A Villainʼs Charter?

by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (December 8th 2014)

A Clean Slate

This week the Championʼs League and Europa League will reach the business stage of deciding which teams will continue in the knock-out phase, drop down to the Europa League, or finish their participation in either competition. Soon the consequences of a rule change on carried over yellow cards will bite.

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Prior to the start of this seasonʼs tournaments UEFAʼs General Secretary Gianni Infantino explained the reasoning behind European Footballʼs governing body taking the decision to follow FIFAʼs lead to give players a clean slate for the final stages of the Championʼs League and Europa League for the current season. Like the World Cup yellow cards will be wiped clean at the quarter-final stage.

UEFA says it wanted to avoid the risk of top players being suspended for the latter stages of the competition. But does it? The World Cup-winning French midfielder and current Strategic Advisor of Greek champions Olympiacos, Christian Karembeu told Empower-Sport that he supported the changes.

Of course”, Karembeu said. “This is normal. I think that … every player deserve to play final, for example, and I think itʼs logical to give the chance to everyone when you dream about the finals – you dream about it”! But will it?

Christian Karembeu 2

Villainsʼ Charter

But the flair players – the ones spectators pay to see – are the victims of the persistent fouling, the ʻenforcer tacklesʼ designed to discourage them from playing and much more besides. This leads to them getting frustrated on occasion and reacting.

Remember David Ginola trudging off the pitch unhappily after being sent off for elbowing Lee Dixon when Arsenal played Newcastle United in the Coca Cup as it then was in January 1996. “They wonʼt let me play football”, he said. And they hadnʼt. Dixon had been fouling Ginola throughout the match, ensuring that Ginola could not function and the officials had allowed it. Finally a very frustrated Ginola retaliated by elbowing Dixon. He was sent off. The referee had no choice, but as Kevin Keegan then manager of Newcastle observed, flair players were not being protected.

And then there are cards picked up for deliberate blocks or non-violent cheating. The deliberate hand-balls, the shirt-tugging to prevent an attack developing and of course the simulation all deserve cards and the full consequences, donʼt they? Wonʼt this change in the rules encourage players to offend more as the consequences for doing so diminish?

The recent World Cup was ruined by a combination of excessively lenient refereeing and this rule. The quarter-final between Brasil – the most persistent offenders – and Colombia was destroyed as a spectacle by the failure to enforce the rules of the game. This happened under the auspices of Luiz Felipe Scolari – a manager who once declared the ʻBeautiful Game Deadʼ and the man that also said he wanted his team to foul more. What did they expect to happen other than the anti-football inflicted on the world that night?

Foul and Fouler

Far from guaranteeing the participation of the top players, these changes rewarded persistent offenders whose job it was to prevent the most talented from playing football – the exact opposite of what these changes are supposed to be delivering. What did they expect?

Letʼs hope that the amnesty on suspensions will not be accompanied by a repetition of the ludicrously lenient refereeing that rewarded the cynical and dirty play that Scolari inflicted on a world hoping for Samba football. Was it coincidence that Brasil played dirty?

It was their game plan after all – one that was cynically adopted to stop flair players by foul means or fouler – and utterly predictable that this would happen to ensure that a mediocre team undeservedly reached at least the final stages of the World Cup. Ironically, this happened at the expense of a team that had inherited the mantle of Samba football.

FIFA could not have failed to realise that Brasil would play this way. A talented Chile side and an even better Colombia paid the price. It also put a target on Neymarʼs back that put him out of the World Cup. Letʼs hope it doesnʼt happen again in the Championʼs League or Europa League.

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The Disappeared (Part Three) – Hope

Editor’s Note:

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.

Derek Miller

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30thth 2013)

Notorious

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.

Blueprint

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.

 

 

The Disappeared (Part Two) – We Remember

Editor’s Note:

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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.

Police at Stadium

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.

Derek Miller

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30thth 2013)

The Commissions

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The Eremias Delizoicov Centre for Documentation and the Families’ Commission of Political Deaths and Disappearances has a website highlighting the crimes of that era and their quest for justice. As with other South American dictatorships, the disappeared are finally getting to accuse their torturers from beyond the grave, as forensic science tells their stories. According to the website 379 disappeared have been named. The actual toll is likely to be far higher.

One of the major tests of Brasil’s democracy now is how it deals with the issue of the Disappeared and also the victims of torture in that era. Brasil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, was once a Marxist guerilla, who was captured and tortured during the dictatorship. She could easily have become one of the Disappeared or died in detention herself and is therefore cautious about how she proceeds on this thorny issue.

She doesn’t want her actions to be seen as politically motivated revenge for her previous ordeal. Nevertheless, the young democracy, with its soul awakened once more, must now tackle the crimes of the past. In order to build a safe and democratic process torture and disappearance of political opponents must have consequences – serious ones.

