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Brazil: Activists Protest in Memory of Military Dictatorship

Earlier this month, a number of cities throughout the country held both real and virtual events to remember Brazil's military dictatorship (1964-1985).

Brazil's president recently sanctioned the law to create a Truth Committee to oversee the opening of the dictatorship's secret files (reported by Global Voices in March 2011), to reveal the location of the bodies of dozens of political prisoners and guerilla fighters and to shed light on the country's somber past.

"Impunity" – a Twitpic cartoon by Carlos Latuff

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) recently pressured Brazil to revise the country's Amnesty Law, a law instated by the then military regime to provide amnesty for its various crimes, such as torture, kidnapping, concealing bodies and murdering opponents.

Amidst the polemics involved in reviewing the Amnesty Law and the Truth Committee, activists decided to hold protests and to voice opinions on the need to punish the Dictatorship's criminals and to fully open the still classified files.

Protest in Rio and the Cordão da Mentira (Fool's Block)

Projeção de imagem do jornalista Vladimir Herzog, morto pela Ditadura em 1975, na fachada do Clube Militar. Foto de Moana Maywall em ação organizada por Beatriz Seigner, Moana Mayall, Thiago Dezan, Luis Felipe e coletivo Fora do Eixo. Foto usada com permissão.

Projection of the image of reporter Vladimir Herzog, killed by the Dictatorship in 1975, on the façade of the Military Club. Photo by Moana Maywall during protests organized by Beatriz Seigner, Moana Mayall, Thiago Dezan, Luis Felipe and the group Fora do Eixo. Photo reprinted with permission.

On March 29, a group of at least 300 protesters gathered in front of the Military Club in downtown Rio de Janeiro where a group of reserve soldiers and wistful politicians from the so-called Lead Years had also gathered to “commemorate” the military coup of 1964. The actual date of the coup was April 1 of that year, but soldiers and officers have attempted to rewrite history on account of the actual date's corresponding to April Fool's Day.

Cartoonish Carlos Latuff posted a video evidencing police violence against the protestors, siding with the soldiers and officers who defended the military's decades of torture and assassinations. He writes [pt]:

A polícia militar, como de costume, fez farta distribuição de gás lacrimogêneo, spray de pimenta e muita truculência. Ex-militares como o tenente-coronel Lício Maciel, que participou de operações no Araguaia, e o general Nilton Cerqueira, responsável pela execução de Carlos Lamarca, foram escorraçados pelos manifestantes

As is custom, the military police made extensive use of tear gas, pepper spray and brutality. Former soldiers, such as Lieutenant Coronel Lício Maciel, who had participated in operations in Araguaia, and General Nilton Cerqueira, responsible for the execution of Carlos Lamarca, were driven away by the protestors.

The youth who protested were beaten and wounded [pt] by the police, and many are receiving death threats [pt] from soldiers and officers, as exposed by Felipe Garcez in a post reproduced [pt] in the magazine Vírus Planetário, on Facebook.

On April 1, nearly 400 citizens protested [pt] the commemoration of the coup:

O Cordão da Mentira vem por meio desta repudiar o evento de celebração do golpe militar de 1964, realizado no Círculo Militar do RJ, e a ação violenta da Polícia Militar do RJ contra os manifestantes no dia 29/3/12. O Cordão classifica tais acontecimentos como, no mínimo, lamentáveis.

The Cordão da Mentira hereby renounces the celebration of the military coup of 1964, held at the Círculo Militar do RJ, and the violent actions of the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro against protestors on March 29, 2012. The Cordão considers these occurrences  lamentable, to say the least.

In his blog, Professor Chico Bicudo summarizes [pt] the motives of the protest:

Comemorar o golpe e a ditadura militar significa também comemorar a censura, as prisões, os assassinatos, os desaparecimentos, a tortura, a barbárie.

To commemorate the military dictatorship also means to celebrate censorship, prisons, assassinations, disappearances, torture and barbarity.

Photo of the protest. In the forefront are the Mothers of May, who headed the parade. Photo by the author. Unrestricted use.

