For the past 15 years, Flávio Molina’s
family had to endure unnecessary and unjustifiable anguish of
knowing that there was a possibility of his remains being
among the bones exhumed from a secret grave in the Dom Bosco
de Perus Cemetery. It took only 20 days for a private lab in São
Paulo to reach conclusive results over the identification of
the remains, something that the public agencies could not
accomplish in years.
de Carvalho Molina was born on November 8, 1947 in the
then-state of Guanabara. He was the son of Álvaro Andrade
Lopes Molina and Maria Helena Carvalho Molina. He began
dabbling in anti-government activities in 1967, while
attending Mallet Soares High School in Rio de Janeiro. In
1968, he was accepted to School of Chemistry at UFRJ
(Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro). During this same
year, he was arrested for taking part in a student
demonstration on campus, when the police invaded the
university. He was released the following day.
July 1969 he was sought after by the repression agencies,
after having been formally indicted in an inquest conducted by
the 2nd Military Audit. He then decided to join the
underground resistance to the military through an illegal
leftist organization, the ALN (Ação Libertadora Nacional, or
National Liberation Action).
November 1969 until the middle of 1971, Flávio lived in Cuba,
where he received military training to fight against the
dictatorship. He returned to Brazil as a member of another
illegal leftist organization, Molipo (Movimento de Libertação
Popular, or Popular Liberation Movement).
formal order for his arrest was issued on two occasions:
November 6, 1969 and January 30, 1970. His family received
news from him until July 1970. After that, family, friends and
comrades had to endure 35 years of not knowing his fate. It
wasn’t until July 1979 that they were sure that he was dead.
was only 26 years later that the family was finally able to
bury his remains. 15 years after the opening of a mass grave
in the Dom Bosco cemetery, in Perus, his remains were formally
identified and buried in Rio de Janeiro.
was arrested on November 6, 1971 in São Paulo by agents of
(a state repression agency), where he was tortured to death.
His arrest and death has never been acknowledged by any of the
Brazilian internal security agencies.
first information about his death was published in the August
29, 1972 issue of the newspaper O
Globo, where an article stated that he had been killed in
a gunshot battle with the São Paulo police on a past date.
The family contacted the government authorities seeking to
find out where he was buried, but the authorities denied that
article was factual.
government continued to conceal Flávio’s death and included
his name as a suspect in legal procedures. It was only when
the trial pertaining to the indictment took place that his
name was removed for being dead. Even then, the family never
received any notification from the authorities about his
Discovery and the Intentional Concealment of the Body
1979, the families of dead and missing political activists
were working on a document called “Dossiê de mortos e
desaparecidos” (Dossier of the Dead and Missing), when they
got access to the minutes of the 2nd Naval Inquiry, in which
Flávio had been indicted.
a document which
was part of that inquiry, Romeu Tuma, then executive director
of the DOPS (the main repression agency of the dictatorship)
and presently a Brazilian Senator, petitioned the judge to
remove Flávio’s name from the indictment due to his being
deceased. As a proof of his death, he attached a death
certificate with the name of Álvaro Lopes Peralta, who had
died on November 9, 1971 and was buried in plot #14, Row 11,
Square 2, Section 1 of Dom Bosco Cemetery in Perus. This was
the first document that the family was able to obtain
confirming the participation of the director of the DOPS,
Romeu Tuma, in the concealment of the body.
all doubt had been removed. Flávio was indeed dead. His
joking spirit had led him to choose an alias that combined using parts of his father’s name – Álvaro
Lopes – followed by what could have been a memory of
his childhood: Peralta (that signifies ‘mischievous,
naughty” in Portuguese).
request for an autopsy of the body of Álvaro Lopes Peralta to
the IML/SP (case number 43715, dated November 16, 1971),
confirms that the authorities already were then aware of Flávio’s
neurologist Renato Capellano and José Henrique da Fonseca,
however, used only his alias in the final autopsy report.
death certificate was filed under the number 50,741, 191V –
Book C.73, naming as delcarant Miguel Fernandes Zaninello, who
was identified in October 1990 as being a retired lieutenant
in the military police. This information came to light in a
deposition to the CPI (Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito) of
the São Paulo Municipal government that investigated the
secret grave in the Perus Cemetery.
found in the archives of the DOPS/SP show that the
authorities knew who Flávio was. The data in his files
contained his various aliases, including that of Álvaro Lopes
Peralta; in addition, an official document of the CENIMAR
dated in 1970 stated that Flávio was using the name of Álvaro
burial of Flávio under a false name was premeditated and
intentional, which contradicts the current official statements
of the former Commander of DOI/CODI, Brilhante Ustra.
1981, having obtained the false death certificate and the
declaration signed by Romeu Tuma, the Molina Family started
planning the burial of Flávio’s remains in Rio de Janeiro.
