The Economist (print edition) – 12/13/2014
For a country whose recent presidents all suffered at the hands of the military regime that ruled from 1964 to 1985, Brazil has been awfully slow to probe that dark chapter of its history. Dilma Rousseff, the incumbent, was tortured. Her two immediate predecessors, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, were respectively jailed and forced into exile. On December 10th, after nearly three years of sleuthing, the National Truth Commission presented its report into human-rights abuses committed from 1946 to 1988, with special attention to the dictatorship years. “Brazil deserves the truth,” said Ms Rousseff, who cried upon receiving the report.
The 4,400-page publication stands out among similar efforts in other countries. It names 377 individuals as responsible for 434 political murders and disappearances. They include all eight military presidents and the top brass, as well as minions who carried out their orders. Their crimes were deliberate acts of policy, not occasional excesses, the report makes clear.
Most culprits are either dead or in their dotage. Under an amnesty law enacted in 1979 (to benefit exiled dissidents) few will face trial. The commission hopes its report will prompt a rethink of the amnesty, which falls foul of human-rights treaties. But for now, symbolism must suffice. While no substitute for justice, admits José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch, a New York-based lobby group, “it is a start”.
Peter Kornbluh – The National Security Archives, 7/3/2014
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ninja Midia.
The Brazilian military regime employed a “sophisticated and elaborate psychophysical duress system” to “intimidate and terrify” suspected leftist militants in the early 1970s, according to a State Department report dated in April 1973 and made public yesterday. Among the torture techniques used during the military era, the report detailed “special effects” rooms at Brazilian military detention centers in which suspects would be “placed nude” on a metal floor “through which electric current is pulsated.” Some suspects were “eliminated” but the press was told they died in “shoot outs” while trying to escape police custody. “The shoot-out technique is being used increasingly,” the cable sent by the U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro noted, “in order to deal with the public relations aspect of eliminating subversives,” and to “obviate ‘death-by-torture’ charges in the international press.”
Because of the document’s unredacted precision, it is one of the most detailed reports on torture techniques ever declassified by the U.S. government.
Titled “Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives,” it was among 43 State Department cables and reports that Vice President Joseph Biden turned over to President Dilma Rousseff during his trip to Brazil for the World Cup competition on June 17, for use by the Brazilian National Truth Commission (CNV). The Commission is in the final phase of a two-year investigation of human rights atrocities during the military dictatorship which lasted from 1964 to 1985. On July 2, 2014, the Commission posted all 43 documents on its website. “The CNV greatly appreciates the initiative of the U.S. government to make these records available to Brazilian society and hopes that this collaboration will continue to progress,” reads a statement on the Commission’s website.
Joe Leahy – The Financial Times, 4/20/2014
This month, Brazil marks a particularly grim moment in its history. Fifty years ago, the country’s military took power in a coup that ushered in two decades of brutal dictatorship.
President Dilma Rousseff, who as a young leftist guerrilla fighting the generals was jailed and tortured, marked the occasion with a speech at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão airport earlier this month.
Shedding a quiet tear, she cited a song by the bossa nova artist Tom Jobim, “Samba do Avião”, that recalls the emotions of a Brazilian landing in Rio, saying the lyrics were about exiles returning home with the end of the military regime.
Vincent Bevins – The Los Angeles Times, 4/2/2014
Brazil’s military has agreed to open investigations of use torture at bases it operated during two decades of dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
The announcement Tuesday, the 50th anniversary of the coup that toppled a democratically elected government, marked the first time the country’s armed forces have pledged to cooperate in examining human rights crimes for which no one has ever been tried. An amnesty law was passed by the military government in 1979.
The military government is accused of killing and “disappearing” more than 450 people and torturing and exiling thousands. The military on Tuesday finally accepted a request from the country’s Truth Commission, a public, non-military organ investigating abuses in the period, five decades after the day President Joao Goulart was deposed.
The Economist, 4/3/2014
“FIFTY shades of pink” is how Luiz Felipe d’Avila of the Centre for Public Leadership, a think-tank, describes Brazil’s political spectrum. In fact, the country has just 32 registered parties. But Mr d’Avila is correct when it comes to tinge: 26 have names that are Pythonesque combinations of words like “social”, “democrat” and “workers”. “Even those who are not on the left do not call themselves the right,” says Jairo Nicolau, a psephologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
The aversion to anything that is labelled “right-wing” is a legacy of the country’s military dictatorship, which took power in a coup 50 years ago this week and only gave it up again in 1985. That is understandable, if not entirely fair. The military regime followed a set of policies—support for national champions, tolerance of cartels, trade protection, redistributive cash-transfer programmes and just a dash of macroeconomic orthodoxy to keep the markets sweet—that would not be out of place in left-leaning France.
For all their “progressive sugar-coating”, says Roberto Unger of Harvard University, parties in Brazil today more or less hew to this model. In that respect, he remarks, you could call them “conservative”.
Kersten Knipp & Marina Estarque – Deutsche Welle, 3/30/2014
Her father was worried. For days, there was no word from his daughter, even though she was usually very reliable when it came to staying in touch with her parents. But the father’s concerns grew, and in the end his worst fears were confirmed: His daughter had been kidnapped and presumably killed – on the orders of the military, which ruled the country.
In 2011, Brazilian writer Bernardo Kucinski published his novel “K.” In it, he writes about the trauma many Brazilians suffered during the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985: the unexplained loss of one or even more relatives. Around 160,000 Brazilians “disappeared” during the dictatorship. A total of 486 people are known to have been murdered. About 100,000 people were jailed for political reasons, and at least 50,000 were tortured.
Ricardo Balthazar – Folha de S. Paulo, 3/25/2014
In 1964, former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who governed Brazil from 1995 to 2002, was a young sociologist trying to understand the environment of political radicalization that led to the fall of João Goulart. Following the coup, he knew that the police were looking for him and he went into exile.
Cardoso returned to Brazil in 1968. With political rights suspended by the military, he created a research center with other intellectuals persecuted by the dictatorship and went into the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), the only opposition party allowed to run up to 1980.
Three decades since the military returned to their barracks, he thinks the country still has a less than perfect democracy and sees the difficulties that President Dilma Rousseff goes through to be understood by Congress as a reflection of the problems faced by Jango (Goulart) in his time.