Brazil


Brazil
(1964–1985)
   On 31 March and 1 April 1964 the military overthrew the left-wing government of President João Goulart, imposing an authoritarian state. A succession of military governments, beginning with that of Humberto de Alencar Castello Branco (1964–1967), persecuted individuals and organizations considered a threat to national security. Targeted for persecution were leftists, members of the military sympathetic to Goulart, trade unionists, students, politicians, journalists, religious workers, and anyone else thought “subversive.” Thousands were abducted by the military and tortured in clandestine prisons called aparelhos (Portuguese for “apparatuses,” or “devices”). At least 485 died in military custody. Some of these deaths the military covered up, reporting them as accidents or suicide; others were never accounted for, the victims joining the number of desaparecidos (missing). Repression even reached Brazilians who had gone into exile. As neighboring countries fell to dictatorship—Bolivia in 1971, Uruguay and Chile in 1973, and Argentina in 1976—Brazilians living there were subject to torture by either Brazilian or local agents. This network of cooperation among South American dictatorships, including that of Paraguay, was formalized in 1975 under the name Operation Condor.
   In March 1979, with the inauguration of General João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo as president, the country began a lengthy transition to civilian rule. Although repression did not end, it eased enough for the Catholic Archdiocese of São Paulo to start a project called Brasil: Nunca Mais (BNM, Brazil: Never Again). BNM was financed by the World Council of Churches, an ecumenical organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, and was carried out in secret. Project members photocopied more than a million trial-related documents from the archive of the Supreme Military Court. The documents established that the military routinely used torture to extract confessions. In 1985, after the return to civilian rule, the archdiocese published a summary of the documents in a book titled Brasil: Nunca mais, which quickly appeared on the country’s best-seller list, where it remained for almost two years. An English-language edition was published in 1986 under the title Torture in Brazil. Unlike similar publications that appeared in other Condor countries after the end of military rule, Brasil: Nunca mais was unique in that it established human-rights abuse using testimony contained in the military’s own documents.
   BACKGROUND TO THE “DIRTY WAR”:
   In 1930, during an economic crisis, Getúlio Vargas came to power in a revolution, replacing a loose confederation of states with a strong central government. A new constitution, ratified in 1934 by a constituent assembly, contained many provisions that were nationalist, calling for the government takeover of mines and mineral resources, the establishment of a minimum wage, and the establishment of free primary education. On 15 July 1934 the assembly elected Vargas president for a four-year term. Although he was elected indirectly, the constitution called for future presidents to be elected directly by the people. The move toward democracy, however, would be halted by a military coup.
   The 1930s in Brazil saw much ideological conflict. The Wall Street crash of 1929 and the ensuing world depression had shaken faith in capitalism and, by association, democracy. Brazilians turned instead to groups offering authoritarian solutions. In the early 1930s, Luís Carlos Prestes became head of the Partido Comunista Brasileiro (PCB, Brazilian Communist Party). Meanwhile, in October 1932 Plínio Salgado, a right-wing intellectual, had founded the Ação Integralista Brasileira (AIB, Brazilian Integralist Movement), a fascist organization. In 1934 and 1935 leftists and the AIB clashed violently, prompting the government, in early 1935, to enact a national-security law that banned subversive organizations. Nevertheless, in March 1935 leftists formed the Aliança Nacional Libertadora (ANL, National Liberation Alliance), naming Prestes as its president. By July the ANL’s membership was between 70,000 and 100,000. Repressed by the government, the ANL was banned on 11 July 1935, and many of its members were jailed. The PCB then planned an uprising to topple the Vargas government, drawing on support within the lower ranks of the military. In November three barracks revolted. The PCB had the support of Soviet agents from the Comintern office in Montevideo and acted in the hope that the masses would rise up. Instead, the revolts were quashed by loyalist troops, a state of emergency was declared, and thousands were jailed—including many who were linked to the ANL or to the left but had no role in the uprising. Prestes was arrested in 1936, as were several Soviet agents, some of whom were tortured to death.
   The threat of international communism provided a rationale for backing away from the plan to hold elections. On 10 November 1937 Vargas and his military commanders staged an autogolpe, or “self-coup,” establishing a dictatorship called the Estado Novo (New State). Named after Jose de Oliveira Salazar’s fascist regime in Portugal, it was welcomed by both Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany, from which it took its basic principles of authoritarianism and nationalism. It was also welcomed by many of Brazil’s elite, who saw it as a way to modernize and industrialize the country without communist interference. An important question was whether Brazil could best achieve its goals through increased commerce with Germany or with the United States. The question became critical in 1941, when the United States entered World War II. Although his military commanders tended to side with the Axis, Vargas aligned the country with the United States in return for economic and military aid. In August 1942 Brazil entered the war on the side of the Allies. Between 30 June 1944 and 2 May 1945, more than 20,000 Brazilian soldiers fought in Italy.