In the middle of the preparation for a ceremony, with
invitations already having been issued, the family then
learned that the bones were in a secret mass grave in Perus
Cemetery, whose existence was known since 1975, but about
which very little was known.
the family was notified about the impossibility of removing Flávio’s
remains, his brother Gilberto Molina could not accept it, and
made a point of confirming that this was a fact. He convinced
the caretaker of the cemetery to open up the secret grave. The
opening and the excavation of the grave produced a number of
plastic bags containing human bones. Gilberto was shocked to
verify the inexistence of any type of identification. The bags
were reburied and the hope was lost of any immediate transfer
of the remains.
military regime was still in power and prevented any other
initiative. Without public endorsement or any kind of support
to proceed with an investigation of the facts, the struggle of
the Molina family only became public on September 4, 1990,
when secret grave in the Perus Cemetery
was officially opened.
Fight for Identification
carried out by reporters Caco Barcellos and Maurício Maia
confirmed that the remains of 6 activists were among the 1049
bodies in the grave: Frederico Eduardo Mayr, Denis Casemiro,
Dimas Antonio Casemiro, Grenaldo Jesus Silva and Francisco José
de Oliveira. After three months of work in the cemetery, where
each of the skeletons was booked, filmed and photographed, the
remains were transferred to the Forensics Department of
Unicamp (University of Campinas), where they were put under
the care of Fortunato Badan Palhares. At the grave, where the
dictatorship had planned burying their crimes forever, a
memorial was created by the architect Ricardo Othake, which
was inaugurated on August 26, 1993. The remains of Frederico
and Denis were identified in 1992.
November 1991, 20 years after Flávio’s death, Maria Helena
Molina had filed a legal
suit against the Federal Government in 17th District of Rio de Janeiro (case number 9101180125), having as her
counsel Ana Maria Muller.
indifference of UNICAMP and the authorities over the
identification of the remains prolonged the agony of the
relatives. The torture put upon them was extended when their
search for information continued to be ignored by Badan
Palhares and the Unicamp administration. The little amount of
information that the relatives were able to obtain resulted
from informal contacts with other DML team members. In a 1995
meeting with the group members, Palhares made the absurd
demand that the meeting be videotaped.
much negotiation, many meetings, and commitments made and soon
forgotten, it was through the mediation of the State Secretary
of Justice Belisário dos Santos Jr. that the Unicamp
administration met with family members. This led to the
removal of Badan Palhares from the investigation of the Bones
of Perus, replaced by José Eduardo Bueno Zappa. But in 1997,
without having issued any new information, Zappa declared that
the investigation had reached its end without any new
identification, which caused deep discontentment among the
victims’ family members.
February 1998, Governor Mário Covas ordered the establishment
of a Special Commission to map the necessary steps to finish
the identification process. This commission was presided over
by a physician, Dr. Antenor Chicarino, and made up by the
victims’ family members and representatives of the São
Paulo State Secretary of Culture and Justice.
a careful examination of the DML installations, the commission
concluded that the preservation of the skeletons was
shockingly precarious. First, the bags were open and without
any labels. Secondly, they were left on a very dirty floor
surface infested with cockroaches. Finally, heavy materials
were routinely stored over the skeleton bags.
to this proven criminal negligence, the commission recommended
the transfer of the bones to Oscar Freire Institute and the
Department of Forensics of USP.
report with this and other proposal was turned in to the
Secretary of Justice and Safety of the State Sao Paulo in
April 1998. There was no response from the authorities.
counsel Ana Maria Muller filed for an interlocutory injunction
and Maria Helena Molina filed a suit against the Federal
Government in the 17th district of Rio de Janeiro (case number
9101180125) under the jurisdiction of Judge Wanderley de
the denunciation of the mishandling of the remains to the
Attorney General, a Public Enquiry 06/99 was initiated. Under
the command of prosecutor Marlon Weichert, various meetings
were held to monitor the enforcement of the measures
recommended. Gilberto Molina was present at all of them.
would take 15 years and 8 attempts at extracting DNA from the
remains both in Brazil and abroad to identify Flávio
1995, Badan Palhares had sent to UFMG 3 vertebrae and one rib
for DNA examination. It is not know why longer bones or teeth
were not sent, a normal procedure for DNA exams.
Two years passed before the results of that exam were
available. The conclusions were that the three vertebrae and
the rib did not belong to Flávio, nor were they a part of the
same skeleton. Was this an error in the lab extractions or had
Palhares mixed bones?
so much suffering, the process that begun in September 1990
returned in 2005 to one of its main parties. In 1990, a
commission, which monitored the findings of the remains of the
Perus cemetery investigation in the São Paulo City
government, had been approached by a representative of a
certain laboratory, who offered to expand the technology for
DNA extraction of the lab in order to participate in
identification of the Perus cemetery’s remains. After being
informed by the various members of the Molina family about
this offer, Badan Palhares announced his decision: if Unicamp
was not going to be responsible for the DNA extractions, he
would order all the bones to be immediately removed from the
university. Since there was no other place where the bones
could be kept, the offer was declined. And time continued to
2003, the federal government agreed to be responsible for the
costs of the DNA exams, and samples of bones of the remains
and blood of the Molina family were sent to Buenos Aires. A
new frustration followed: the results were negative.
