Faithfully devoted to the military dictatorship (1964-1985), President Jair Bolsonaro again unleashed controversy by questioning the legitimacy of the Truth Commission which investigated the crimes committed during that dark period in Brazil’s past.
Without thinking or pondering the consequences, the far-right politician was prepared to declare to journalists that missing political prisoner Fernando Augusto de Santa Cruz Oliveira was executed by a left-wing armed group and not by the military.
This, despite the fact that a secret Brazilian Air Force document and the Commission itself bear witness to the fact that he was killed by the Armed Forces in 1974.
With scathing language and a recalcitrant attitude, as psychologists say, the former military leader insisted that he would tell the son of Oliveira, Felipe Santa Cruz, president of the Brazilian Lawyers Association (OAB), how his father died.
“Who are these OAB people? If someday the president of the OAB wants to know how his father disappeared during the military period then I’ll tell him. He won’t want to hear the truth though. I’m telling you,” said Bolsonaro, who has never hidden his adulation of the military regime and has, since his arrival in power in January, set about forming an authoritarian and conservative government.
When Fernando, a public official and member of the Peoples Action (AP) organization, was arrested and went missing on February 22, 1974, his son Felipe was two years old. Bolsonaro was 19 and in the military academy.
Faced with the offensive and absurd remarks of the president, Santa Cruz responded by saying that he would ask the Supreme Court to ascertain clarification concerning these statements.
For Santa Cruz, Bolsonaro behaved like a “friend in the basement of the dictatorship” and demonstrates “grave character traits in a ruler: cruelty and lack of empathy”.
The OAB rejected the declaration of the head of state and stressed that all the country’s government agencies should “obey the Federal Constitution”.
In that same tone, Eugenia Gonzaga, president of the Special Commission on Dead and Missing Political Persons, described Bolsonaro’s speech as “extremely serious”.
More fuel to the fire
And to add more fuel to the fire, the tongue of the former army captain was again let loose to once more question the press: “Do you believe in the Truth Commission? Who made up the Truth Commission? Who were the seven people appointed by Dilma (Rousseff, former president)?” he replied.
“We want to solve crimes. The issue of [the] 64 [military coup], the documents about those murdered and not murdered – it’s a lie, ”added the president who described the official evidence of crimes during the dictatorship as unfounded.
When asked if he was willing to provide the Supreme Court with the information he has concerning the death of Fernando Augusto de Santa Cruz Oliveira, he said he had no written records and that his version was based merely on sentiment.
“What I do know is what I told you. There is nothing written to that effect, that was all. And that was my feeling, ”he reiterated.
As regards written proof that the political prisoner was killed by a left-wing group, Bolsonaro scoffed: “Do you want a document for that, my God? Documents are for when you get married, or divorced.”
As expected, Bolsonaro tried to defend the dictatorship in March and urged soldiers to commemorate the military coup of 1964, an announcement that caused a wave of repudiation across Brazilian society.
Across almost all sectors of society the irresponsibility of the president, in trying to justify clear proven facts whilst denying criminal acts of the military dictatorship that claimed more than 430 deaths, was condemned.
On March 31, 1964, Brazil experienced one of the darkest and most tragic periods in its history: the beginning of a military regime following a plot in which João Goulart, the legitimately and democratically elected president, was overthrown.
Historians point out that the investiture of the men in uniform who went on to govern for 21 years, happened in an orchestrated manner and was dressed up as democratic.
After years without any significance in Brazil, the fateful date became of note when Bolsonaro made known his intention to remember the date in army barracks, something even the judiciary took a stance on.
At the time, Brazil’s public prosecutor’s office pointed out that the attitude of the president “sounds like a justification for the practice of mass atrocities and, therefore, deserves social and political repudiation, notwithstanding the legal repercussions”.
It stressed that “the coup d’etat of 1964 was, without room for doubt or possibility of historical revisionism, a violent and anti-democratic breach of the constitutional order”.
Bolsonaro, who is attempting to erase the memory of a shrapnel torn country during years which left deep scares as a result of the brutality, is also facing harsh criticism from others. (PL)
(Translated by Nigel Conibear MCIL)