From Thu Feb 3 07:15:08 2005
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2005 12:43:16 -0600 (CST)
Subject: [NYTr] Dictatorship Era Files Rankle Brazilians
Article: 203700
To: undisclosed-recipients: ;

Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit


Dictatorship Era Files Rankle Brazilians

By Michael Astor, Associated Press, 1 Feburary 2005

[Back in the good old days before we'd begun to hear of human rights, Washington welcomed and supported the Brazilian military's 1964 coup against the democratically elected government of Joao Goulart. Under Lula's government we are learning some of the secrets from those evil days. Lula's government isn't in any position at this stage to further rein in the power of Brazil's military, as we're able to see in this report. That doesn't mean that people in the country cannot or shouldn't press for disclosures of all the details, but it does show that there are limits to Lula's ability to maneuver in the situation he's in.

In a six-minute tape of Mr. Johnson being briefed by phone at his Texas ranch, the president is heard giving a top aide, Undersecretary of State George Ball, the authority to actively support the coup if U.S. backing is needed.

I think we ought to take every step that we can, be prepared to do everything that we need to do, he tells Mr. Ball on Mar. 31, 1964.

We just can't take this one, he says, apparently referring to Pres. Goulart, whose populist rhetoric and alleged association with leaders of the Brazilian Communist Party had fostered fears that South America's largest country could turn into a giant Cuba. -Walter Lippmann (cubanews)]

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP)—The reappearance of dictatorship-era documents relating to the treatment of political prisoners—papers that a top government official said were destroyed decades ago—has resurrected an issue many Brazilians would prefer to forget.

Twenty years after Brazil returned to civilian rule, the nation's attention again is drawn to the disappearance, torture and murder of political prisoners during a 1964-85 military dictatorship. Human rights groups have questioned the government's commitment to addressing the country's dark past and its degree of control over the military.

The spotlight is especially uncomfortable for the military, which has tried to block release of the documents. The armed forces invoked a broad 1979 amnesty exempting leftist guerrillas and the military from prosecution for any political crimes.

Many people feel that this goes back to a bargain: Hands off all of the areas we say you can't touch, including opening up the files. The military agreed to accept a civilian president after five military presidents if they would agree that some areas were not under civilian control, said David Fleischer, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia.

Human rights groups believe the files could reveal who was seized by the dictatorship forces, whether they were tortured, and what happened to them - perhaps allowing relatives to recover their remains.

Rights groups also believe the files could incriminate officials still in power.

There are documents that we didn't know about, with stories we didn't know about, and we've been researching this for 20 years, said Cecilia Coimbra, vice president of Torture Never Again, a group dedicated to documenting dictatorship-era abuses.

For years, the government has balked at releasing the documents, even after the military regime ended in 1985.

In 2002, then-President Fernando Henrique Cardoso—a leftist who fled into political exile during the dictatorship—signed a decree to keep the military intelligence files classified for 50 years.

A year later, the defense ministry claimed the army had destroyed documents relating to the insurgency against the military dictatorship.

All the documents were burned in accordance with the law, then-Defense Minister Jose Viegas said at the time. They were not destroyed in a clandestine manner. They were destroyed officially.

But that story began unraveling in October, when a photo was leaked to the press showing a naked man in a prison cell. Many believed the man was Vladimir Herzog, a political prisoner killed in 1975.

The photo appeared to be from the same files the government said were destroyed. The army initially denied the photo came from its archives but finally acknowledged that the files still existed.

Weeks later, Viegas resigned.

The photo also seemed to strain relations between the military and civilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a leftist union leader jailed during the dictatorship for leading an illegal labor strike.

The dossiers are the first official recognition that the victims were political prisoners and that their families may be entitled to compensation from the government. But the furor over the few documents released so far has raised fears that the others may never come to light.

I don't see any concrete effort on the part of the government to open these archives. What I see is a tendency to try to keep them closed, said Joao Luiz Pinaud, who resigned last year as head of the government's Special Commission on the Death and Disappearance of Political Prisoners, alleging a lack of cooperation from the government.

So far, the government has released only eight dossiers regarding political prisoners and is still deciding what to do with the rest. Coimbra estimated that about 450 people were killed by the military regimes.

Our worry is that the rest of the files will now be censored, she said.