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Rousseff established a Truth Commission in 2011 and a year earlier the persistent quest for justice resulted in the Organisation of American States’ Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling that the 1979 Amnesty Law was null and void in a landmark judgement in December 2010. Among the cases that this opened up was the murder of respected journalist Vladimir Herzog.1

No Statute of Limitations

Slightly before the Confederations’ Cup began the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights came to Brasil to demand progress on the investigation into Herzog’s death. The Brasilian government had previously insisted that the Amnesty law applied. An impasse has occurred that Rousseff can and must resolve.

Herzog’s death 38 years ago was a pivotal moment in modern Brasilian history. It helped to bring down the dictatorship by awakening a nation’s consciousness. Now it is time the debt is repaid by ensuring that almost four decades after he died under torture justice is served to his memory and for his family. It is the very least Herzog, his family and Brasil deserve.

Without the sacrifice of Herzog, the Disappeared and those opposing the dictatorship the streets of Brasil would not be remotely safe to demonstrate in now. Today’s demonstrators owe a debt they are too young to appreciate to their parents’ generation for winning them the right to demonstrate in comparative safety.

Night View in Rio

Doesn’t that sacrifice deserve justice, however belated? There is therefore no barrier to prosecuting the perpetrators of these atrocities if there is sufficient evidence. And there is.

Belated Justice

Last year one of the most notorious of the dictatorship’s enforcers Sebastião Cúrio Rodrigues de Moura was charged over the disappearance and likely murder of five left-wing activists. The charges were initially thrown out under the 1979 Amnesty Law – wrongly – and Cúrio may yet face trial. He is not alone.

Another then Colonel, Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, faced charges over the murder of journalist Luiz Eduardo Merlino. His death, during the darkest days of Brasil’s dictatorship, implausibly had been claimed to have been suicide. Merlino’s relatives doggedly demanded Ustra be prosecuted. Again they have had some success, but as yet there have been no convictions in Brasil. If Brasil is to emerge from the shadow of the dictatorship once and for all justice must be delivered without fear nor favour.

View of Rio

1  See The Disappeared (Part One) – Amnesty and Amnesia that was published in the magazine previously for further details.

 

The Disappeared (Part One) – Amnesty and Amnesia

Editor’s Note:

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.

Derek Miller

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 30thth 2013)

The Demonstrations

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The demonstrations that have gripped Brasil started as a popular protest against rises in transport fares. Despite avoiding paying taxes the bus companies decided to hike fares by 20%. It was the last straw for many Brasilians. A popular protest movement was born that coincided with the Confederations’ Cup.

It demanded concessions on education, poverty and a drive against corruption. It was non party-political. Some concessions were made, but the eyes of the world gazing on Brasil emboldened them to demand change. Further demands were added and it morphed into something new. Some protesters targeted the government of President Dilma Rousseff. FIFA was also one of its targets.

But one demand that we are focusing on was conspicuous by its absence – justice for Brasil’s disappeared and those martyred fighting this country’s last dictatorship. Brasil is a comparatively young democracy. Its military seized power in 1964 and took over two decades to hand power back, leaving a trail of corpses and a controversial amnesty law that protected killers.

View of Rio

The Confederations’ Cup ends today – the demonstrations, perhaps not. The hoard of international journalists will soon depart, myself included. The issues that resulted in Brasilians taking to the streets remain. Next year the World Cup will shine an even more intense microscope on Brasil.

But I’ll be back before that festival of football begins – that’s a promise – and we will investigate whether progress has been made regarding the brutality suffered by the disappeared and those victimised by torturers in uniform.

By then, I hope that justice for the Disappeared will not be on the agenda, because I hope by then that they will have had justice. I still cannot understand how the worst crimes of that horrid period of Brasil’s history have been ignored by the demonstrators and others too.

How is it possible to complain of police violence, but ignore kidnap, torture and murder? Such amnesia is baffling and discredits the movement, but it can learn. Time will tell if it matures after the world’s media up sticks and go home.

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Amnesty Laws

During those terrible two decades, especially under General Emílio Garrastazú Médici, opponents, whether armed or not, disappeared. Some were murdered. The journalist Vladimir Herzog fled in the early days of the dictatorship, returning after a ‘relaxation’ in the repression. It cost him his life and subsequently his family a long battle for justice.

In 1979 the military government passed an Amnesty law. Similar laws have been rejected in other former dictatorships. The former dictators of Chile and Argentina Generals Augusto Pinochet and Jorge Videla Redondo were among those originally protected by Amnesty laws, but these laws also protected the functionary thugs who did the dictators’ vicious bidding.

The immunity was later removed in both Chile and Argentina. Pinochet died before he could face trial. Videla was jailed for life in 1985 for torture and murder, but was pardoned in 1990 by then President Carlos Menem. In 2010 he was again jailed for life for crimes against humanity and again jailed for life. He died in May 2013.

Brasil’s 1979 Amnesty law is no different, although it applied to insurgent guerrillas as well as the military. Although the statute of limitations on murder – 20 years – has elapsed there is no limitation on prosecutions for crimes against humanity. This means that justice can still be served.

Christ the Redeemer