The World Cup starts today in the country which gave us Samba Football. The Beautiful Game found its most famous outlet here. But Brasil is a mass of contradictions. Its football inspired millions. It was exported to Africa, inspiring the African team of the 1960s Ghana to great heights.
Existing side by side with fantastic football – a joy to behold – is the darkest side of this glorious country. Coups led to despotic government, gross abuses of human rights and a shameful failure to redress the gross wrongs of the past.
The favelas – some notorious and violent – are tourist attractions that will doubtless involve revenue being raised, but not distributed among the poverty-stricken. Corruption is rife. Brasilians want health-care, education – the necessities of life far more than the Confederations Cup, the World Cup or the Olympic Games – hence the demonstrations, but one demand is absent.
It is a fundamental one – justice for the Disappeared. A year ago we took up cudgels on their behalf. Today, we republish that call for justice. Enjoy the World Cup, but remember those robbed of that opportunity.
By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30thth 2013)
The infamous Operation Condor involved cooperation between various South American dictatorships in the 1970s to eliminate or torture opponents. Documents exposing the extent of the operation were unearthed in Paraguay in December 1992. But such documents and testimony of survivors is not the only evidence available to give justice to the Disappeared.
Brasil is still getting to grips with its shady past – a history that may include the murder of former Presidents by agents of neighbouring dictatorships. These crimes were said to have been organised and executed through Operation Condor. The allegations of the murder of two former Presidents of Brasil came first from a former Governor of Rio Grande do Sul and also Rio de Janeiro Leonel Brizola, now deceased.
Brizola claimed João Goulart and Juscileno Kubitschek in fact been murdered on the orders of then ʻPresidentʼ Ernesto Geisel – the militaryʼs chosen candidate as part of Operation Condor. Brizolaʼs claims were later verified by Mario Neira Barreiro, a former security services agent for Uruguay’s dictatorship. Barreiro is currently serving a prison sentence in Brasil for arms-smuggling.
Barreiro claims that the late head of Brasil’s Department of Political and Social Order (DOPS) Sérgio Fleury (pronounced Flay-uree) was the link between Brasil’s and Uruguay’s dictatorships. According to Barreiro, Fleury demanded that Goulart must be murdered. He says that Goulart was poisoned. Goulart was rapidly buried without an autopsy testing the claims that he had been poisoned.
Kubitschek was alleged to have died in a car cr, ash. Again there was no post-mortem examination. In both cases the claims of murder are very serious and must be resolved. However, that would require exhumation and examination and possibly scientific testing using the latest procedures. It remains to be seen if Brasil has the will to turn these stones from the past.
Hope for the Future
There is a will now to expose the crimes of the past, including from unlikely sources at least in other South American countries. The USAID (United States Agency for International Development) provides humanitarian aid. It also demanded progress on the Disappeared in that country – providing concrete assistance too.
Among the countries that have received assistance is Colombia, which has a President in Juan Manuel Santos determined to tackle the scandals of the past and a reputation that was once true of Colombia, but no longer. Among the outrages of that country’s past that Santos is facing head on is that country’s Disappeared.
Relatives of Colombia’s Disappeared have hope now. USAID has provided assistance and the prestigious Instituto Nacional de Medicina Legal y Ciencias Forenses is providing the cutting edge science needed to enable the law and judiciary to catch up with the injustices of the past.
The Disappeared are able to tell their stories – finally. “We conduct the DNA tests on the remains”, Medicina Legal’s Director Dr Carlos Eduardo Valdes explained to me exclusively. “There is a National Database of the Disappeared, so we can get the DNA of relatives and identify the remains”.
This offers a blueprint for other countries. Knowing who the victims are and when they disappeared can help to identify perpetrators as well. There may even be the DNA of perpetrators on the remains or their clothing linking them to their crimes.
After all, these crimes occurred before anyone knew that the day would come when DNA testing could help tie them to their crimes. The Disappeared of South America’s dictatorships are beginning to accuse their torturers from beyond the grave. Brasil is no different.