Brazil’s Lula da Silva seeks to follow example set by Chile’s Bachelet
President Lula da Silva’s advocacy of a truth commission to investigate human rights crimes committed by Brazil’s military government (1964 to 1985) was strongly opposed the last week of December by the nation’s military leaders.
Brazil Defense Minister Nelson Jobim and commanders of three military services offered their resignations December 23 rather than accept creation of the commission.
Brazilian officials announced plans to create the commission late last year, noting that Chile and its President Michelle Bachelet had set an example for other South American nations to follow (ST, Dec. 16).
Quoting a speech made by Bachlet, Brazil’s human rights leaders said: “We don’t want more bleeding from old wounds; we want them to heal, and only injuries thoroughly cleaned can heal.”
Both Bachelet and da Silva were tortured during the U.S.-backed military regimes that ruled each country in the 1970s and 1980s, a time when CIA-approved military juntas ruled in most South American countries.
Chile, Argentina and Uruguay subsequently created truth commissions to investigate human rights abuses during that era, notwithstanding amnesty laws propagated by the military regimes. Bachelet, as president, supported creation of Chile’s Historic Memory Museum and will sit on the museum’s board of directors after stepping down as Chile’s president in March 2010.
Creation of National Commission on the Truth is part of Brazil’s National Human Rights Program, launched by President Lula da Silva to help identify those responsible for the alleged torturing of 20.000 people and the killing of 400 political opponents during the 19-year military dictatorship.
The text of the bill was drafted by Human Rights Minister Paulo Vannuchi, who said the purpose was “to rescue information of all that happened during the long period of dictatorial repression in recent Brazilian history.”
Vannuchi said there is a possibility that human rights violators could be tried if the nation’s Supreme Court accepts the administration’s argument that international law and treaties (passed by Brazil’s Congress during civilian rule) trump the 1979 Amnesty Law approved by the military regime’s last ruler, Gen. Joao Figueiredo.
The human rights agenda endorsed by President da Silva includes a reference to the possibility of annulling “legislation remaining from the 1964/1985 period which is contrary to human rights guarantees.”
Brazil’s military in late December termed da Silva’s human rights agenda “revengeful” since it does not include investigations of the left-wing armed groups that also committed human rights abuses against members of the military.
“If they want to see generals and colonels in the dock, let’s also include Dilma (Rousseff) and Franklin Martins,” said a retired general quoted by newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo.
Martins is head of the presidential press office and Ms. Rousseff ia Lula’s cabinet chief and his chosen hopeful to succeed him as presidential candidate for October’s election. Both allegedly belonged to armed left-wing groups under the military dictatorship.
Brazilian press report that when President da Silva rejected the resignations of Minister Jobim and the commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, he promised a “political” solution to the dispute and assured the Defense minister that his administration would not be the “spokesperson of measures that revoke the 1979 Amnesty Law.”
The President’s promise helped to cool tempers, but did not placate top military brass. “That’s how Lula acts: he pushes the issue and kicks the crisis forward but we never manage to be freed from this menacing atmosphere,” said a military quoted by the press.
Lula de Silva’s presidential office did not comment on reports of a possible military crisis, but Human Rights Minister Vannuchi admitted that he had “discrepancies” with the Defense Minister.
“I was with President Lula da Silva on December 23rd and he didn’t say anything about the issue,” said Vannuchi, who downplayed talk of military unrest. “It like talking about thunder in a clear sunny day; it sounds as a storm in a glass of water,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brazil’s human rights groups said they were unhappy with Lula da Silva’s handling of the issue and urged a more clear policy that would allow for trials of former military leaders, as has occurred in neighboring Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. The victims' groups insist the truth commission must have the power to investigate crimes, including the hiding or destroying of archives, to recommend criminal cases against suspects, and to send documents to courts. They urge that the proposed commission be called the Truth and Justice Commission rather than the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Brazil has never convicted anyone for participating in dictatorship-era murders and torture, and has refused to make military archives from the period public.
Likewise, U.S. courts have never entertained lawsuits dealing with U.S. support of human rights abuses carried out by Southern Cone military regimes during the final years of the U.S./Soviet Cold War.
ffffffffffffffuuuu. The military needs to quit protecting their own. And the whole "but the left wing ~terrorists~ did it too!" excuse is such a BS one, because no one fucking deserves to be murdered/tortured/disappeared, terrorist or not. And under the military regimes (Brazil, Chile, Argentina, etc), the "terrorist" label usually went far beyond people who actively participated in actual terrorist groups, and included people who's only "crime" was to be left-wing/have left wing thoughts. Lula bb, don't fail me now :(