2005, a regrettable mistake was made, when it was announced
that the bones belonged to Jane Vanini, a Brazilian guerrilla
killed in Concepcion in 1974. The report was never officially
retracted, but it was through this episode that the Special
Commission on the Missing and Dead received the Chilean report
of the exam, which had been carried out in São Paulo and
hence learned about the Genomic Lab. The bone and blood
samples of the Molina family were then sent to the lab. 20
days later, positive results were returned.
had finally completed a circle: Manuel de Sá e Benevides, who
in 1990 had approached the victims’ relatives to offer his
lab for the DNA exams, is presently the Executive Director of
Genomic, which opened in 1990.
Benevides and Dr. Delnice Ritsuko Sumita, who were responsible
for the testing of the sample, officially handed the remains
of Flávio Carvalho Molina to Gilberto Molina in a special
ceremony at the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of
Justice in São Paulo.
fight of Flávio Molina’s relatives does not end with the
burial of the body. Many other families still live with the
suffering of not knowing what happened to their loved ones.
The federal government did not do anything in terms of
granting access to its archives or help in the recovery
history. The support by the Ministry of Justice has been
essential, since the crime of concealment continues to be
the ceremony in which Flávio’s remains were handed to his
family, Eugênia Augusta Gonzaga Fávero, current Attorney
General and the person responsible for the ICP 06/99,
announced that in spite of the positive identification, the
inquiry will not be closed. She listed the following reasons.
First: we verified that during those 15 year period, the
family was subjected to unnecessary and unjustified anguish in
their expectation of finding the final remains of Flávio
Molina among the exhumed remains from
the secret grave in the Dom Bosco de Perus Cemetery. In
addition, one specific lab, Genomic, in São Paulo, obtained conclusive
results over the identification of the remains in 20 days,
something that the public organizations had been unable to do
for years. The quickness in producing these results made it
unacceptable that the process progresses at its current pace.
It is necessary that we concentrate our efforts on
streamlining the processes, which the establishment of a DNA
database would certainly help.
there is one more skeleton awaiting a DNA exam. I am referring
to the remains suspected to be those of Luís Cunha. The
conclusion of this exam from the work done by the Oscar Feire
Institue should be done on October 12, 2005, after which the
same process adopted in regard to Flávio Molina will be
The possibility remains that the bones of at least three more
missing political activists may be among those bones.
this point, we find it necessary to explain why we need to
continue pursuing this objective, even though some think it is
not reasonable to use public agencies with such a difficult
job affecting only a small number of people. We believe that,
while there is still a possibility of identification, we must
keep this process available. We believe that burying a family
member is a fundamental human right, which is part of the
constitutional right that people have to dignity.
denial of burial was one of the worst punishments applied in
old civilizations. It was reserved only to those who had
committed terrible crimes. The idea of being without burial,
or rather, without a ceremony that symbolizes the completion
of a cycle, is extremely painful.
So much so, that during the inquiry, we heard stories
of family members who buried the belongings of the loved one
in order to minimize their own pain. We contend that the pain
that the families go through, directly originated from
intentional injury, is a legal commodity that requires the
attention and help from public organizations, especially
because that pain was inflicted by public agencies.
as we proceed with our report, we have verified that in our
population there exists a widely held conscience of injustice
having been done in this specific area. Notwithstanding the
government’s public acknowledgment of committing torture and
murder, and hiding bodies, and even though compensation was
paid by the government, the people responsible for these
atrocities remain unpunished. Even if this inquiry has
mentioned names, produced proof and denunciation was initiated
with the purpose of punishing those responsible for
atrocities, nothing has happened in this regard
met range from not having access to secret documents,
allegations that crimes have prescribed and that those
responsible for atrocities were pardoned through general
amnesty. I will not discuss here the merits of the legal
grounds invoked to assert that the crime of torture prescribes
or whether those responsible for it responsible can legally be
pardoned through an amnesty. What I contend is that, at the
very least, a real crime exists in the concealment of bodies,
a hateful manner of extending torture to the victims’
relatives. This is a crime that the law and legal doctrines
consider to be permanent. This means that it prescribes only
if and when the victim's grave is identified, making possible
to have access the concealed remains. Therefore, while a
single body of the political dead and missing remains
concealed, we cannot speak about the crime having prescribed.
if the current difficulties in attributing direct
responsibility preclude indictments, whoever ignores the
breaking of very clear existing legislation is blatantly
breaking the law. There may also be a justification for civil
actions for collective pain and suffering, as the acts
committed by the government did not affect just those missing
and dead. Those acts have also inflicted pain and suffering to
an entire generation, whose intellectual growth and political
discernment were hindered by such acts. These measures,
whether they are criminal, civil or administrative, aim to
make liable those responsible for the crimes.
conclusion, it is for these four reasons that the present
inquiry, while it remains under our control, will not be
archived. In all
areas, particularly in the judiciary, we will adopt all the
necessary procedures to achieve the following objectives: to
change the procedures for the identification process,
including the establishment of a
DNA bank; to identify Luís Cunha’s remains; to
continue the attempt of identification
of other missing people in the exhumed graves in the Perus
cemetery; to hold the responsible parties accountable.
Suzana Keniger Lisboa
is a member of the Commission of the Relatives of the Dead and