Eduardo Gonzalez – New York Times, 12/02/2011
Brazil’s recent decision to examine the abuses of the military dictatorship from several decades ago could change the face of democracy at home, making it more genuine and transparent. At the same time it could have a wider impact, allowing Brazil to take a decisive stand on human rights regionally and internationally.
In a momentous step forward, President Dilma Rousseff has signed two laws: one on access to government information, and another establishing a national truth commission, modeled after similar experiences in Latin America.
Authorizing inquiries on government abuse breaks with a long-standing tradition of government secrecy and elite opacity. Even today, Brazil refuses to declassify archives related to 19th century foreign wars and internal repression. After the end of slavery in the 1890s, Brazil incinerated all governmental archives on the practice; whether to hinder compensation claims by slave owners or to hide a shaming period in history, it is impossible to know with certainty.