Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was overcome during her speech on Wednesday at the ceremony to honour the completion and reception of the National Truth Commission’s report. The Commission (known by its acronym in Portuguese, the CNV), initiated two and a half years ago in 2012, was charged with investigating crimes, including torture and disappearances, which occurred from 1946 until 1988, especially during the period of Brazil’s military dictatorship from 1964-1985.
Dilma, to use the Brazilian method of referring to politicians and most people by their first or nicknames, stopped speaking for almost a full minute during her address in order to compose herself as she recalled the pain and suffering of the period, during which she herself was imprisoned and tortured, while those in attendance spontaneously rose to their feet and applauded her.
“We, who believe in the Truth,” she said, “hope that this Report contributes to ensuring that the ghosts of a painful and sad past can no longer hide in the shadows of silence and omission. At the ceremony to install the National Truth Commission in May 2012, I said that ignorance about history does not bring peace. On the contrary, it allows bitterness and rancour to smoulder. I said that disinformation does not bring calm. It only facilitates the transit of intolerance. Furthermore, I asserted that Brazil deserved the truth, and that new generations deserved the truth, as do, above all, those who lost family members, relatives, friends and colleagues and who continue to suffer…”
At this point, her voice trailed off, while she pursed her lips and gently massaged the sides of her mouth. And then she picked up where she had left off to complete her sentence, “…as if they were dying anew each day.”
According to the Commission’s website, the final report was presented to the President on 10 December 2014 at the Planalto, Brazil’s White House, in Brasília. “The report, divided in three volumes, is the result of two years and seven months of work” on the part of the Commission:
“Set up in May 2012, the CNV was created to ascertain and clarify the circumstances and authorship of the serious human rights violations committed between 1946 and 1988 (the period between the two last democratic Brazilian constitutions) with the goal of implementing the right to a record and a truthful history and promoting national reconciliation.”
The 4,400 page, three volume report indicts 377 persons for torture and crimes committed during the military dictatorship.
After the president’s speech, an elderly man, wearing a suit and tie and dark oversized glasses, took the microphone to denounce the report and insist that the military be thanked for having triumphed against terrorism and guerrillas. Identified as lawyer Joel Câmara, his statements were met with cries of “Assassin!” from the audience that followed him as he left the podium.
In the hallway later, surrounded by journalists and photographers, the man continued to rail against the current government, saying, “This democracy is failing because nobody respects the authorities.” He was quickly confronted by the daughter of Rubens Paiva, the Brazilian politician who was tortured and disappeared in 1971. “My father fought and died for your right to speak…. It’s thanks to democracy,” she declared, “that you and I can have this discussion.”
Videos of the speech and responses are here:
Link to the Commission’s website and the report:
Danica Jorden is a French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian translator.