Brazil Grapples With its Violent History
I just realized that i’ve never written anything about Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff …
Here’s an interesting article Via Global Post that talks a bit about her surprising past. In her youth, Rousseff was an active opponent of the country’s former dictatorship and was even brutally tortured for her views (if you are surprised to read that Brazil was not long ago under the power of a Machiavellian military dictatorship, then you should definitely read this whole article). Also, Rousseff’s attitude about this whole thing is surprising, if not a bit worrisome….although, who would really want to re-hash their having been tortured for 22 days? But still….
I think this situation really exemplifies what is in my opinion a general apathy and willingness to ignore and simply move on from the horrors committed by Brazilian politicians (or in this case, dictators). The fact that Brazil is only Latin American country to NOT hold a fact-finding “Truth Commission” to clarify responsibility for political torture committed during the military rule of 1964-1985 does not surprise me at all. The Brazilian government has entertained a long history of avoiding searches for criminal accountability, why should they want to start now?
Here’s the article…
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — When President Dilma Rousseff, a former urban guerrilla tortured for 22 straight days with electric shocks under Brazil’s military dictatorship, took office in January she was ambivalent about her past as a young activist: “I don’t have any regrets, nor any resentment or rancor,” she said.
Rousseff has since done little for those looking for justice for crimes under the dictatorship. For one, her new government has waffled on whether it supports allowing archival documents to be declassified as confidential in a proposed access-to-information law.
Unlike many of its Latin American neighbors, Brazil has yet to hold a fact-finding “Truth Commission” to clarify responsibility for crimes committed during the military rule of 1964-1985. It also has not reversed an amnesty law that shields torturers from prosecution. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the amnesty illegal in December.
But a recent granting of first-of-its-kind access to Brazil’s National Archives may be a quiet indication that the direction is changing.
The Justice Ministry announced last week that it would grant 12 researchers “unrestricted” access to the documents in the National Archive “that make viable the identification of public agents who ordered or had been authors of acts injurious to human rights.”
Researchers in the past have complained of what they see as arbitrary denial of access to dictatorship-era documents based on a capricious interpretation of protecting the privacy of individuals. Around Rousseff’s October election, historians reported being bluntly denied military-era records because journalists had also asked for them and the archives wanted to “preserve the electoral process from the harm they could do with the information.”
At the heart of the issue is Brazil’s unresolved record with its own history of state-sponsored violence, even as it tries to become a new global voice on human rights issues abroad.
“There has been a huge delay. Every country in Latin America has had a truth commission except Brazil,” Manuela Lavinas Picq, a professor of political science at Amherst College who lived in exile during the Brazilian military dictatorship, said at a March conference . “In the rest of Latin America the truth commissions came in a context of transition. In the ‘80s away from dictatorship, also in the ‘90s away from civil war.”
And Here’s another really interesting article written by Nikolas Kozloff from Huffpost… It’s basically talking about how wikileaks documents show us how Brazil has aggressively pursued narrow-minded self interest in order to further Machiavellian geopolitical and economic goals….
Although, I think that the author goes a little overboard here…the Brazilian countryside generally isn’t as “violent, anarchic and backward” as his terrifying description claims…but I know he’s just trying to add some drama to his thesis, and it’s still an informative article…plus I definitely agree that the Brazilian government has a long way to go, (as is true for any government)
WikiLeaks: More Evidence of Brazil’s Rise on World Stage
Even as Brazil seeks to hype its PR image to the outside world, the countryside remains violent, anarchic and backward. In 2004, for example, scores of diamond prospectors were killed by members of a local indigenous tribe in the Brazilian jungle. The circumstances surrounding the massacre were unclear, however, with the Indians claiming they were simply defending their lands against illegal miners. The police on the other hand countered that indigenous leaders were involved in diamond trafficking and wanted to display a show of force “against those who failed to give them their share.”
The anarchic situation in the countryside was compounded by the Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva government, which had “been slow to take the initiative on indigenous issues.” On the campaign trail in 2002, Lula had spoken about the need to demarcate and register Indian lands promptly. However, Indian leaders later soured on the president, expressing disappointment to U.S. officials that Lula had not paid enough attention to their issues. Fundamentally, they reported, Lula was too beholden to powerful provincial politicians tied to major landowners.
When I visited Brazil this past year, officials were quick to tout the country’s stable and efficient political institutions. Yet, WikiLeaks documents paint a different picture and suggest that the Brazilian government has a long way to go. Take, for example, Brazil’s National Indian Foundation or FUNAI which is hardly up to the task of bringing order to the countryside. Publicly, FUNAI has admitted that there are problems with the land demarcation process but claims that underfunding, understaffing, corruption and internal conflicts make it difficult to carry out claims.