The Slatest

Brazil’s President, Herself a Victim, Cries While Addressing Past Regime’s Use of Torture


Paolo Whitaker/Reuters

The findings of a commission established to investigate abuses that took place under the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985 were tearfully announced Wednesday by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff—who herself was subject to torture as a member of a militant Marxist opposition group during that time. Although it’s long been known that torture and killings took place under the dictatorship, the findings challenge the idea that such crimes were isolated incidents or merely the work of overly aggressive individuals—and highlight the role the United States played in enabling abuses.

Rousseff established the National Truth Commission in 2012 to shed further light on the military’s actions during its two decades of rule in Brazil. Of the 377 people the report identifies as responsible for the abuses, 100 are still alive, and the report calls for the overturning of a 1979 amnesty law protecting those implicated. The findings detail 191 killings and 210 disappearances, but notes that these numbers are not an exhaustive total. Case studies describe electric shocks, sexual violence as a weapon, and family members being tortured alongside one another.

The American military was allegedly instrumental in training those who perpetrated the torture. 300 members of the military are said to have learned techniques at the School of Americas, which was associated with Fort Benning in Georgia. America’s role in propping up Latin American dictatorships and training their police forces in interrogation techniques has been known for decades, but the Brazil report brings the issue into the public eye at a time when the U.S. is under international scrutiny for more recent abuses; on Tuesday, a U.N. human rights official called for the prosecution of U.S. officials responsible for the torture documented the newly released Senate report about CIA abuses.