   After Brazil entered the war, Vargas’s opponents were quick to point out a contradiction—that a dictatorship modeled after fascism was fighting in support of democracy. Expecting that the war’s end would bring elections, both Vargas and the opposition formed political parties. In 1945, three major ones appeared: the União Democrática Nacional (UDN, National Democratic Union), the Partido Social Democrático (PSD, Social Democratic Party), and the Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (PTB, Brazilian Labor Party). The UDN was anti-Estado Novo and conservative, favoring free trade; the PSD, centrist; and the PTB, leftist. Both the PSD and the PTB were influenced by Vargas, who, lacking support from his top military commanders, reached out to labor, the left, and the middle class. In April 1945 Brazil began diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. Prestes was then released from prison, and the PCB decided to support Vargas, following Moscow’s lead to support any government that was fighting fascism. In mid-1945, labor and the left mounted a “We want Getúlio” campaign, troubling the military, which feared that Vargas was becoming a populist like Argentina’s Juan Perón. In October 1945 the military ousted Vargas in a bloodless coup. In December 1945 the military allowed elections. The two main presidential candidates were the UDN’s Eduardo Gomes and the PSD’s Eurico Dutra, both generals. Dutra, who had received a lastminute endorsement from Vargas, won by a 20 percent margin.
   Although Dutra had been pro-Axis during the Estado Novo, he had since become pro–United States. At first, his economic policy was conservative—he favored free trade and removed any restrictions left over from the Estado Novo. But the economy suffered, and by mid- 1947 he changed course, pursuing a policy that favored essential imports over consumer ones, a policy that benefited Brazilian industry and increased the GDP. At the same time, he repressed trade unions, and workers saw a decrease in their real wages. Dissatisfaction with Dutra led to early campaigning for the presidential election, whose main candidates were Vargas and Gomes. Vargas ran on a nationalist platform, promising to strengthen industry and raise workers’ wages; Gomes vowed to abolish the minimum wage. Vargas won the election of October 1950, getting 49 percent of the votes to Gomes’s 30 percent.
   By Vargas’s second tenure as president (1951–1954), two main political camps had emerged, camps that would become increasingly polarized. On one side were the nationalists, led by Vargas and the PTB. They favored taking control of strategic industries such as oil and iron metallurgy and raising workers’ wages. They were wary of foreign investment and U.S. influence. The opposition, led by the UDN and the military high command, favored encouraging foreign investment and controlling inflation. It also favored aligning the country with the United States in the fight against global communism. In early 1954 the military became outraged over the proposal of João Goulart, Vargas’s labor minister, to raise the minimum wage by as much as 100 percent. In February, under pressure from the opposition press—most notably the Rio de Janeiro journalist Carlos Lacerda—Vargas fired Goulart. But Vargas’s troubles continued. Lacerda’s newspaper, Tribuna da Imprensa, leveled daily attacks at Vargas—both personal and political—and soon the government was reeling from reports of financial scandals. And although Vargas sought to rouse his working-class base by implementing a 100 percent increase in the minimum wage, he grew politically isolated. The military began planning a coup and was soon handed a pretext. Unbeknown to Vargas, those in his inner circle plotted to remove his most vocal critic—Lacerda. On 5 August 1954 a hired assassin wounded Lacerda but killed his companion, an air force major. In November, after an air force investigation discovered that the plot originated in the presidential palace, the military demanded that Vargas resign. He refused. Instead, on 24 November he put a bullet through his heart. A suicide note blamed national and international forces for his downfall. The international forces included oil companies that had opposed his plan to nationalize the oil industry, and the United States, which had fought Brazil’s efforts to raise coffee prices. His death provoked demonstrations in the cities. Mobs stoned the U.S. embassy and torched the delivery trucks of opposition newspapers. Lacerda fled the country, and the military backed away from a coup.
   The next five years in Brazil were a time of optimism. Jucelino Kubitschek, a PSD member and a centrist, was elected president in 1955 for a five-year term. Under the slogan “50 years in five,” Kubitschek pursued an ambitious developmental plan. He improved infrastructure, attracted foreign investment in industry, and built the new capital city of Brasília, in the center of the country. His plan contributed to high inflation, yet in 1959 he decided against a stabilization program drawn up by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a decision blasted by the UDN.
