The Most Dangerous Man in the Country

Filinto Müller of Brazil

by R. S. Rose (Author)
©2020 Monographs XVI, 308 Pages


Filinto Müller was the most despised police chief in Brazilian history and later a detested senator. Müller bore the brunt of many accusations of police wrongdoing owing to charges by yellow-journalist David Nasser. This volume examines the totality of Müller’s life and is the result of 11 years of research in which 66,704 documents, 500 newspapers clippings, and 165 visual items were examined. Numerous interviews were likewise conducted. This work has uncovered little archival evidence to substantiate direct charges against Müller. This book argues, however, that Müller was responsible for the invention of modern-day death squads, the first of their kind in the Americas.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 1. Cuiaba Days
  • 2. A Youngman’s Passion
  • 3. The Revolution of 1924
  • 4. Exile and Return
  • 5. Vargas
  • 6. Police Chief
  • 7. The Estado Novo
  • 8. Limbo
  • 9. The CPI
  • 10. Senator
  • 11. A Row of Onions
  • A Place in History
  • Selected Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index


As is his custom, the author wishes to first thank Knut Sveri in Stockholm på grund av att du räddade mig. John W.F. Dulles was not only an unfailingly generous colleague but also an inspiration in my chase after a man who so many people have misunderstood. Regrettable for all of us interested in South America’s largest country, Professor Dulles passed away before he could send me the reworked version of his 1965 interview with Senator Müller. We had planned it as the introduction to this volume.

Captain Francisco José Corrêa Martins and all of his staff at the Arquivo Historico do Exército in Rio de Janeiro, who so kindly and professionally helped, likewise also deserves my gratitude. No detail was too much to ask these capable soldiers. Likewise to be thanked are the people at the Arquivo da Câmera dos Deputados in Brasília, the Arquivo Nacional, the Arquivo Público de Mato Grosso, the Arquivo Público do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, the Biblioteca Nacional, and CPDOC (Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História – the Center for Historical Research and Documentation). Not to be left out was the help offered by Luiz Alves Corrêa, Paulo Apulcro de Fonseca, José Guttman, Luciana Quillet Heymann, Stanley E. Hilton, Stella Maris Floresani Jorge, Pedro Rocha Jucá, Luiz Cláudio and Cecília Marigo, Gustavo de Mello, Anita Prestes, Jorge Posse, Rutonio Jorge Fernandes de Sant’Anna, and Goretti Rocha. There was also the reviewer whose name will not be mentioned who was unqualified to offer an opinion, but who did give several very useful tips. I offer him/her my thanks.

Fortunately, I obtained the help of Filinto Müller’s sole surviving daughter, Maria Luiza Müller de Almeida, during most of this research. She provided me with irreplaceable details and contacts in Cuiabá, her father’s hometown. At no time did Filinto Müller’s descendants ever attempt to exert any control over this manuscript. In fact, the part of the family belonging to Civis Müller da Silva Pereira, Filinto’s nephew, refused to provide anything more than to say that Civis had died in 1968. Some of his family members had photographs from the period when he worked at the Central Police Station in Rio de Janeiro, but refused all requests to provide copies. The reticence of the descendants of Civis was perhaps due to my asking if they had anything they could share with me concerning Civis and the Quadro Móvel. Instead, they recommended that I contact Maria Luiza Müller de Almeida for such a picture and such information.1 By that time, however, Maria Luiza had lost all apparent interest in the project. This occurred when a relative pointed out to her that I had previously published something negative about her father.2 From that point on, Maria Luiza’s cooperation was almost nonexistent. It took over a year to get her to send me some of the final photographs that I had long begged her to attach to an e-mail along with permission to use them.

R. S. Rose

1. Paulo Faria, e-mail, January 6, 2010.

2. The list is long here, but the piece sent to the relative was R. S. Rose: “Johnny’s Two Trips to Brazil,” Luso-Brazilian Review [hereafter LBR], vol. XXXVIII, no. 1, Summer 2001.



Arquivo da Câmara dos Deputados (Brazilian Congressional Archive), Brasília


Augusto da Costa e Silva


Arthur Fernandes Cardoso


Arquivo Filinto Müller (Filinto Müller Archive), CPDOC, Rio de Janeiro


Arquivo Getúlio Vargas (Getúlio Vargas Archive), CPDOC, Rio de Janeiro


Arquivo Historico do Exército (Historical Archive of the Brazilian Army), Rio de Janeiro


Ação Integralista Brasileira (Brazilian Integralist Movement) – Brazil’s Fascist political party in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.


