30 Years of Silence: Torture Allegations in Brazil

October 12, 2016

Similar to various other Latin American countries, Brazil suffered through a right-wing military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.The aim of this dictatorship was to eliminate any and all threats of communist uprising within the country. This is similar to Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, but, unlike such countries, Brazil has only now acknowledged the torture and other atrocities committed during the 21-year dictatorship.

Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay have all passed truth commissions shortly following the fall of their respective dictators. This past Wednesday, December 10th, 2014, the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, gave a speech acknowledging the torture and issuing Brazil’s very own truth commission. Rousseff, a former guerilla, was tortured with electric shock during the dictatorship, along with two other past presidents, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Lula and Cardoso opted not to acknowledge the atrocities in order to move forward and build a stronger democracy, but it seems that Rousseff could not remain silent.

During her speech given in the capital of Brasilia, Rousseff was visibly emotional while talking about the truth commissions. She plead for reconciliation to those who were hurt or killed during the harsh dictatorship. While the numbers are not nearly as staggering as those  from Chile or Argentina, Rousseff believes that the truth needs to be divulged in order to move forward. It was not only people like Rousseff who were tortured or killed, but also indigenous people who were “in the way” of the military.  

This truth commission, which began its compilation in 2011, has stirred up controversy among military members since they are the main targets of accusation. But it seems that Rousseff insists on making the truth commission and list of torture admissions public despite the possible backlash. In the future, Rousseff hopes to create public organizations that will help families investigate any missing or dead relatives that were linked to dictatorial violence.2 Now that records of torture and other human rights violations have been made public, Rousseff and her team promise to never let such a thing happen again in the history of Brazil.


1) Romero, Simon. "Brazil Releases Report on Past Rights Abuses." The New York Times. The New York Times, 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 Dec. 2014. Available at:  <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/11/world/americas/torture-report-on-brazilian-dictatorship-is-released.html?ref=americas>.

2) Passarinho, Nathalia. "Dilma Chora Ao Receber Relatório Final Da Comissão Da Verdade." Política. O Globo, 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 Dec. 2014. Available at:  <http://g1.globo.com/politica/noticia/2014/12/dilma-chora-ao-receber-rela....

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Sophia Winston
Sophia Winston is a Spanish and Urban Studies major at the University of Pittsburgh, she is also pursuing a certificate in Latin American Studies and a minor in Portuguese. She has spent a semester abroad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and is currently a senior.