Friday, November 14, 2014

Truth Commission: 421 Killed or Disappeared by Brazil’s Dictatorship

Nearly 30 years after Brazil’s return to democracy, the country’s National Truth Commission (CNV) is preparing to release a revised count of those who were killed or disappeared by the 1964-1985 military regime. But while the CNV has not yet published its final report, the figure has already come under fire from human rights advocates, particularly from state-level truth commissions.

As O Globo reports, the final report (which is to be turned over to President Dilma Rousseff on December 10) will include the names of 421 people who were killed or disappeared. CNV President Pedro Dallari has said that this figure includes 59 victims who were left out of an initial estimate of 362. Globo columnist Ancelmo Gois has obtained a breakdown of the total 421 -- subsequently reported in Spain’s El Pais -- which notes the following:
  • Of the total, 18 were killed outside the country, many under the auspices of the U.S.-backed “Operation Condor.”
  • The remains of 181 of the total had already been located and identified before the CNV was established in 2012.
  • 32 bodies were located by the CNV and returned to their relatives.
  • The whereabouts of 208 disappeared victims remain unknown. Among these are the roughly 70 peasants and militants who were members of the Araguaia guerrilla movement.
While the unpublished CNV report represents an important step towards reconciliation in the country, some have already criticized it for being too conservative in its account of dictatorship-era abuses. O Estado de S. Paulo reports that São Paulo State Truth Commission President Adriano Diogo has criticized the list for not including the names of 14 individuals identified as victims by relatives’ groups. And according to O Povo, Special Commission on Political Deaths and Disappearances (CEMDP) President Eugênia Gonzaga submitted a report to the CNV last week noting that the list of victims should be revised, as it does not include deaths among indigenous communities or groups of rural workers.

O Estado also reports today that the CNV has come under fire from the state truth commissions in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul for the fact that it is not expected to mention the country’s controversial 1979 amnesty law, even though it will press for further investigation into dictatorship crimes.

Interestingly, defenders of the amnesty law are increasingly finding themselves on the wrong side of public opinion.  A March Datafolha poll found that support for the punishment of dictatorship-era abuses now stands at 46 percent, up from 40 percent in 2010. The same poll found that some 46 percent of the population is in favor of annulling the amnesty law, while just 37 percent are against it and 17 percent are undecided.

News Briefs
  • Brazil’s ongoing Petrobras corruption scandal appears to be deepening. According to O Globo, today federal police across the country are carrying out 27 arrest warrants and questioning suspects accused of taking part in a massive money laundering and kickback scheme. Among those already arrested is Renato Duque, former director of engineering and services at the state oil company.
  • This week’s issue of The Economist features an analysis of the state of the rule of law in Mexico, asserting that President Enrique Peña Nieto’s focus on economic reforms may have come at the expense of implementing a meaningful overhaul of its corrupt criminal justice system. According to the magazine, the president can still prove his critics wrong by leading a purge of local police forces and judges, as well as fast-tracking a bill to make the attorney-general’s office independent and create an anti-corruption agency.
  • The Financial Times has an excellent take on how the recent Iguala student disappearances and reports of corruption have had on the Peña Nieto administration’s legitimacy, both domestically and internationally. When he returns from his G20 overseas trip tomorrow, the paper notes, the Mexican president will face an uphill battle to convince his critics that he can show the same leadership on rule of law reforms as he has on economic issues.
  • Yesterday, Mexican senators voted to select the new head of the semi-governmental National Human Rights Commission (CNDH). By a nearly unanimous motion (97 votes compared to two for both his competitors) the Senate chose former UNAM attorney Luis Raul Gonzlez Perez. As Animal Politco reports, opposition lawmakers are heavily critical of outgoing CNDH head Raul Plascencia, accusing him of being too complacent with impunity and corruption in the government.
  • In Guatemalan news site Plaza Publica, Oswaldo J. Hernandez reports on the arguments presented to the country’s Constitutional Court by civil society and legal experts, both in favor of and against re-starting the country’s judicial nomination process.  In October, transparency advocates managed to convince the court to put the appointment of top judges on hold over irregularities in the nomination process, and a final decision is expected to come in the coming days.
  • Hugo Perez Hernaiz of Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights offers a look at the work of Venezuela-based civil society groups in both the Inter-American and United Nations human rights systems, describing cases presented to the UN Committee against Torture and before the IACHR in recent weeks.
  • Argentina’s La Nacion offers an interesting detail on President Cristina Fernandez’s recent hospitalization: while she received no official visitors during her treatment, she allegedly transmitted orders to her cabinet via her son, Maximo Carlos Kirchner. This was likely to get around leaving Vice President Amado Boudou in charge, as the VP is facing corruption charges and the move would have fueled criticism from the opposition.
  • The L.A. Times profiles comments made on Wednesday by Colombia’s lead peace negotiator in Havana, Humberto de la Calle. Speaking in Bogota, the official told rebels that “the time has come to make big decisions,” a remark that comes as some analysts question whether the talks have stalled on the issue of reparations to conflict victims.
  • The Miami Herald looks at the potential for a lasting peace to come out of the Havana negotiations between the FARC and Colombian government, noting concerns among analysts that segments of the insurgent group could break away continue armed and criminal activity even after a peace deal is signed. Even despite these worries, the paper notes that no peace process is perfect, but that even a partial demobilization would likely have positive ramifications for Colombia.