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The December 1989 kidnapping of Abílio dos Santos Diniz was the last of a string of kidnapping by a radical political group in Brazilmarker. After Brazilian police broke up the kidnap-gang it was revealed that the kidnappers were using the ransoms paid to fund various guerrilla factions across South America. The Brazilian police also revealed that among those arrested were two Canadiansmarker, David Spencer and Christine Lamont.

Background

As Cubanmarker and Sovietmarker funding started to dry up in the late 1980s, various guerrilla groups started to branch out to other money-generating activities to raise cash. One of these groups the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front , among other things, turned to kidnapping. Pairing up with the Chilean Revolutionary Left Movement the new group chose São Paulomarker, Brazilmarker South America's largest and wealthiest city, to be the center of operations. At first they had some success with a number of victims including the 1986 kidnapping of Antonio Beltran Martinez, a São Paulo banker, who was freed after $4 million ransom was paid. The group was also tied to the kidnapping in July 1989 of Luiz Sales, the president of one Brazil's largest advertising companies who was held for 65 days and freed after $2.5 million ransom was paid.

Kidnapping

In June of 1989, two Canadians David Spencer and Christine Lamont joined the kidnap-gang. The used their Canadian passports and contacts to rent a number of apartments in preparation for the next victim, the principal shareholder of Brazil's largest supermarket chain, Abílio dos Santos Diniz. In December of 1989 Mr. Diniz was dragged out of his Mercedes-Benz as he was on his way to work and then bundled into a station wagon disguised as an ambulance. At the safe-house, he was kept in a small underground cell and subjected to loud music to break his will. While the family of Mr. Diniz was negotiating payment of $5 million ransom the police stormed the house in Sao Paulo where he was held. Diniz was freed and ten people were arrested. The police arrested five Chileans, two Argentines, a Brazilian, along with the two Canadians Spencer and Lamont. Chilean police were later able to confirm that three of the Chileans are members of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left:

  • Ulises Gallardo Acevedo - Movement of the Revolutionary Left cadre
  • Pedro Fernandes Lembach - an explosives expert, was secretary of Chile's National Council of Political Prisoners while he was in jail in Chile.
  • Maria Emilia Badilla - spent 10 years in jail in Chile for subversive activities. was quoted as saying, "the left in Chile has no chances of growing, and the money from the kidnappings would help agitation and propaganda work in her country."


The Canadians

David Spencer

David Spencer was born in in Monctonmarker, New Brunswickmarker. A university dropout who moved to Vancouver in the 1980s where he found work at an alternate radio station. There he met Christine Lamont, a student at Simon Fraser Universitymarker. The two soon became supporters of the Sandinista movement in Nicaraguamarker and became members of Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. In 1989, using false passports, the two traveled to Managuamarker, the capital of Nicaraguamarker making contact with various left wing groups including the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. They spent six months in Managua, supposedly, as translators for a Spanish newspaper.

Christine Lamont

Christine Lamont was born in in Langleymarker, British Columbiamarker and a student at Simon Fraser Universitymarker (SFU) in the late 1980s. During her time at SFU she worked at CFRO-FMmarker, a community radio station, where she met David Spencer. The two became involved in Latin American solidarity activism, supporting left-wing movements like the Sandinistas in Nicaraguamarker and the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) guerrillas in El Salvadormarker. In 1989, using false passports, the two traveled to Managuamarker, the capital of Nicaragua. They spent six months in Managua, supposedly, as translators for a Spanish newspaper.

Trial and aftermath

In 1990, the two were both sentenced to 28 years in prison for kidnapping. Both Lamont and Spencer professed that they were innocent victims and had no involvement in the kidnapping. Their plight became a cause célèbre in Canada and led to a strain in relations between Canada and Brazil. The couple were able to garner a lot of support from family, fellow Canadians, the news media and the Canadian government. Lamont's parents were very active in gaining support for the two and apparently spent thousands of dollars support trying to win their freedom .

While both Lamont and Spencer stated they were innocent, there were several inconsistencies with their story. First, trial transcripts show that the two had rented two houses in São Paulomarker using false passports and letters of reference. One of these houses was later used to house Diniz. Secondly, these transcripts state that Spencer had obtained the materials the cell later used to house Diniz. Finally, they also state that Spencer had actually participated in guarding the kidnap victim.

Lamont and Spencer continued to maintain their innocence, however, their story started to unravel four years later when a secret weapons cache in Managua exploded (the Sandinistas had lost power by this point). Among the material exposed by the explosion were documents that linked both Lamont and Spencer to the Diniz kidnapping. Faced with these revelations, Lamont admitted that they had been involved in the kidnapping.

Release

Lamont and Spencer continued to battle the Brazilian government in an effort to be deported back to Canada which often backfired as shown in 1998. In November of 1998 after a hunger strike by the pair, the Brazilian government accused them of violating "good behaviour" and refused to release them to Canadian authorities. The officials quickly reversed their decision and on November 21, 1998 they landed in Abbotsfordmarker, British Columbiamarker and were quickly whisked away to a local prison. Two years later the pair were granted full parole.

See also



References

  1. page 18 -



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