Human rights minister threatens resignation
Brazil’s Human Rights Minister Pablo Vanucchi threatened to resign Sunday if the military are successful in changing a bill creating a truth commission to review human rights violations that occurred during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-85).
In late December, Defense Minister Nelson Jobim and the three service commanders threatened to resign to protest legislation sent to Congress December 21 to investigate human rights abuses that heretofore have been protected from investigation by a 1979 amnesty law.
The truth commission legislation, said President Lula da Silva, was partly inspired by Chile’s example in dealing with the human rights legacy of its dictator, Gen. Augusto Pinochet (ST, Jan. 4).
The military demands that the commission also investigate abuses committed by leftist armed groups that resisted the military regime, among which groups were several members of da Silva’s cabinet and many of his close political associates.
“No way can you put torturers and tortured on the same level,” said Vanucchi in an interview with Folha de Sao Paulo. “One side acted illegally with the support of the State and the other was judged, imprisoned, disappeared and killed.”
He recalled that President da Silva - at the time a union leader - was imprisoned and sentenced to three years in jail for having organized strikes beginning 1978. Lula’s sentence was ultimately suspended.
Ministers Jobim and Vanucchi were scheduled to meet Monday with President da Silva who is returning to work after holidays in Bahía.
“President Lula da Silva is seeking to find a middle ground. But if it isn’t possible, I can’t remain in the cabinet,” said Vanucchi.
Brazil’s Supreme Court is currently reviewing the 1979 amnesty law following a Bar Association request to scrap the law as contradictory to international treaties signed by Brazil.
“This is no plan from the radical left,” added Vannucchi. “It’s an imperfect effort and maybe has some errors, but it is founded on basic democratic principles.”
Still, Vice President Jose Alencar among many others are against doing away with the amnesty law. “I think suppressed archives should be opened,” Alencar told the Jornal do Brasil. “But I’m against modifying the amnesty bill, which helped put an end to that period. I don’t want a country which ignores its memory, which is history. But building history does not mean throwing out the amnesty law.”
Brazil’s military dictatorship left more than 550 killed or disappeared and thousands tortured.
Another official who will also meet President da Silva on the issue is Minister of Agriculture Reinhold Stephanes, supported by the National Agriculture Confederation, CNA. Stephanes has said he believes the human rights bill will generate “legal uncertainty” by proposing open trials to solve land and rural conflicts.
CNA argues the proposed human rights bill is a “wink” signalling support for farm occupations by the MST, a political movement of landless peasants who take over allegedly unproductive farms.
“I’m not against agri-businesses, but we need to ensure that they don’t oppress, abuse or asphyxiate family agriculture and the small farmer,” said Human Rights Minister Vanucchi.
The Human Rights bill sent to Congress will also have to hear from two additional players: the media and the Catholic Church.
The project contemplates a close monitoring of the media and provides fines when “abuses of any kind are committed against human rights.” It also decriminalizes abortion and allows same-sex couples to have civil marriages and adopt children.
Hoping this gets through before Lula's time is up. Like the article says, it's kinda like what Bachelet is doing with the memory museum in Chile (which the right is equally butthurt over because it doesn't cover "pre-1973 left wing terrorism" i.e. something that was virtually non-existent).