Blackfoot Valley Dispatch - The Blackfoot Valley's News Source Since 1980

The Brazilian irony of murder and murderers


December 5, 2018

I was eating lunch at the hotel in Barra do Bugres, where I had been sent by the Peace Corps. The establishment offered rooms plus meals, and was the only place to stay back in the early 1970's.

In the middle of the meal a mud-spattered Jeep roared up. In the back of the vehicle was a dying man with his intestines spread everywhere.

He had been wounded in a knife fight, and they brought him over 40 miles of muddy, evil road looking for medical help. Someone had put an empty rice sack on his exposed innards, but the sack had fallen off and the man's intestines were dry and covered with rice hulls.

Not finding help at the hotel, the Jeep sped off for the local jail, hoping the delegado would haul the man to Cuiabá, about six hours away. The victim didn't even make it to the jail, so they laid the corpse out in the mud and tossed a piece of old tarp over it.

That afternoon we heard the killer had been caught. We all had to see, of course. The still drunk criminal had his arms through the window bars, was expounding on masculine honor and other subjects. The defunct lay just under the window.

That type of killing was common in those days, and after seeing the current Brazil, consider it to be an honest crime. There were four motives for murder in those days: alcohol, love, land, and money – all valid reasons for shooting or stabbing someone.

In present day Brazil, the killings are for greed, with teenagers shooting elderly women in the face in order to steal a cell phone. It's very common, and the country is almost paralyzed because of it.

Two years later the killer worked for me on the little place I rented. He was still in jail, but the delegado allowed some of his prisoners to take small jobs during the day and just sleep in the jail. My two acres of citrus and bananas needed hoeing to kill the weeds, so I talked to the delegado, and he sent me the fellow who had knifed the man I saw in the jeep. He was the first of two murderers to work for me.

This man was worthless. Instead of weeding for a couple days, he spent most of his time in my kitchen, drinking my cachaça and hitting on my cook/housekeeper. It took him over a week to get the job done. When he finally finished, I paid him much more than he deserved. He went straight to the bus depot and left town.

The escape terrified me because the local judge was vindictive to the extreme. One time he appointed a chap in a neighboring town to the position of judge for minors. The man quickly became an autocrat and exceeded his authority, causing confusion and hard feelings in the local police force as well as the populace. The judge sent him an official paper telling him to stay within his realm of responsibility.

When the fellow was handed the document, he tore it up, tossed it on the ground, and said to tell the judge that he and no one else gave orders in his jurisdiction. Two years later the man was still in jail, paying for his arrogance.

I avoided the judge for weeks, afraid that I might have to serve the rest of the escapee's sentence. But one evening at a dinner, I was forced to sit next to the man.

I stayed quiet, and when he turned to talk to me I apologized for giving the murderer enough money for a bus ticket. The judge just chuckled and said that the prisoner had a perfect right to escape. It was no big deal.

From what I've read, the Brazilian constitution states that a person has an inherent right to freedom, so the act of escaping from jail is legal, and the escapee, if caught, has only to finish his or her sentence, and isn't punished for the escape itself. It's a perfect example of Brazilian irony, of which there is a lot.

The next murderer I hired was a tragic chap who was allowed to live in his own house, but had to stay in town with his wife. He had killed two others while they were all drunk.

The man was an honest worker and stayed out of my liquor, but after he was done with the job, he came back just before sunrise every morning for two weeks and stole huge sacks of oranges to sell on the street. From killer to businessman, I guess.

Maybe that's what the Peace Corps was all about: because of me one criminal got his freedom, and the other found a new lifestyle.


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