In an hour-long television interview, Eduardo Bolsonaro, a congressman representing São Paulo, said the reinstatement of Institutional Act 5 (AI-5) could be “necessary”.
The son of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro explained that, in light of the current popular protests in neighbouring Chile, “the people are going to need to make a response, and that response can be through a new AI-5.”
The utterance of AI-5 should bring a chill to any Brazilian who was of age in the 1960’s, any student of history, or anyone with a conscience. The AI-5, which was declared by then President and General Artur da Costa e Silva in 1968, shut down the Brazilian congress, legalized arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, authorized censorship, sent thousands into exile, reinstated the death penalty, criminalized political meetings, removed any judicial checks on presidential decrees, and ushered in a period of wanton arrest, torture, disappearance and murder of anyone opposed to or in the way of the military regime.
The AI-5 was not disbanded until 1978 by President and General Ernesto Geisel as he was leaving office, although not before he had made use of it during his own tenure. In May 2018, a CIA memorandum sent to U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1974 was found by a Brazilian researcher; it detailed a meeting between Geisel and three generals to discuss the execution of 104 “subversives” and how to maintain the repression while making overtures toward relaxing the government’s absolute power. Geisel concluded that they should continue the executions but must ensure that they are of qualified “dangerous subversives”.
Eduardo’s father, President Jair Bolsonaro, is well known for his incendiary support of the military dictatorship as well as numerous sexist and homophobic remarks. In 2003, when he was in Congress, he told a fellow congressperson that she was “ugly” and said, “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it”; in 2011, he said that he would rather any of his three sons were dead rather than be gay; and in September 2019, he told UN Human Rights Commissioner and former president of Chile Michelle Bachelet that she should “remember that the only reason her country is not another Cuba is thanks to those courageous enough in 1973 to put an end to the Left and communists like her father”. Brigadier General Alberto Bachelet was charged with treason after the coup d’état that installed dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1973, and tortured until his death in 1974.
In a formal response to Eduardo Bolsonaro requested by Brazilian newspaper O Estado de São Paulo (O Estadão), former Brazilian president and opposition Worker’s Party (PT) member Dilma Rousseff declared that “nobody should be surprised” and called out the lack of will on the part of the press to criticize the government.
“No one in the press can say they’re surprised by Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro’s opinions in favor of the AI-5. Certainly nobody should be surprised because the Bolsonaro family has demonstrated in various ways how they are against democracy….
“It’s strange to be asked what I think of this latest statement about AI-5, as I have fought my entire life, and continue to fight against the AI-5 and similar acts and their defenders. O Estadão, which is posing the question, should and must answer as well for its editorial position which has been at the least, to put it very kindly, ambiguous in view of the rise of the extreme right in Brazil.
“Those who have never firmly and necessarily questioned the Bolsonaro family’s threats against the Worker’s Party and have blindly, cowardly and irrationally opposed the PT, are denying the rise of hatred and the extreme right, and have become complicit in the shameful defense of neo-fascist authoritarianism.”
Dilma Rousseff was herself arrested at the age of 22 in 1970, and tortured by the military regime for three years. She has undergone numerous operations for a broken jaw and other injuries, and during her presidency spearheaded a Truth Commission for the sake of other victims of the dictatorship.
(Translation: Danica Jorden)