Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed a new decree changing the wording of the third edition of the 228-page National Program for Human Rights (PNDH-3).
The original text caused a spate between the military and the Human Rights area of the government. The presidential decree follows almost all of the original text in the 7th Chapter (“Eixo Orientador VII”), which deals specifically with “The Right to Memory and Truth” (Direito à Memória e à Verdade), creating a work group to draw up a bill that creates a Truth Commission.
The phrase “political repression,” however, which described which cases of rights violations were to be investigated by the commission in the context of the military regime was removed.
As a result, the text no longer specifies what human rights violations are to be investigated: those committed by the military or those committed by leftist militants during the military dictatorship (1964-85). The fact that the original text cited only violations by military personnel, which is the translation of the phrase “political repression,” caused profound discontent in military circles.
The troublesome phrase is actually used twice in the original text. On page 170, in a kind of preamble to the section “Right to Memory and Truth” it says “…memory and truth about what happened to victims of political repression during the regime of 1964.” On page 173, Directive 23 says: “…public clarification of Human Rights violations in the context of the political repression that took place in Brazil during the period…”
It should be pointed out that the rest of the PNDH-3 document, which is officially Decree 7,037 of December 21, 2009, remains as it was when Lula signed it in December. And as such, other parts of the document have been attacked by other groups.
For example, the agribusiness sector and the Catholic Church. These groups see problems with the way the text deals with conflicts over land ownership, and abortion and same-sex marriage).
Opponents and defenders of the document are aware that there is a long road ahead before a definitive text is reached. And that definitive text could be quite different from what it is today.