   In the presidential election of October 1960—which would be the last direct presidential election until 1989—Jânio Quadros, the UDN’s candidate, won by a landslide. Quadros was an eccentric but popular figure who had campaigned with a large broom, promising to rid government of corruption. His victory owed more to his own popularity than to that of the UDN—voters were allowed to split their tickets, and João Goulart, representing the PSD and the PTB, won the vice presidency. Taking office in January 1961, Quadros raised fears he was moving to the left. Although the country was behind in its foreign debt by $176 million, he rejected a $100 million loan from the United States. He then signed trade deals with the Soviet Union and announced that he welcomed debate in the United Nations over admitting Communist China. He also awarded the Cruzeiro do Sul medal to Che Guevara, the Argentine-born Cuban guerrilla. His actions provoked verbal attacks from Lacerda, but Quadros, though a formidable debater, did not fight back. Instead, in August 1961, after only seven months in office, he suddenly resigned. The resignation made Goulart the legal president. Quadros’s military ministers, however, led by Marshal Odílio Denys, tried to prevent Goulart from taking office, accusing him of communist leanings. Goulart was then on a visit to Communist China, and the ministers threatened to have him arrested if he returned. The manifesto caused a reaction among those who supported his right to assume the presidency, a group that included students, trade unionists, centrist politicians, and prodemocracy military officers. Further support came from his home state of Rio Grande do Sul, where General M. José Machado Lopes, commander of the Third Army, and Governor Lionel Brizola, Goulart’s brother-in-law, vowed armed resistance to the ministers. Goulart was finally allowed to return and take office after a compromise was reached—a constitutional amendment that reduced his powers and transformed the presidential system into a parliamentary one. He was inaugurated on 7 September 1961.
   Goulart inherited serious problems, including a deficit in the balance of payments and an inflation rate of 39.5 percent (inflation had ranged from 12 to 26 percent between 1949 and 1959). His position strengthened in January 1963, when a landslide victory in a national plebiscite restored the presidential system. In mid-1963, having abandoned an IMF-approved stabilization plan that had alienated his supporters, Goulart adopted radical nationalism instead, a program that included agrarian reform, urban reform, voting rights for illiterates and military enlisted men, and greater state control over the economy. His supporters began to mobilize. Workers created the Comando Geral dos Trabalhadores (General Workers’ Command), a communist-led labor confederation; peasant unions proliferated in the countryside (they numbered over 2,000 by 1964); students in the Uniaõ Nacional de Estudantes (UNE, National Student Union) campaigned for the reforms; and leftist Catholics created the Juventude Universitária Católica (JUC, Catholic University Youth) and the revolutionary Ação Popular (AP, Popular Action). Goulart also won the support of military enlisted men, who in September 1963 revolted in Brasília.
   On the other side, top military officers, many of them schooled in the Escola Superior de Guerra (ESG, Higher War College), had adopted the ideology of national security, which identified internal leftists, not external invaders, as Brazil’s primary threat. Convinced that Goulart was leading the country toward socialism and threatening the military’s hierarchy, some of these officers, coordinated by General Castello Branco, began a conspiracy to overthrow the government. Allied to the military were Lacerda (now the governor of Guanabara, or greater Rio de Janeiro), Governor Adhemar de Barros of São Paulo, and Governor Magalhães Pinto of Minas Gerais; leading newspapers such as O Globo and Jornal do Brasil; and conservative civilian organizations such as the Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Sociais (IPES, Research and Social Studies Institute) and the Instituto Brasileiro de Ação Democrática (IBAD, Brazilian Institute for Democratic Action). IPES and IBAD were funded by the United States. At the same time, the United States reduced aid to the national government.
   In early 1964 tension between the two sides reached a climax. The economy was in chaos—the inflation rate had reached 100 percent, and the government, denied credit, was in danger of defaulting on $3 billion of foreign debt. Unable to gain congressional support for his reforms, Goulart made the fateful decision to bypass Congress entirely. He scheduled a series of rallies at which he would issue decrees. The first took place on 13 March in Rio de Janeiro, where before 100,000 people he decreed agrarian reform. Brizola spoke as well, calling for Congress to be abolished and to be replaced by worker and peasant assemblies. The event spurred the opposition. On 19 March, in São Paulo, conservative Catholic women led an anticommunist parade, the Marcha da Família com Deus pela Liberdade (the Families’ March for God and Liberty), which drew some 500,000 people. The event indicated significant support for a coup, and on 31 March and 1 April 1964 military leaders ousted Goulart. There was little opposition. Governor Brizola tried again to rouse Rio Grande do Sul’s Third Army on Goulart’s behalf, but failed. Goulart found exile in Uruguay, where by the end of April he was joined by Brizola. Goulart had not yet left the country when Brazil’s military leaders were congratulated by President Lyndon Johnson.