Arquivo Juarez Távora (Juarez Távora Archive), CPDOC, Rio de Janeiro


Aliança Nacional Libertadora (National Liberation Alliance) – A popular front in Brazil in 1935.


Arquivo Pedro Ernesto (Pedro Ernesto Archive), CPDOC, Rio de Janeiro


Arquivo Público do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Public Archive of the State of Rio de Janeiro)


Arquivo Rosalina Coelho Lisboa (Rosalina Coelho Lisboa Archive), CPDOC, Rio de Janeiro


Aliança Renovadora Nacional (National Renovation Alliance) – The 1964–85 military dictators’ political party between the years 1966 and 1979.


Conselho Nacional do Trabalho (National Labor Consul)


Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil (Contemporary Brazilian History Research and Documentation Center), Rio de Janeiro.


Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito (Parliamentary Inquiry Commission)


Diário do Congresso Nacional


Departamento de Imprensa e Propaganda (Department of Press and Propaganda)


Delegacia Especial de Segurança Política e Social (Special Police for Political and Social Security) (the political police in the Federal District and other cities from January 10, 1933 to March 28, 1944).


Departamento de Ordem Politica e Social (Department of Political and Social Order). The political police in several Brazilian states, including the state of Guanabara/Rio de Janeiro from 1938 until 1975. Also, the generic term applied to all forms of the political police by Brazilians from the late 1920s until 1983.


Federal Bureau of Investigation


Auswärtiges Amt (German Foreign Office)


The state of Guanabara, which formerly comprised the city of Rio de Janeiro.


Instituto Brasileiro de Reforma Agrária (Brazilian Institute of Agrarian Reform)


Instituto Nacional de Desenvolvimento Agrário (National Institute of Agrarian Development)


Júlio Müller


Kardex Felinto Müller (located at the Arquivo Historico do Exército)


Luso-Brazilian Review


Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (Brazilian Democratic Moviment) The official opposition party during the years 1965 to 1979.


Manoel Correa do Lago


Partido Comunista do Brasil (Communist Party of Brazil)


Partido Democratica Cristão (Christian Democratic Party)


Partido Libertador (Libertor Party)


Partido Republicano (Republican Party)


Partido Republicano Riograndense (Republican Party of Rio Grande do Sul)


Partido Social Democrático (Social Democratic Party)


Partido Social Progressista (Social Progress Party)


Partido Trabalhista Brasileira (Brazilian Labor Party)


Serviço de Divulgação (Dissemination Service)


Senado Federal (Federal Senate)


Serviço de Inquéritos Políticos Sociais (Political Social Investigation Service)


Tribunal de Segurança Nacional (National Security Tribunal)


União Democrático Nacional (National Democratic Union)


United States, National Archives

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Who really was Filinto Müller? Many of those who remember the man often despise him. Among historians and other academics specializing in 20th century Brazil, his name is forever associated with the country’s most notable president, Getúlio Vargas.1 While Vargas devotees want their hero to be seen as the Pai dos pobres (Father of the Poor), Petrobras, and the country’s first steel mill, the connection to Müller is to the dark side of the Vargas legend. From April 1933 to July 1942, Filinto Müller was Vargas’ chief of police in the former national capital of Rio de Janeiro. During those nine years, a time when Vargas ruled Brazil as a dictator, there were attempts to overthrow him by both the left and the right. Müller was a crucial player in putting down both uprisings and earned the wrath of each side, especially that of the intellectual left. In both instances, there were arrests of the guilty and the innocent. There was mayhem, there was torture, and there was death. A general reign of terror came into being in 1937 with the promulgation of Vargas’ Estado Novo (New State), which took as its inspiration the Estado Novo then in place in Brazil’s mother country, António Salazar’s Portugal.

