A decade ago, on November 18, 2011, then-President Dilma Rousseff (PT) enacted Law 12,528, which instituted the National Truth Commission (CNV) to investigate violations of rights practiced during the Brazilian military dictatorship, between 1964 and 1988. Ten years after that date, under Bolsonaro’s administration (without a party), a survey by the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) identifies 6,157 soldiers in civilian government positions.
An event held at USP’s emblematic Centro Maria Antônia was held this Thursday (18), to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Truth Commission, with the aim of debating the advances and setbacks in the struggles for memory and justice. With the participation of Dilma Rousseff, the event was broadcast online and was organized by members of the São Paulo State Committee of the Truth, baptized with the name of Rubens Paiva, a politician who disappeared by the military regime in 1971.
Mediated by Adriano Diogo, geologist and former PT parliamentarian who chaired the Rubens Paiva Truth Commission, the activity featured speeches by survivors of the military dictatorship and CNV commissioners. Among them, Amélia Teles, Ivan Seixas, Maria Rita Kehl, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro and Rosa Maria Cardoso.
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“Ignoring history does not appease”
Unlike the processes of redemocratization in Argentina and Uruguay, Brazil had the Truth Commission established more than 30 years after the Amnesty Law was approved, in 1979.
Rousseff began her speech by pointing out that this fact expresses what she considers a typically Brazilian transition from dictatorship to democracy: “I’m not just saying that it’s partial, it’s mitigated: it has restrictions, limits within which it can take place. Hence, the Amnesty Law itself, being reciprocal, places an almost unacceptable equality between the power of the State and of individuals”.
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“Truth does not harbor resentment or hatred, but neither does it imply forgiveness,” said the former president, for whom “truth is just the opposite of forgetting. She is the right to know. It’s the ability we have to tell what happened.”
In this sense, added Dilma Rousseff, to endorse the importance of the commissions that investigated the violations committed by the military regime “has a healing power at that moment”. In his view, “it is very important that we remember what exceptional governments are, even if those produced by military dictatorships and those produced by second-generation coups are different.”
In her speech, the former PT president reaffirmed that today we live under the government of a military party, legitimized by “absurd” attributes that delegate conditions of tutelage or moderating power over Brazil to military institutions.
“The exception regimes are perpetuated by the prohibition of knowledge of the truth. The consequences of this cover-up process continue”, said Dilma Rousseff. “Ignoring history does not pacify. On the contrary: it keeps latent hatreds, grievances and versions that suddenly emerge. Disinformation does not help to appease, it facilitates the passage to intolerance”, he assessed.
“I don’t know a terrorist, who is playing terror here are you”
Journalist, writer, and activist survivor of torture sessions at Doi-Codi, Amelinha Teles highlighted how the Truth Commission was the result of the “relentless struggle” of victims and families of people who suffered atrocities during the so-called years of lead, many of them which are no longer alive.
José Carlos Dias, a lawyer who during the military regime acted in the legal defense of more than 500 people persecuted by the dictatorship and also a member of the CNV, stressed that for the most part, “the recommendations we left could not be implemented”.
The Commission’s final report directs the Brazilian State to hold those identified as responsible for the violations of rights legally accountable. In addition, he suggests that a government body be created to continue the search for the remains of 210 people who are still missing.
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“What we are experiencing today makes us want to say goodbye to Brazil. But Brazil cannot say goodbye to us. So we need to follow. We have to fight to resurrect this sick country. Either that’s enough or everything will be lost”, said Dias.
Psychoanalyst Maria Rita Kehl gave a quick explanation of the research she carried out by the CNV on rights violations committed by the military regime against peasants and indigenous peoples. Highlighting the courage of Araguaia peasants, Kehl reported that in interviews conducted by her, she learned that there was a common phrase that the community used to give when, in the 1970s, questioned by the military, they did not reveal the whereabouts of guerrillas. “I don’t know any terrorists, who are playing the terror here are you.”
Citing that, when the Truth Commission was established, a part of society expressed an anguish or a desire not to turn over the histories of the military dictatorship, Maria Rita Kehl shared a psychoanalytic analysis of one of the aspects that she understands to be part of the political process that he elected Bolsonaro.
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“This small part is represented by the retired captain who, at a public hearing at the CNV, praised Colonel Carlos Brilhante Ustra, one of the most violent torturers of the time,” said Kehl. “This part of the population did not want to know about this story, not because it was perverse, but so as not to be distressed. And then he was chosen. In psychoanalysis, we would call the return of the repressed. The worst comes back. Not elaborated, but in action”, he said.
Results of the National Truth Commission
The CNV was a temporary body created by Law 12,528 and ended its activities on December 10, 2014, with the delivery of its final report. In it, the commission listed 434 people as dead or missing during the military dictatorship.
The report singles out 377 state agents as responsible for serious violations of human rights, such as kidnappings, torture, murders, forced disappearances, sexual violence and the concealment of corpses.
Among the agents blamed are retired general Leônidas Pires Gonçalves, who was in charge of the Ministry of the Army for five years of the Sarney government and died in 2015; delegate Romeu Tuma, who died in 2010 and whose son holds a position in the Bolsonaro government; and doctor Harry Shibata, who in 1975 signed the medical report lying that journalist Vladimir Herzog had committed suicide.
Edition: Vinícius Segalla