   THE “DIRTY WAR” AND BRAZIL’S NATIONAL SECURITY STATE:
   Unlike earlier coups in Brazil (in 1930, 1937, 1945, and 1961), when the military quickly returned power to civilians, the coup of 1964 led to a military dictatorship. On 2 April the leader of the Senate declared the presidency to be vacant, and in accord with the 1946 constitution, the leader of the Chamber of Deputies became interim president for a maximum of 30 days, during which Congress was to choose a new president. But military hard-liners intervened. Led by Army Marshal Artur da Costa e Silva, the commanders of the army, navy, and air force created the Comando Supremo Revolucionário (Supreme Revolutionary Command), which gained power when Interim President Ranieri Mazzilli added the three officers to his cabinet.
   On 9 April 1964 the Comando decreed the first Ato Institucional (AI, Institutional Act). (There were many AIs; this entry will mention only the most significant.) Among its provisions, AI-1 allowed Congress to meet, but reduced its power while strengthening the executive. It allowed the president to send bills to Congress, which would have only 30 days to consider them. It also gave the president power to suspend any citizen’s political rights for 10 years and to remove legislators from office at the national, state, and municipal levels. In addition, it required Congress to elect a new president within two days of its publication. On 11 April Congress elected as president the military’s consensus candidate, General Castello Branco. By the time of Castello Branco’s election, the military had already moved against so-called subversives, arresting between 10,000 and 50,000 people in Operaзгo Limpeza (Operation Cleanup). Among them, in Rio de Janeiro, were leaders of student groups and trade unions, leaders of the Catholic groups AP and JUC, members of leftist political parties such as the Moscow-line PCB and the Chineseline Partido Comunista do Brasil (PC do B, Communist Party of Brazil), and members of the military who had supported Goulart. In the Northeast, the Fourth Army arrested members of peasant leagues and rural trade unions. Joining in on the repression were the promilitary governors Lacerda (in Guanabara) and Barros (in São Paulo). Many detainees were subjected to tortures such as the “parrot’s perch” (the victim beaten or given electric shocks while suspended from a pole, bound to it by ankles and wrists) and near drownings. It is estimated that several hundred were tortured for longer than a day. Principal torture centers during this first phase of the “dirty war” were—in addition to the Fourth Army headquarters in Recife—the Centro de Informações da Marinha (CENIMAR, Naval Intelligence Center) and the Departamento de Ordem Político e Social (DOPS, Department of Political and Social Order), both in Rio de Janeiro. Castello Branco used AI-1 to purge political opponents. The provision for suspending political rights and removing legislators expired on 15 June 1964. By then, it had been used against three former presidents (Goulart, Kubitschek, and Quadros), six governors, 55 federal legislators, and over 300 state and municipal legislators. Another AI-1 provision had suspended job security for civil servants, leading to the firing of 1,400 (a conservative estimate). In June 1964, to coordinate the fight against internal subversion, General Golbery do Couto e Silva created the Serviço Nacional de Informações (SNI, National Intelligence Service), which would acquire power rivaling that of the president.
   Having established an authoritarian regime, Castello Branco had a free hand to reform the economy. The most pressing problems were inflation and foreign debt. He fought the first by reducing publicsector deficits, tightening private credit, and lowering wages. This commitment to fighting inflation helped solve the second problem, and by mid-1964 Brazil had started to win back foreign creditors. Yet like any strict stabilization plan, this one entailed social costs. One of the measures for reducing public deficits involved cutting subsidies for oil and wheat, a measure that increased bus and train fares as well as the price of bread, gasoline, and utilities.
   In the state elections of October 1965, opposition PSD candidates defeated progovernment UDN candidates in Guanabara and Minas Gerais. Castello Branco responded by decreeing AI-2, one of whose provisions abolished all existing political parties. Consequently, the PSD, the PTB, and the UDN disappeared and were replaced by two parties under military control: the Aliança Renovadora Nacional (ARENA, National Alliance for Renewal), a progovernment party; and the Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (MDB, Brazilian Democratic Movement), a moderate opposition party. Another AI-2 provision specified that presidents and vice presidents would be elected indirectly—by roll-call vote in Congress. In February 1966 the government decreed AI-3, which specified that governors would be elected indirectly as well—by state legislatures. Castello Branco was originally meant to serve out Goulart’s term of office, which was due to end in January 1966, but the military gave him an additional year. He spent his last few months in office institutionalizing changes to the political structure. On 24 January 1967 Congress approved a new constitution, which incorporated the three AIs. Also in early 1967 he decreed a law giving the government broad powers over the media as well as a national security law aimed at protecting the country against internal enemies.
