Brazilian president Lula da Silva said it was “worth while” to fight against the military dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 to 1985. He made the statements during the launching of a Human Rights program which includes the possibility of creating a Truth Commission to investigate crimes committed under the de facto regime.
“The attitude of Ministers Dilma Rousseff (cabinet chief), Tarso Genaro (Justice) and Paulo Vannuchi (Human Rights) was very much worth while”, said Lula da Silva, all of them persecuted and tortured by the military dictatorship.
“If someone arrested and tortured Dilma (Rousseff) believing it was the end of her struggle, I’m saying now that she is possibly a candidate to the presidency of this country” representing the Workers Party, he added.
“We must turn our disappeared companions into heroes, not persecuted, and reaffirm they are not with us because they fought for a better world”.
Lula da Silva then mentioned Communications minister Franklin Martins who was part of an armed group that in 1969 kidnapped US ambassador Charles Burke Ellbrick, one of the most outstanding guerrilla coups against the military regime.
“Franklin participated in the kidnapping of the US ambassador” because he was fighting for more “freedom” in Brazil said Lula da Silva.
The event was organized by the Human Rights Secretariat during the presentation of the III National Program on Human Rights, which has the objective of creating a Truth Commission.
The Brazilian president made no reference to dates but anticipated it was his intention to draft into a bill all the initiatives contained in the plan.
However he was particularly insistent that the whole issue must be addressed with the utmost seriousness and without fuelling resentments or hatred. The issue is still highly contentious and sensitive in Brazil.
“From the time I was a union leader I don’t like making things on the rush, I like to think things over, quietly and certain of what I’m doing”. He added that what matters “is that we are in the world to accomplish a mission, in spite of the fact many times we go to sleep disappointed”.
The Truth Commission draft will supposedly include testimonies and reconstruction of murders, disappearances and tortures committed by the Brazilian police and military forces.
“So far we have compiled 396 cases of deaths and disappeared but we believe people still have to come forward and report other situations”, said Janaína Telles coordinator of the Dossier on Dead and Disappeared Political prisoners in Brazil, which was first published this year.
Telles said that the commission has requested other countries such as Italy, Spain and Argentina to help with the investigation of disappeared Brazilian citizens, “given the lack of support from Brazilian justice”
In 1979 the military regime approved an Amnesty bill, still in force, which forbids taking to court any suspect of having been involved in crimes against opponents of the dictatorship.
“The idea of the Truth Commission is not ideal but it’s an advance”, said Human Rights minister Vannucchi, who underlined that no Brazilian government has done so much in human rights issues.
But the Brazilian press also points out that Monday’s ceremony had been scheduled for December 10, Human Rights international and had to be postponed because of discrepancies with Defence minister Nelson Jobim who is completely against the initiative arguing it “will only open wounds from the past”.
The Brazilian military are also against the initiative and have repeatedly stated there are no records or archives on “such issues” belonging to the Armed Forces.
Defence minister Jobim who is also a distinguished jurist was not present at Monday’s event.