A ‘personal agenda’ denunciation letter

The above denunciation letter was sent to the director of the PIDE delegation in Porto on 28 July 1962. The letter is signed but, on demand of the archivists of the ANTT, I have had to anonymise it before making it public. In it, the author denounces a taxi telephone operator for allegedly being ‘against the situation’ (i.e. opposed to the regime). The author provides precise information in order to facilitate the work of the PIDE in identifying the suspect.

The PIDE was extremely responsive to spontaneous denunciations, and promptly dispatched an agent to identify the suspect and sound out his political opinions. In this case, it found no evidence that the suspect had taken a stance ‘against the situation’. This would suggest that the letter was written in the pursuit of a personal agenda (for example, to inflict some form of retribution in a personal dispute). Although most personal agenda letters tended to be anonymous, some of the authors signed under a false identity in order to lend their denunciation greater verisimilitude, as was perhaps the case here.

In many of the cases of personal agenda letters, it is possible from the investigation carried out by the PIDE to figure out the nature of the personal motive behind the denunciation, and why a certain individual was targeted for denunciation. This is not the case here, however. It is also possible, of course, that the PIDE agent dispatched to investigate the case simply failed to uncover the evidence against the suspect. At this stage in my research, this particular case thus remains open to various interpretations. The ‘personal agenda’ thesis remains the most likely one, however, if only because PIDE agents were usually efficient in detecting any signs of political deviance among the denounced when these existed. Ultimately, whatever the motive behind the denunciation, it allowed the PIDE to demonstrate its presence on the ground, feeding popular belief in its panoptic capacities and contributing to the New State’s ‘capillary operation of power’.

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