Thursday, 5 May 2011

Brazil: Military mutterings

Renewed danger of a rift between the military and the government has arisen over the latter's interest in establishing a truth commission to investigate crimes committed by federal agents, and notably by the military, during the 1964–85 dictatorship. A general amnesty law was passed in 1979, and the military argues that it erased all responsibility for torture, murder, and disappearances.

The government is now headed by Dilma Rousseff, who was herself a victim of illegal imprisonment and torture, and she is keen on seeing that the perpetrators are punished.

Minister of Defence Nelson Jobim (PMDB-RS) – a former chief justice and minister of justice – sides with the government, but the military, otherwise quiescent since the resumption of democratic rule, is restless and producing manifestos of various kinds. The government will have to be extra careful on how it handles this potential crisis.

At a military ceremony held on 5th April in Brasília to introduce to the president the newly promoted general officers of the three armed services, Rousseff broke with precedent by refusing the officers' military salute and substituting a firm handshake. In her carefully worded speech, Rousseff ignored the ongoing debate about human rights violations during the military period, but underlined that "the country has corrected its own ways…and attained a high level of institutional maturity".

What emerged clearly from this ceremony is that Rousseff's relationship with the military is a tranquil one. She reassured them about the need to re-equip the armed forces.

On 27th April, the state of Rio de Janeiro held a public ceremony of reparation to political prisoners who were victims of military dictatorship in the state. This is the first such symbolic reparation.

For more news and expert analysis about Brazil, please see Brazil Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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