Brazilian Minister of Human Rights Pablo Vanucchi threatened to resign on Sunday if the military are successful in reviewing the bill creating a Truth Commission on the Brazilian dictatorship (1964/1985) which caused internal turmoil in the administration of President Lula da Silva.
“I’m a removable fuse. My resignation would not be a problem for Brazil or the Republic”, said Vanucchi in a Sunday interview with Folha de Sao Paulo.
Vanucchi is at the heart of a dispute between different interests in government for having drafted the Human Rights Program presented to Congress last December 21st by President Lula da Silva.
Defence Minister Nelson Jobim and the three services commanders threatened to resign in protest for the naming of a commission to investigate human rights abuses committed by the military dictatorship, which have never been addressed under the protection of an Amnesty Law dating back to 1979 under military rule.
The military are demanding that the commission also investigate abuses committed by the leftist armed groups that resisted the regime and which includes several members of Lula da Silva’s cabinet and close political associates.
“No way can you put torturers and tortured on the same level. One side acted illegally with the support of the State and the other was judged, imprisoned, disappeared and killed”, said Vanucchi in the interview.
He recalled that President Lula da Silva at the time a union leader was imprisoned and sentenced to three years in jail for having organized strikes beginning 1978, although the sentence was finally suspended.
Ministers Jobim and Vanucchi are scheduled to meet Monday with President Lula da Silva who is retaking business after returning from holidays in Bahía.
“President Lula da Silva is a constructor of the middle road. But if it is not possible, I can’t remain in the cabinet”, said Vanucchi.
The Amnesty Bill is currently under consideration of the Brazilian Supreme Court with a request for its derogation from the Solicitors Association.
“This is no plan from the radical left. It’s a construction with imperfections and even errors, but it is founded on basic democratic principles”, added Vannucchi.
However Vice-president Jose Alencar said he was against ruling out the (1979) amnesty law which impeded opening documents and possible legal actions against repressors from the military regime that left 400 disappeared and thousands tortured.
“I think the archives should be opened, as currently. But I’m against modifying the amnesty bill which helped put an end to that period”, said Alencar quoted by Jornal do Brasil.
“I don’t want a country which ignores memory, which is history, but building history does not mean throwing out the amnesty bill”, he added.
Another official who will also meet Lula da Silva on the issue is Minister of Agriculture Reinhold Stephanes supported by the National Agriculture Confederation, CNA.
Stephanes said the human rights bill will generate “legal uncertainty” by proposing open trials to solve land and camp conflicts.
CNA argues the human rights program is a “wink” for farm occupations by the Landless Movement, MST which is a strong political force of peasants roaming the Brazilian countryside taking over land allegedly “unproductive”.
“I’m not against the agri-business but we need to ensure that they don’t oppress, abuse or asphyxiate family agriculture and the small farmer”, said Vanucchi.
The Human Rights program sent to Congress has opened two additional flanks: the media and the Catholic Church that will also be wanting to the heard.
The project contemplates a close monitoring of the media and administrative fines when “abuses of any kind are committed against human rights” and also includes de-criminalizing abortion, civil marriage of the same sex and child adoptions by couples of the same sex. Busy weeks await Lula da Silva.
Plus BBC article.
Brazil truth commission arouses military opposition
A package of reforms put forward by the Brazilian government to improve human rights is causing growing controversy. A proposed truth commission to investigate torture during military rule is said to have so angered forces chiefs that they threatened to resign.
Parts of the Catholic Church have opposed moves thought sympathetic to abortion and gay civil unions.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is to consider how to deal with the row when he returns to work this week.
'Sense of one-sidedness'
The National Human Rights Plan first provoked a row when it was revealed that it proposed setting up a truth commission to investigate torture and killings carried out during the 21 years the military was in control, from 1964 to 1985.
Although the number of victims in Brazil was far smaller than under military rule in neighbouring Argentina and Chile, hundreds of people died and thousands were tortured or forced into exile.
In the period before democracy was restored an amnesty law was passed, in effect granting immunity to state officials involved in torture as well as those in the opposition who had resorted to violence.
Military chiefs believe the truth commission is an attempt to get round the amnesty law, while supporters argue it is simply designed to secure justice for the families of those who died and disappeared.
President Lula reportedly had to head off possible resignations by his defence minister and senior military figures, including the heads of the navy, air force and army, by promising to review the matter.
Brazil's former President, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, told the BBC the government had not presented the proposal well.
"The way the situation has been presented was in the sense that all the crimes that had been exercised by those in power in the past would be judged, not the crimes that also the other side eventually could have responsibility for," he said.
"So this gave a sense of one-sidedness, and this produced unrest in the armed forces."
"I don't think it was necessary to produce this unrest. I don't understand why, since a text had been approved by both sides before, why at the last minute a change was introduced to turn the text so one-sided," he added in the BBC interview.
"I think they are creating an unnecessary political issue - and with this an obstacle to what is important, which is to know the truth about the past."
The issue is a delicate one for President Lula, who was himself briefly imprisoned as a union leader under military rule, while prominent members of his Workers Party were involved in the resistance.
Some military figures are suggesting the commission could look both at the actions of the country's then military rulers and those who used violence to oppose them, but the minister behind the proposal says he would resign if that approach was adopted.
With sections of the Catholic Church, the media and his own agriculture minister antagonised by other aspects of the human rights plan, the president will have a challenge to find a solution that is acceptable to all sides.
There's a LOT at stake here. Too many debates going on at once (military past, freedom of the press, rural violence, gay rights...), I'm not sure happy endings can be reached that way but I hope most of the themes are dealt with. I confess I'm laughing at a bunch of ministers threatening to resign (ahhh, there's gonna be ministerial reform because of the elections anyway, time to lose Jobim, Lula!!!). And LOL at BBC interviewing FHC.