Brazil: tortured dissidents appalled by Bolsonaro’s praise for dictatorship

Thousands were brutalized and hundreds killed during Brazils 21-year military rule a period lauded by the current president

After they were arrested by military policemen in 1977 for leaving leftwing pamphlets outside a Brazilian factory near So Paulo, Mrcia Paes and Celso Brambilla were tortured for 10 days straight.


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Where are the weapons? their captors repeatedly asked them, as they attempted to link them to leftist guerrilla groups who had taken up arms against Brazils military rulers.

They were subjected to beatings, death threats and rounds of Russian roulette; hogtied and slung from a metal bar lashed behind their knees, and strapped to a metal chair that delivered electric shocks. Cockroaches were forced into Paess mouth.

Both were appalled this week when Brazils current president, Jair Bolsonaro, ordered the countrys armed forces to commemorate the anniversary of the 1964 coup which brought the military to power. In the past, Bolsonaro has defended torture and praised a notorious, dictatorship-era torturer.

The situation is depressing, said Paes. Now we have a president who doesnt just commemorate this coup but praises torturers.

Bolsonaros move was widely condemned including by the prosecutor generals office and he attempted to softened his tone, while continuing to insist there had been no coup, nor a policy of repression under the military governments that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985.

A truth commission set up by then president Dilma Rousseff herself a former guerrilla and torture victim found that torture was widespread and that 434 people were executed or disappeared under the dictatorship.

Bolsonaro and supporters argue that the military regime saved Brazil from a communist takeover an argument rubbished by historians who say the handful of armed leftist groups had no serious hope of seizing power.

On Thursday, Brazilian soldiers commemorated the 1964 military coup. Photograph: Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images


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And the Workers League to which Paes and Brambilla belonged to had no links to the armed opposition, concentrating instead of agitating for elections and pay rises.

We were against the armed struggle, and against the dictatorship, Paes said.

That wasnt enough to save them from torture. Paes, who was pregnant when she was arrested, suffered a miscarriage while she was in detention. Brambilla, 68, was left virtually deaf by the beatings.

Torture is such a degrading thing, said Paes, now 63. The idea is to reduce you to a subhuman level.

The pair were released after three months, but their torturers have never faced justice; an amnesty law introduced in 1979 meant nobody was prosecuted.

As Brazil has swung to the right in recent years, conservatives and Bolsonaro supporters increasingly argue that its military rulers oversaw a period of stability and growth, when good people could safely walk the streets at night and only terrorists and bandits were punished.

On Thursday, military officers held a lunch commemorating the 1964 revolution, as they termed it, at Rio de Janeiros Military Club. Its officials often act as a mouthpiece for serving military officers not allowed to give interviews.

The clubs president, retired general Eduardo Barbosa, said congress had installed the military regime under popular demand to save the country from becoming a communist dictatorship. He said Brazil had better health, education and security under the military and argued that a steady deterioration since democracy returned had led the country to almost a situation of anarchy.

Quick guide

Brazil’s dictatorship

How did it began?

Brazils leftist president, Joo Goulart, was toppled in a coup in April 1964. General Humberto Castelo Branco became leader, political parties were banned, and the country was plunged into 21 years of military rule.

The repression intensified under Castelo Brancos hard-line successor, Artur da Costa e Silva, who took power in 1967. He was responsible for a notorious decree called AI-5 that gave him wide ranging dictatorial powers and kicked off the so-called anos de chumbo (years of lead), a bleak period of tyranny and violence which would last until 1974.

What happened during the dictatorship?

Supporters of Brazils 1964-1985 military regime – including Jair Bolsonaro – credit it with bringing security and stability to the South American country and masterminding a decade-long economic miracle.


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It also pushed ahead with several pharaonic infrastructure projects including the still unfinished Trans-Amazonian highway and the 8-mile bridge across Rios Guanabara bay.

But the regime, while less notoriously violent than those in Argentina and Chile, was also responsible for murdering or killing hundreds of its opponents and imprisoning thousands more. Among those jailed and tortured were Brazils first female president, Dilma Rousseff, then a left-wing rebel.

It was also a period of severe censorship. Some of Brazils best-loved musicians – including Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque and Caetano Veloso – went into exile in Europe, writing songs about their enforced departures.

How did it end?

Political exiles began returning to Brazil in 1979 after an amnesty law was passed that began to pave the way for the return of democracy.

But the pro-democracy Diretas J (Direct elections now!) movement only hit its stride in 1984 with a series of vast and historic street rallies in cities such as Rio de Janeiro, So Paulo and Belo Horizonte.

Civilian rule returned the following year and a new constitution was introduced in 1988. The following year Brazil held its first direct presidential election in nearly three decades.

Congress did depose the president and elected Marshall Alencar Castelo Branco, the only candidate, as president but only after the army had marched on Rio and Braslia, and 41 leftist lawmakers were stripped of their political rights.

Brazils media supported the coup and a million people demonstrated in Rio in its favour, but polls from the time show that deposed president Joo Goulart enjoyed majority support in five of eight major Brazilian cities.

Barbosa denied torture was systematic under the military government.

Some interrogation techniques were maybe a little exaggerated, but these were exceptions, he said, criticising the Truth Commission for not investigating kidnaps, bombings, bank robberies and killings carried out by armed leftist groups. The other side also committed atrocities.

In 2014, the Military Club published the names of 126 Brazilians, including soldiers and police, it said were killed by irrational terror in the 1960s and 1970s and ignored by the Truth Commission.

But writer Marcelo Paiva said the idea of a communist menace was a myth created by those behind the coup to justify it. There was no threat, this is an enormous lie, he said.

His father, leftist congressman Rubens Paiva, lost his political rights in 1964 and went into exile, but returned the following year.

In 1971, police arrested Paiva, his wife Eunice and daughter Eliana, who was 15. Eliana was released the next day, while Eunice spent 12 days in a dark cell. In 2014, the National Truth Commission concluded Rubens Paiva had been tortured to death because he had been receiving documents and letters from leftist organisations.

My father never come back, Marcelo Paiva said, who was 11 at the time. They killed him.


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Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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