Yes, Müller was by Getúlio’s side as an eager participant and willing prop during many of the tumultuous years of the Vargas journey. Filinto, like many of his contemporaries in government, gave lip service to Brazil’s homegrown ←1 | 2→fascist party, the AIB or Ação Integralista Brasileira (Brazilian Integralist Action). Some victims have claimed that things got rougher at the Central Police Station, where Müller had his office, following the announcement of the Estado Novo.2 But to what degree, if any, was the police chief involved in the carnage at that facility, reputed to have ground up or maimed numerous Brazilians and foreign nationals? If he was a part of the tough-guy picture, what did he do and to whom did he do it? If he was not a participant in that particular enterprise, as his daughter and other relatives insist, how did the thinking come about that he had been a contributor? We will hypothesize here that a large part of the negative feeling about Müller is the result of an inadequate scholarship. That defect in erudition is a legacy from the work of David Nasser, especially from his Falta alguém em Nuremberg.3 Academicians have assumed that Nasser was correct without a further investigation of the facts. They have largely ignored the subject of this biography as a consequence. Additionally, we will hypothesize that the lack of significant research on Müller means that there are yet to be uncovered components of his history that will or should warrant our attention—that will or should warrant our absolution or condemnation of him.

Some may well find objection to my choices in descriptive rather than theoretical history not to mention my use of unstated satire. Those historians wanting to be philosophers rather than a window into the past have called this technique “journalism”. The colleague who was to be my co-author on this project, John W.F. Dulles, had that charge leveled against him in the past. Still, I have always found the books of Dulles, crammed with page after page of facts, to be an illuminating and unpretentious way to understand the past. Dulles rarely made sometimes-difficult theoretical abstractions part of his work. Perhaps intuitively he knew one of the facets of what Alvin W. Gouldner was up to in his classic, The Coming Crisis of Western Sociology. Among the many things, that volume presented to my thinking was in urging sociologists to become more involved with history – realizing that their theories like many of those offered by historians are products of time and place. Gouldner is saying that we should be careful of what and how we theorize since items of likes and dislikes from one culture or people are subject to the ravages of time—and often contain at least an inkling of our own favoritisms.4 The plans we set out to undertake, thus, cannot be objective, one of the goals of the social sciences;5 I include part of the humanities here too. What then is one to do? Dulles may have been hoping that those coming into prominence after him could use his reservoir of information to grope their way, to put ←2 | 3→meat on that theoretical bone. In this light, I would suggest that there are qualitative truisms handed down from preceding generations, from one time to another, Dulles’ included, that help to clarify our way. It is as if they are lights on the road of scholastic life. Many of these indicators come from moral positions, often codified from religious teachings: Do not steal, Honor your parents, Harming people is bad.6 There are countless others and we might call these indicators – absolutes. Gouldner goes on to urge us to be less concerned with the quantitative and learn to be more aware of our epoch, its absolutes, and our own biases (i.e. the qualitative) in order to be better theorists and producers. He calls this metamorphosis one of becoming reflexive.7

It is about here that Howard Zinn picks up this gauntlet when he writes that, “America’s future is linked to how we understand our past. For this reason, writing about history for me is never a neutral act.”8 One can and rightly should correct Zinn by substituting the words, “The world’s future. . . .” but what about the nonaligned act. I subscribe to both Gouldner’s view as to objectivity and Zinn’s reflection regarding impartiality. On the following pages, I will attempt to use both to look at Filinto Müller through the lens of my generation. Does he deserve the condemnation shown him from an earlier time? Is that judgment valid now? These will be two of the overriding questions of this monograph.

One starting out on such an undertaking, however, quickly encounters a more glaring problem since what is available to read on Filinto Müller is limited. Nevertheless, I looked at the vast majority of documents, books, and articles that are accessible during the period of my research (2005-2011). Scores of people who knew Müller in Brasília, Cuiabá, and Rio de Janeiro offered their critiques and remembrances. The picture that emerged from the totality of these sources is one of a staid individual who zealously served his masters—particularly his arbitrary masters. He was conservative, nationalistic, and unflappable in his backing of four dictatorships at war with a persistent adversary, his adversary, the so-called Communist menace. In both instances, those in power did away with the country’s legitimate political parties, muzzled its press, and stifled its citizens. In both instances, he was an enthusiastic supporter: as the police chief to one autocrat, and decades later as leader of the Senate and the government’s political party to the others.

Of considerable use were the 66,704 documents, 500 newspaper clippings, printed materials, and 165 visual items donated by the two daughters of Filinto Müller. Maria Luiza and Júlia Rita gave this trove of information to CPDOC at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (Getúlio Vargas Foundation) in ←3 | 4→Rio de Janeiro. That group of objects covers the period 1924-1948. For the years when Filinto Müller dealt with labor questions, was a senator, or otherwise active in politics, 1948-1973, there is next to nothing available except a small amount of newspaper coverage, his reprinted speeches, and the bills with which he was associated in the Brazilian Senate. His mundane remarks in the Upper House, such as birthday wishes to colleagues and other unimportant items are not included here in Chapter 10.