   On 15 March 1967 General Costa e Silva was inaugurated president. Although he had been the preferred candidate of military hardliners, once in office he tried to soften the dictatorship by consulting civilians. Yet an opposition had begun to grow. Leaders of the Catholic Church openly criticized the government, workers staged strikes, and students demonstrated. At a demonstration in Rio de Janeiro in March 1968, the death of a high school student at the hands of the military police set off further demonstrations, including one in June, in Rio de Janeiro, that drew 100,000 marchers. Also in 1968, some leftist groups—encouraged by the strikes and demonstrations and inspired by the Cuban Revolution—began robbing banks to fund armed resistance. They included the Ação Libertadora Nacional (ALN, National Action for Liberation) and Carlos Lamarca’s Vanguarda Popular Revolucionária (VPR, People’s Revolutionary Vanguard).
   To hard-liners, these events justified a higher level of repression. Further rationale came in August and September 1968, when Márcio Moreira Alves, an MDB congressman, spoke out against police brutality and torture. His speeches offended the military, a violation of the national security law. For Alves to be prosecuted, his parliamentary immunity would have to be lifted. On 12 December, however, Congress surprisingly voted against lifting the immunity, and the next day, Costa e Silva responded by decreeing AI-5. Unlike the previous AIs, this one carried no date of expiration. It gave the president power to close Congress (a power he immediately invoked), suspend political rights (including habeas corpus), remove legislators from office at all levels, and fire public servants. In March 1969 the government stifled protest further, issuing a decree that banned any criticism of the AIs, the government, or the military.
   The decrees and political purges reinforced the conviction among leftist groups that armed struggle was the only option for change. In 1968 about six groups were active—in Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. After honing their guerrilla skills in small operations— robbing banks and planting bombs—they turned to major ones. In June the VPR attacked the Second Army’s hospital in São Paulo, and four days later, its headquarters. In October the VPR assassinated Charles Chandler, a U.S. army captain, having sentenced him to death for allegedly working with the CIA. In turn, the security forces, which had at first dismissed the groups as a nuisance, began to take them seriously. By early 1969 they were rounding up suspected guerrillas and their sympathizers, torturing them, and then using extracted information to make a new batch of arrests. Tortures included the “parrot’s perch”; the geladeira, or “refrigerator” (a fiveby-five-foot concrete box that alternated between heat and cold); and the “dragon’s chair” (a metal electric chair). Sometimes young children were tortured in front of their parents, and women were raped in front of their husbands. Some suspects were tortured for up to two months.
   The repression further strengthened the guerrillas’ commitment to armed struggle. Groups increased their activities, kidnapping foreign diplomats for ransom. On 4 September 1969, for example, the ALN and the Movimento Revolucionário 8 de Outubro (MR-8, 8th of October Revolutionary Movement) kidnapped the U.S. ambassador Charles Elbrick, an event dramatized in the feature film Four Days in September. Elbrick was released unharmed on 8 September after the government broadcast the guerrillas’ revolutionary manifesto and released 15 political prisoners, exiling them to Mexico. The day after the kidnapping, the government escalated its repression, decreeing AIs 13 and 14. AI-13 allowed the government to banish any citizen considered a risk to national security. The law was invoked three days later against the 15 political prisoners. AI-14 established capital punishment for anyone engaged in “subversive warfare.” In practice, capital punishment took the form of summary execution or death under torture. Official reports would then present the victims as having committed suicide or been killed while attempting to escape. Within two weeks of issuing these AIs, security forces arrested 1,800 suspected subversives.