The protest lasted throughout Sunday afternoon and referenced a number of symbols and landmarks related to the military dictatorship, as professor Pádua Fernandes explains [pt] in his blog:

A multidão desceu a Rua da Consolação, entrou na Maria Antônia, onde foi feita uma homenagem ao estudante José Guimarães, morto pelo CCC (Comando de Caça aos Comunistas) em 1968; desceu até a imagem da Nossa Senhora que a TFP [Tradição, Família e Propriedade, grupo de extrema-direita católico e base ideológica para o golpe – Nota GV] preserva na Rua Martim Francisco. Em seguida, na Rua Fortunato, outra homenagem, ao militante da ALN Marco Antonio Braz (…).
Depois de parar na frente de um jornal paulista [Folha de São Paulo – Nota GV], (…), a multidão seguiu e chegou ao prédio do antigo DOPS, hoje Estação Pinacoteca (que abriga o Memorial da Resistência), quase às dezoito horas.

The protestors headed down Rua da Consolação and turned onto Maria Antônia, where homage was paid to student José Guimarães, who had been killed by the Communist Hunting Commando (CCC in Portuguese) in 1968; the protest then proceeded to Rua Martim Francisco, to the image of Our Lady maintained by the group Tradition, Family and Property (TFP in Portuguese) – an extremely right-wing Catholic group and the ideological basis for the coup. Following that, the protesters headed to Rua Fortunato to pay homage to ALM militant Marco Antonio Braz. Farther along, the group stopped in front of the offices of a major São Paulo newspaper (Folha de São Paulo) and later on, at nearly 6:00 p.m., in front of the offices of the former Department of Social and Political Order (DOPS in Portuguese), now the Pinacoteca Museum (which houses the Memorial to the Resistance).


On March 26, a group consisting of militants from a variety of social movements and collectively called the Popular Youth Insurrection [pt] held a protest in a number of cities throughout Brazil [pt] against former military officers associated with torture, disappearances and assassinations  during Brazil's Military Dictatorship. The goals of the movement is to reveal the addresses of these former officers and soldiers now accused of crimes against humanity and who remain unpunished on account of the Amnesty Law.

Reporter and blogger Rodrigo Vianna accompanied [pt] the protest in São Paulo in front of the company owned by Davi dos Santos Araújo, known as “Captain Lisbon”:

Photo of protests in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul. Unrestricted use.

Davi, na verdade,  nunca foi capitão. Era  delegado de polícia, trabalhou no DOI-CODI em São Paulo e é acusado de torturas, assassinatos e abusos sexuais durante a ditadura.

Actually, Davi was never a captain. He was a ranking officer who worked in the Department of Information Operations – Center for Internal Defense Operations [DOI-CODI in Portuguese] in São Paulo and who has been accused of engaging in torture, assassinations and sexual abuse during the Dictatorship.

Saturday, April 7 is officially Coroners Day, and the home of coroner and former director of the Coronial Institute, Harry Shibata, in São Paulo's Vila Madalena neighborhood was chosen as the gathering place for a protest attended by nearly 100 people. Blogger and professor Leonardo Sakamoto explains [pt]:

Ele é acusado de ser responsável por falsos atestados de óbito usados para acobertar assassinatos de opositores pela ditadura militar, ignorando marcas deixadas por sessões de tortura e produzindo laudos de acordo com as necessidades dos militares.

He has been accused of being responsible for having falsified death certificates to cover up the military dictatorship's assassination of opponents, having ignored the physical marks of torture sessions and having produced medical reports to meet the dubious needs of the Dictatorship's soldiers and military officers.

Graffiti and protests in front of Shibata's house. Photo by Leonardo Sakamoto. Unrestricted use.

Posters were also put up [pt] throughout the region renouncing the coroner for the atrocities he committed. Members of the Popular Insurrection have been threatened, and a petition has been going around [pt] as a show of solidarity with the movement. Hundreds of people have also posted photos on a number of social networks [pt] with posters and banners in support of the movement.

A video recorded by the alternative newspaper Brasil de Fato:

Concurrently, the blogosphere and Twittersphere saw the 5th collective blogging – #DesarquivandoBR (OpeningTheBrazilianFiles) [pt], with a total of 52 posts by different  bloggers. “The main theme [of the blogs] was outrage against the torture, disappearances and impunity,” which lead to the rash of tweets marked with the hashtag #desarquivandoBR (OpeningTheBrazilianFiles) on the evening of March 31 and April 1.

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