This writer never had the opportunity to make such judgments on an unknown number of documents, if Filinto or his associates removed them when he left the police department, or his daughters or family members possibly expunging them before the donation to CPDOC. Following Müller’s death, in 1973, his nephew, and his chief of staff in the Senate, Antônio Correa Pacheco, took Filinto’s papers for this latter period to his residence and kept them in a shed. Over time, deplorably, insects destroyed this valuable and irreplaceable collection of data.9

The reader should not think that I am out to defend Filinto Müller. I am not. What I am about is an honest appraisal of the man; a man who, in 2013, had no less than ten Brazilian schools named in his honor.10 No, but I will use sources that are more reputable than those offered up essentially by a single journalist and tainted research. For sure, the great “isms” of the 20th century held Müller hostage. He was not alone. First came the misconstrued grasp of positivism by his professors at the country’s most prestigious military academy. By the time they graduated, students had ingested a course of studies that promoted officers as knowing the best way forward for the Brazilian nation. Moreover, theirs was an education that was elite orientated. It was a model that fits nicely with ideas from the days of slavery. Ditto for the civilian version. Both were and still are designed and instituted, consciously or unconsciously, to keep mostly white Brazilians in positions of control over the un-clean rabble that they begrudging acknowledged as their fellow citizens. To elite thinking, this was both natural and paternalistic. In Filinto’s time, officer-candidate school kept non-whites and Jews out.11

Filinto Müller’s war on communism did not pre-date that of his first capo di tutti capi. The reader will note on the following pages that when Müller first became police chief in the former capital of Brazil, he was not openly opposed to communism or Jews. Yet when the philosophy and the religion became the twin scapegoats for all the ills plaguing the nation, as decreed by its leader, Getúlio Vargas, the product was that Müller’s die was cast. There would be no going back, no room for compromise, no discussion, and no ←4 | 5→Hegelian synthesis. Yes, from his days with Vargas until the start of Brazil’s military dictatorship on the last day of March 1964, a period of some ten years, Filinto must have been yearning. He wanted another strong leader to guide the nation to its greatness. For a while, he thought it could be Juscelino Kubitschek and then Gen. Castelo Branco.

On December 13, 1968, the officer running the country, Gen. Costa e Silva, enacted AI-5. Ato Institucional No. 5 (Institutional Act No. 5). This was the kind of hard-line thing Filinto could get behind. It likewise represented the lowest point in the military dictatorship.12 When Costa e Silva suffered a stroke in late August 1969, a triumvirate of the armed forces top officers took command. They governed for a little over a month before tallying a vote—among the generals themselves—as to which of them would next rule the country. The man selected became Filinto’s final sponsor, Gen. Emílio Garrastazu Médici. Médici had been the “top cop” of their “revolution,” as the officers and conservatives invariably called it. Like Filinto under Vargas, Médici had been the head of the SNI (Servico Nacional da Informação) or National Information Service, in essence Brazil’s FBI and CIA. Filinto saw in Médici the individual who would use AI-5 to clean up the country. Müller’s role would be to ride roughshod over the legislative process to ensure that it worked to the dictator’s interests. After all, he and his fellow officers were the ones who had been educated to strut what they thought was best for the magnificence of Brazil.

Müller was in the military all of his adult life. Even though he spoke little German or the ability to read that language sufficiently in the original by 1930, one wonders if he ever saw a translation of the following comment by Albert Einstein and pondered its meaning. “That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him.”13


1. Getúlio Vargas ruled Brazil from 1930 to 1945 and then again from 1950 to 1954.

2. Jornal do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro) March 11, 1987, sec. Cidade, p. 1.

3. David Nasser, Falta alguém em Nuremberg: torturas da polícia de Filinto Strubling Müller, 4th ed. (Rio de Janeiro: O Cruzeiro, 1966).

4. Alvin W. Gouldner, The Coming Crisis in Western Sociology (London: Heinemann, 1971), p. 16.


XVI, 308
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (January)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XVI, 308 pp., 3 tables.

Biographical notes

R. S. Rose (Author)

R. S. Rose is originally from California. He left the United States to study in Sweden where he earned Ph.D. and MSSc. degrees in sociology at the University of Stockholm. Much of his work is located at the intersection of history and social justice. He is currently Visiting Professor of Brazilian History in the Post-Graduate Program in History at the Federal University of Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.


Title: The Most Dangerous Man in the Country
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