   On 25 October 1969 Congress was reconvened to rubber-stamp the military-high-command’s choice of General Emílio Garrastazú Médici to replace Costa e Silva, who had suffered a stroke on 29 August. He was inaugurated on 30 October. A former head of the SNI, Médici presided over the most repressive period of the dictatorship (1969–1974). In July 1969 the military had created Operação Bandeirantes (OBAN, Operation Pioneer), which integrated the security efforts of the army, navy, air force, and police in São Paulo. In January 1970 the military applied this interservice concept nationwide, creating security units called the Destacamento de Operações Internas– Comando Operactional de Defesa Interna (DOI–CODI, Information Operations Detachment–Operational Command for Internal Defense). A DOI–CODI unit was established in each military region. CODIs were executive branches, operating under the control of the region’s army—São Paulo, for example, was under the Second. DOIs were plainclothes death squads composed of military and police. Also taking part in the repression were branches of the Departamento Estadual de Ordem Política e Social (DEOPS, State Department for Political and Social Order)—the state versions of DOP—and the federal Polícia Militar (PM, Military Police). São Paulo’s DEOP, under the notorious interrogator Sérgio Fleury, competed aggressively with the DOI–CODIs. Within a year, the armed-guerrilla movement would be all but eliminated. Indeed, by early 1972, the DOI–CODIs would face a shortage of suspects. One group of PC do B guerrillas, however, in the Araguaia River basin, would not be eliminated until 1975.
   The Médici period was noted not only for its repression but also for its “Brazilian miracle.” From 1969 to 1973, the GDP grew an average of 11 percent a year, and inflation never exceeded 18 percent. The high growth was achieved through a variety of means including low wages and substantial foreign investment. The miracle gave the government a semblance of legitimacy both at home and abroad. Those who benefited from the economic gains—mostly middle- and upper-income groups—were inclined to support the government, and foreign economists converged on Brazil to observe the miracle firsthand. By 1972, however, the miracle was criticized by the MDB and the World Bank for widening the gap between Brazil’s rich and poor. The government had favored industrial growth while neglecting programs in education, health, and housing.
   In January 1974 General Ernesto Geisel was elected president. He was the first chosen by an electoral college, made up of both houses of Congress plus six delegates from the majority party in each state legislature. He took office on 15 March. Selected for his administrative ability, Geisel, a moderate, set Brazil on a path of political liberalization known as distensão (relaxation). His first task was to rein in the hard-liners in the SNI and the DOI–CODIs—they had accumulated so much power that they challenged the traditional military hierarchy. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Bar Association and the Catholic Church had begun speaking out against arbitrary arrests and torture, challenging the government to bring the repressive forces under control. The hard-liners, however, fought distensão at every turn. Despite the elimination of the armed-guerrilla movement, they continued to arrest and torture suspected subversives. Some of the arrests were high profile, intended to embarrass the government. In addition, Geisel had eased censorship, and the press began to question official reports that prisoners had committed suicide or been shot while trying to escape. Instead, deaths were now often reported as “disappearances.”
   Two deaths were especially embarrassing to the government. In October 1975 Vladimir Herzog, a Yugoslav-born Jewish immigrant and prominent journalist, died under torture at the DOI–CODI in São Paulo. The Second Army presented his death as a suicide, prompting a three-day strike at the University of São Paulo and denunciations from the Brazilian Bar Association, the Journalists’ Union, and the Catholic Church. Paulo Evaristo Cardinal Arns, the archbishop of São Paulo, even dared to lead an ecumenical service for Herzog at the São Paulo cathedral. In December an all-military panel reviewing the case ruled the death a suicide, a ruling that cast doubt on the government’s commitment to liberalization. But in January 1976 Manoel Fiel Filho, a union activist, also died at the hands of the Second Army, and after the death was presented as a suicide, Geisel fired the Army’s commander, General Ednardo d’Avila Melo, and replaced him with a commander who put an end to torture at São Paulo’s DOI–CODI. In 1977 Amnesty International reported that arrests had begun to decrease.
   Besides reining in the hard-liners, Geisel sought to move the country gradually toward democracy, albeit a democracy controlled by the government party, ARENA. In November 1974 direct elections were held for members of Congress, and although congressional seats were openly contested—both ARENA and the opposition MDB had access to radio and television—ARENA candidates were favored to win. The MDB, however, won more than a third of the seats. In July 1976 Geisel tried to slow the opposition by introducing the Falcão Law, which restricted candidates’ use of radio and television. Though the law applied to both parties, it posed a greater obstacle to the MDB, which lost its best means of getting its message out. Nevertheless, the MDB made gains in both the municipal elections of November 1976 and the congressional elections of November 1978. Even so, it was prevented from capturing a congressional majority by Geisel’s 1977 April Package, a set of constitutional changes that included electoral laws ensuring ARENA’s dominance in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. One law allowed for a third of the senators to be appointed—to be elected indirectly by an electoral college whose makeup favored the government. Opponents would jokingly refer to these senators as the “bionics.”
