Brazil's former president Juscelino Kubitschek who, the truth commission of Sao Paulo says, was killed in 1976 in a car crash set up by the then military dictatorship Photograph: AP
A car accident that killed Brazil's former president, Juscelino Kubitschek, in 1976 was rigged by the country's military dictatorship, according to a new investigation.
Kubitschek, who is widely remembered as the president who moved the nation's capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, died on the motorway between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro on 22 August 1976. But suspicions have swirled for decades that he was the victim of foul play by the then-military dictator Ernesto Geisel.
In a report released on Tuesday, São Paulo's truth commission said they have evidence to show he was killed in a plot to remove a potential challenger to the military dictator Emílio Médici. Shortly before his death Kubitschek, who was president from 1956 to 1961, had just had his political rights restored, which meant he was eligible to run again for office. The São Paulo truth commission, which is made up of city councillors, say they have more than 90 items of proof to back up their claim, including faked records, procedural errors and contradictions in official reports.
Investigators said a bus driver has testified that he was offered a cash payment for declaring that he ran into Kubitschek's vehicle, which he refused. Another witness claims to have seen a seven-millimetre metal fragment in the driver's head.
Councillor Gilberto Natalini told the Guardian that the bullet hole in the driver's head was identified by a police forensics expert when the body was exhumed the first time in 1996, but police colleagues stopped him taking a photo of it.
Natalini said the shot was believed to have been fired from another car, which drew level with the ex-president's car. Another witness, a lorry driver, claims he saw the driver slumped over the wheel as the car veered across the verge into the path of a lorry.
The motive for the crime, according to Natalini, was to stop Kubitschek's planned run for the presidency in 1978.
The commission had access to a letter sent in 1976 by Chilean general Manoel Contreras to Joao Figueiredo, head of SNI (the Brazilian intelligence agency) warning that if the Democrats won the US presidency (which Jimmy Carter went on to do) then the democratic opposition in Latin America would be greatly strengthened. Soon after,Chile's leading opposition figure, Orlando Ortelier – who had served as Salvador Allende's foreign minister – was killed by a car-bomb in Washington, Kubitschek died in Brazil, and ex-president Joao Goulart died in exile in Argentina..
Kubitschek's body has not been re-examined, but the national truth commission recently ordered the exhumation of the remains of his successor, Joao Goulart, another opposition leader who died in suspicious circumstances.
The Sao Paulo report will be submitted to the national truth commission, which is looking into this and other crimes allegedly carried out during Brazil's military dictatorship. Its final conclusions are expected no earlier than next May.