Brazil’s Lula Reinstates Commission to Investigate Human Rights Abuses and Crimes During Military Dictatorship Era

In a significant move towards addressing historical injustices, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has reinstated the Special Commission on Political Deaths and Disappearances. The commission, originally established in 1995 to investigate crimes during the military dictatorship (1964-1985) and provide reparations to victims, was disbanded by former president Jair Bolsonaro just two days before the end of his term on December 30, 2022.

Presidential Decree Reverses Bolsonaro’s Actions

A presidential decree, published in the Official Gazette of the Union on Thursday, nullifies Bolsonaro’s resolution that terminated the commission’s work and ensures the continuation of its activities. Bolsonaro, a former army captain and staunch defender of the military regime, had eliminated the commission, drawing significant criticism from human rights organizations and political observers.

Legacy of the Military Dictatorship

The military dictatorship in Brazil, marked by political repression, resulted in at least 434 deaths or disappearances between 1946 and 1988, according to official figures. Although this number is lower compared to the casualties in other Latin American countries like Chile (3,200) or Argentina (30,000), it excludes numerous victims of militias and indigenous massacres during the state’s territorial expansion.

The Amnesty Law and Its Implications

Unlike Argentina, which prosecuted high-ranking officials and state agents for dictatorship-era crimes, Brazil passed an Amnesty Law in 1979, which effectively closed the chapter on military abuses without holding perpetrators accountable. This has been a point of contention for human rights groups advocating for justice and accountability.

Support from Human Rights Minister

Brazilian Human Rights Minister Silvio Almeida hailed Lula’s decision as “an important step to guarantee memory, truth, and justice.” Almeida emphasized the continuation of the previously interrupted work, including the search and identification of the dead and missing.

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Lula’s Controversial Stance on Historical Commemorations

Despite reinstating the commission, Lula faced criticism from human rights groups for suspending official events on March 31, the 60th anniversary of the military coup that ousted constitutional president João Goulart and established an authoritarian regime. Lula defended his decision by stating that the 1964 coup “is already part of history” and expressed greater concern over the January 8, 2023 coup attempt by Bolsonaro supporters.

Bolsonaro’s Legal Troubles

The former president Bolsonaro and several of his ministers are currently under investigation for their alleged involvement in a “coup plan” aimed at retaining power after losing the 2022 elections. This investigation underscores the ongoing political tensions and the complex legacy of Brazil’s military dictatorship.

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