   Despite the April Package, there were clear signs of a political opening. In 1977 journalists and students staged demonstrations—the first since 1968. The opening grew larger in October 1978 when Geisel began to remove authoritarian decrees. Constitutional reforms abolished AI-5, reinstated habeas corpus, lifted the censorship of radio and television, and abolished the death penalty. Changes to the National Security Law recognized fewer crimes against national security and reduced their penalties. And at the end of the year, Geisel allowed 120 political exiles back into the country, though exiles strongly disliked by hard-liners—Brizola and Prestes, for example— were excluded. On the other hand, the constitutional reforms granted Geisel wide executive powers—he was allowed, for example, to call a state of siege or a state of emergency and renew it without the approval of Congress. And under the revised National Security Law, prisoners could be held incommunicado for eight days, which, though down from 10, still held out the possibility of torture. Geisel’s choice to be his presidential successor was General João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo. But as early as 1977, General Sílvio Frota, the army minister, challenged Geisel’s authority by putting forward his own candidacy. The voice of the military hard-liners, Frota argued that the government was soft on subversion and that liberalization put the country at risk for a communist takeover. Geisel confronted the challenge by sending Frota into early retirement and ending his campaign. On 14 October 1978 the ARENA-dominated electoral college elected Figueiredo president. He took office on 15 March 1979.
   Figueiredo continued the process of liberalization, now known as abertura (opening). In August 1979 he granted amnesty to those imprisoned or exiled for political crimes. The amnesty allowed all but a few political exiles back into the country, including Brizola and Prestes. The amnesty, however, was a compromise: it included not only those who committed political crimes but also those who committed “connected crimes”—that is, the torturers. Still, opposition leaders thought the compromise was necessary for abertura, which could not go forward without the military’s cooperation. Under Figueiredo, as under Geisel, hard-liners fought liberalization, though now they did so clandestinely. Newspaper vendors who sold leftist publications received anonymous threats, and those who continued to sell them saw their kiosks firebombed. A letter bomb killed a woman at the headquarters of the Brazilian Bar Association, a leading advocate for the return of democracy. And on 30 April 1981 one undercover DOI–CODI agent died and another was seriously wounded when a bomb they were transporting went off in their car. The bomb was meant to go off in a Rio theater during a concert to raise money for leftist causes. The government investigated the incident and covered it up.
   Although the violence raised concerns that the hard-liners might subvert abertura, Figueiredo stuck to the election schedule, which promised municipal, state, and national elections in November 1982. Like Geisel, however, he faced the problem of how to prevent the opposition from coming to power too quickly. The current two-party system favored the opposition: ARENA was associated with repression, whereas the MDB, the lone opposition party, drew votes from a wide range of the government’s opponents. In November 1979, to divide the opposition, Figueiredo scrapped the two-party system and required all new parties to use the word partido (political party) in their names. ARENA became the Partido Democrático Social (PDS, Social Democratic Party). The MDB became the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (PMDB, Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement), annoying the government by retaining the words Democrático and Brasileiro. But as the government had hoped, the PMDB weakened as other opposition parties emerged. Among them were the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers’ Party), formed by rural and urban trade unionists and led by Luíz Inácio da Silva, or “Lula”; the Partido Democrático Trabalhista (PDT, Democratic Labor Party), founded by Brizola; and the resurrected PTB. In November 1980 the government, confident in its new strategy, softened the April Package, changing the constitution to allow governors and all senators to be chosen by direct election. The results of the 1982 elections, however, were mixed. The PDS captured most of the governorships but lost in the states of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. The new governor of Rio de Janeiro was Brizola. And although the PDS held majorities in both the Senate (46 to 23) and the electoral college (356 to 330), it lost its majority in the Chamber of Deputies—the four opposition parties outnumbered it by 240 to 235.
   Figueiredo found himself in a weak position. Not only had the opposition parties continued to make headway but also the Brazilian miracle had long faded and the country was now in a deep recession. Furthermore, he had health problems—he had suffered a mild stroke in September 1981 and underwent bypass surgery in July 1983. One of the few advantages left to the government was that presidents were still chosen indirectly by the electoral college. In 1983, however, the PT led other opposition parties in calling for a constitutional amendment to have presidents chosen by direct election. “Direct Elections Now” supporters staged huge rallies, including one—in Rio de Janeiro in early April 1984—that drew 500,000 people. On 25 April the amendment came to a vote in Congress, where it needed a two-thirds majority in both houses. It lost in the Chamber of Deputies by 22 votes. Among those voting in favor were 55 PDS deputies. The next presidential election, scheduled for 1985, would be decided by the electoral college. In August 1984 the PDS nominated Paulo Maluf, a former governor of São Paulo and a member of the Chamber of Deputies. His nomination divided the party. Some appreciated the firm hand he used, as governor, against labor unions and other opponents of the regime; others saw him as a threat to the budding democracy. In July Aureliano Chaves, Figueiredo’s vice president and a PDS hopeful, had abandoned his campaign and broken ranks with the PDS. He then joined other PDS dissidents in forming the Partido da Frente Liberal (PFL, Liberal Front Party). The PFL then reached an agreement with the PMDB, forming the Aliança Democrática (Democratic Alliance). The PMDB had nominated as its presidential candidate Tancredo Neves, a father figure and political moderate; the PFL named the ticket’s vice presidential candidate, José Sarney, a PDS senator.
