Audios recordings reveal cases of torture during Brazil military dictatorship

O Globo released audio recordings during the military dictatorship in which members of the Brazil Superior Military Court discuss cases of torture.

Brazil dictatorship

There are 10,000 hours, or almost 417 days, of audio recordings from the Superior Military Court (STM) between 1975 and 1985. In open and secret court sessions, military and civilian court members, called ministers, commented, debated, and discussed cases of torture that took place during the dictatorship.

In a recording, a minister talks about a person who reported having been hit with a hammer to confess charges of bank robbery. In another one, an admiral admits torture took place but that is was not widespread. General Rodrigo Otávio, an army officer who spoke up against torture during the dictatorship, also mentions a political prisoner opposed to the military regime who had an abortion after receiving electric shocks to her genital parts while pregnant.

All these recordings were collected and compiled by Carlos Rico, a historian at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. The STM reluctantly made the recordings available after a decision from the Federal Supreme Court a few years ago.

The information was published by the O Globo journalist Miriam Leitão. She was also made a prisoner in 1976 during the military dictatorship. She was at the time member of the Communist Party. She was beaten, had to stay naked in front of police officers, and was put in a room alone with a boa constrictor. She was 1-month pregnant.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, congressman and son of Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro, early April joked he felt sorry for the snake and doubted the journalist for a lack of evidence.

That’s mockery and doubts raised against the journalist’s own story that motivated the historian to hand her over the audio recordings he was working on since 2018.

Jair Bolsonaro and other dictatorship supporters justify the military avoided the country to fall into communism and consider excess was performed on both sides of a polarized society. On April 1, 58 years after the military coup, President Bolsonaro praised the armed forces for being “the last bastion against socialism in Brazil”. During his presidency, Bolsonaro also wanted the military coup to be referred to as a Revolution now in high school exams, denying any controversy as “nobody is concerned by those absurd issues from the past”.

The vice president of Brazil and former general Hamilton Mourão reacted to the report and dismissed the significance of the information. Military and police officers who carried out torture sessions “have all died, he said laughing. Are you going to bring the guys back from the grave?” He added that it was part of history now. That torture was performed during Brazil’s military dictatorship is indeed not news.

But the Senate Human Rights Commission requested the recordings to the STM for “rigorous investigation”. “We cannot normalize torture and absurdities committed during the military dictatorship. These are profound scars that must be repaired, so that barbarism like this never happens again,” wrote Senator Humberto Costa, the president of the Senate Human Rights Commission, a supporter of Lula Da Silva and opposition figure of Jair Bolsonaro.

The president of the Superior Military Court, General Luiz Carlos Gomes Mattos, tweeted that “we have no answer to give, we simply ignore biased news like that,” considering it is only meant to harm armed forces. The general started his career in 1964, the year of the coup.

Up until now, the recordings will most likely not end up in any criminal prosecutions. In 1979, the Amnesty Law passed during the dictatorship provided amnesty for political dissidents but also protected military and officials for their crimes.

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