Brazil: Government Publishes Official Book of Atrocities Committed during Military Dictatorship

NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs, September 28, 2007 | Go to article overview

Brazil: Government Publishes Official Book of Atrocities Committed during Military Dictatorship


The government of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva formally presented a publication of more than 500 pages cataloging the atrocities and abuses committed during Brazil's 1964-1985 military dictatorship. The government published the book, Direito a Memoria e a Verdade (The Right to Memory and to Truth), on the anniversary of Brazil's amnesty law passed in 1979. It accuses officials of rape, torture, executing prisoners, and concealing victims' bodies. President Lula said that his government would also open still-unreleased archives from the days of the dictatorship to the public, denying that the military would resist such a move.

First publication of its kind

It was the first time Brazil has published an official document detailing atrocities said to have been committed during the military dictatorship. The book was launched at a ceremony attended by Lula, who was briefly imprisoned under the dictatorship.

After 11 years of work, the official publication is meant to record what the special commission set up to investigate political deaths and disappearances--the Comissao Especial de Mortos e Desaparecidos Politicos--considers to be the historical truth about the dark period in Brazil's recent history.

More than 400 people are believed to have been killed under the military rule, while more than 160 others are thought to have disappeared, although this was far fewer than in neighboring countries such as Chile and Argentina. The book analyzed 479 cases of alleged abuse, among them political murder, sexual torture, and forced disappearances. Federal agents are also alleged to have decapitated people.

The book notes that opponents of the regime resorted to bank robberies, kidnapping foreign diplomats, and attacks on military bases, which it says produced countless victims.

Paulo Vannuchi, Brazil's special secretary for human rights, speaking at the launch of the book, told the BBC he would not use the word "crime" to describe the deaths of agents working for the dictatorship--a view that is likely to cause anger in military circles. No military representatives were present at the Aug. 29 ceremony.

Vannuchi was a member of a militant group that fought against the regime and was imprisoned for five years, during which he was tortured.

In 1995, Brazil passed a law acknowledging the government was responsible for deaths under the dictatorship and compensation was paid to more than 300 families.

However, the bodies of some of those who disappeared have not been recovered and the book calls on the government to allow evidence to be taken from members of the police and military who might be able to locate those missing remains. Victims of the dictatorship say because of this the official publication only represents modest progress, while the authors say they hope it will advance the sacred right of families to bury their loved ones.

Since its formation, the commission has looked at 339 cases of abuse and authorized indemnifications that have ranged from 100,000 reais to 152,500 reais (between US$54,000 and US$83,000).

An amnesty law, passed as the dictatorship was drawing to a close, pardoned all those said to have been involved in crimes committed under the regime, as well as those who fought against it.

Folha de Sao Paulo columnist Eliane Cantanhede reported that military officials felt the publication provided no new information about the dictatorship years and found Lula's support for the book "incomprehensible." Lula says government will open records

At the Aug. 29 ceremony, Lula indicated that the government sought to open archives from the dictatorship period. …

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