   On 15 January 1985 Neves and Sarney won in the electoral college, earning 480 votes to Mulaf’s 180. Seventeen members abstained, and nine were absent. The opposition had come to power through the ballot box.
   AFTERMATH OF THE “DIRTY WAR”:
   Neves never made it to his inauguration. The day before the ceremony, scheduled for 15 March 1985, he went into the hospital—he had been suffering from an intestinal ailment for several months. Sarney was inaugurated in Neves’s place and, after Neves’s death on 21 April, became president. Sarney had two political priorities, that of revoking the last of the authoritarian decrees and that of electing a constituent assembly that would write a new constitution. In May 1985 laws reestablished direct presidential elections, gave illiterates the right to vote, and legalized all political parties. In November 1986 elections were held for members of the constituent assembly as well as for governors, senators, and deputies. The PMDB won the governorship in every state but Sergipe and took control of both houses of Congress. And on 5 October 1988 a new constitution took effect, officially bringing the dictatorship to an end.
   An important issue remained—whether to bring torturers to justice. Although Figueiredo’s 1979 amnesty law seemed to have settled the issue—it amnestied torturers as well as their victims—events in 1985 raised the issue anew. In April nine Argentine military-junta members went on trial in Buenos Aires for human-rights violations committed during their 1976–1982 “dirty war.” In May the Archdiocese of São Paulo published Brasil: Nunca mais (Brazil: Never Again), which, using the military’s own documents, reported on the torture of political prisoners from 1964 to 1979. (Argentina’s truth commission, the Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas, had published its report in 1984.) And in November, the authors of Brasil: Nunca mais published the names of 444 torturers from the military and police. Yet the 1979 amnesty held. This reluctance to try torturers has been attributed both to a widespread belief among Brazilians that their culture is conciliatory and to the relatively small number of deaths during Brazil’s dictatorship— 485 compared with 3,000 in Chile and 9,000 in Argentina (humanrights groups say Argentina’s figure could be as high as 30,000). Unlike the military in Argentina and Chile, Brazil’s military never apologized. A measure of justice occurred in August 1995 when Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil’s president, established Law 9.140, which acknowledged the military’s responsibility for 136 deaths reported as disappearances, issued death certificates, and awarded each family a one-time payout of between $108,000 and $165,000. He also created, within the Justice Department, the Comissгo Especial sobre Mortos e Desaparecidos Políticos (CEMDP, Special Commission for the Dead and Disappeared), which handled requests for compensation from the families of other victims—those presumed to have died in military or police custody but whose deaths were reported as suicides, accidents, or shoot-out fatalities. Although many in the military had hoped that Law 9.140 would put an end to questions about human-rights abuse, the issue did not go away. In April 1996 O Globo, a Rio de Janeiro newspaper, published photos—leaked from a military archive—of slain PC do B guerrillas. Those shown in the photos were among the 69 who went missing in the jungles of the Araguaia River region in the early 1970s. Information accompanying the photos described the deaths and disclosed the sites of mass graves, where 25 bodies were later exhumed by government forensic teams.
   The location of many other victims of the regime remained unavailable to the public, locked in archives that, though open for a short time in the 1990s, were closed by Cardoso just before he left office in 2003. Nor was that information available in Direito à memória e à verdade (The Right to Memory and the Truth), a 500-page book published by the government in 2007, on the 28th anniversary of the 1979 amnesty law. Prepared by the CEMDP and available free on the World Wide Web, the book details the state’s role in torture, rape, and disappearances. Although human-rights groups such as Tortura Nunca Mais (Torture—Never Again) argue that a full accounting of the period must await the opening of the archives to the public, they hailed the book’s publication as an important step.

Historical Dictionary of the “Dirty Wars” . . 2010.

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