Why democracy and celebrating the coup are incompatible

Fifty five years after the military coup, we recall crimes against humanity committed during the period and the scars left by the dictatorship

Fifty five years ago, Brazil was immersed in one of the darkest eras of its history. The 1964 coup was the start of a military dictatorship that lasted 21 years. During this time serious human rights violations were committed leading to hundreds of deaths and disappearances and to thousands of citizens being tortured.

In its  final report, The Comissão Nacional da Verdade (The National Truth Commission), created in 2011 by the federal government to investigate crimes committed during the dictatorship, published a series of recommendations to ensure that the crimes committed during this period would not be repeated.

The National Truth Commission’s Report concluded that:

  • The confirmation of 434 deaths and disappearances of victims of the military dictatorship. Until today, only 33 of the bodies of the people who disappeared have been found.
  • Electric shocks, sexual violence, beatings and drowning were only some of the many forms of torture used in the period. This was a widespread, systemic attack by the state on the civil population, affecting men, women, elderly people and children, with no distinction between social groups.
  • In the first five years, between 1964 and 1969, the military regime governed by means of institutional decrees, used as mechanisms to legitimise political actions by military personnel. Seventeen institutional decrees were issued over the period.
  • The best known of these, AI-5, suppressed the right to habeas corpus, closed the national congress, censured the press and the arts and revoked political rights in all spheres.
  • The UN considers agents of the state practicing illegal, arbitrary detentions, torture, executions, forced disappearances and concealing bodies to be a crime against humanity.

One of the main recommendations of the report is to prohibit holding official events to commemorate the coup, as president Jair Bolsonaro did last week.

Conectas participated effectively in putting together the CNV report and in publicising it, suggesting recommendations such as the proposal to create mechanisms to combat torture, prohibition of strip searches in detention centres and the reform of the police forces.

During a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in conjunction with other institutions, Conectas formally requested monitoring by the OAS (Organisation of American States) of the implementation of all these recommendations, and called for the government to create a permanent body, in charge of supervising progress.

Find out more

Receive Conectas updates by email