowed it to come
closer to resolution by removing it from the "lawless"
hinterlands where, as poloffs observed, fear often trumps
justice. END COMMENT
6. (U) AmConsulRio and poloff Kathleen List provided
information and support for this report.