Brazil’s National Archives have disclosed documents which prove that the United States were aware of torture and forced disappearances of political prisoners in Brazil during the military dictatorship, which ran from 1964 to 1985.
The set of digital documents was sent by the US government at the request of the National Truth Commission (CNV), endorsed by the Brazilian government, based on the US Freedom of Information Act.
The files, released for reference, include information on the disappearance of Stuart Angel Jones, son of the late fashion designer Zuzu Angel and former congressman Rubens Paiva, whose bodies were never found, and the murder of communist leader Carlos Marighela in São Paulo, among others.
An excerpt from a telegram sent in May 1973 by the US Consulate in São Paulo to the US Department of State in Washington contains reports of incarceration and torture in Brazil.
“Interrogation of political prisoners is often accompanied by torture, i. e. the pau de arara (parrot’s perch), electric shocks, starvation, etc.,” the document read.
Jaime Antunes, managing director of the National Archives, explained that three shipments with information on DVD media were sent to Brazil. The first of them, with 43 files, was received in June 2014, personally handed over by US Vice-President Joe Biden. They had already been made available for reference on the CNV website.
According to Antunes, CNV has not been able to examine the second shipment consisting of 113 documents, received in December, and the third, with 538 documents, delivered on June 30.
He says the material was selected and formatted by the US government. “The passages that they still regard as confidential have been blacked out,” he said.
The material was released as it was provided by the Americans: in English language and split into three batches. The National Archive will now systematize the information, translate the titles and descriptions for easier reference.
“Having these documents is a major achievement, because we all know that the US have a very strong presence in Latin America and closely supported these movements in countries that experienced dictatorship periods,” he said.
For Antunes, “any sources of information that shed light on tortuous periods will help establish the facts so that everything becomes known and never happens again. For the research community and human rights agencies, this is exemplary.
If any other countries have information about this period of military dictatorship in Brazil, I hope they are so kind as to share it with the Brazilian people.”
Last year, the National Truth Commission informed that it wanted the Brazilian Army, Air Force and Navy commands to explain their reasons for denying that military facilities were used for torture and murder during Brazil’s dictatorship.
The Commission accused the military of being omissive in recognizing state liability for human rights violations committed in the period.
In a request for clarification sent on August 2014 to the Brazilian Ministry of Defense, the CNV asked the Armed Forces to confirm or deny information that state agents tortured anti-dictatorship activists on military premises, often with higher officers knowing it.
In a statement, the commission said that the findings in the Armed Forces report received earlier that year failed to take into account the testimony and records obtained by the CNV as evidence that the military premises were misused.
According to the commission, there were no mentions of torture in the military reports, although even the Brazilian State has already admitted the violations.
Through its press office, the Defense Ministry said it has not received the request so it declined to comment. CNV coordinator Pedro Dallari again criticized “the unwillingness of military commanders to cooperate with the commission.”