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BRAZIL: OPENING UP THE PAST

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DOPS ARCHIVES OPENED

Old DOPS building in Sao PauloNow housed in a handsome purpose-built centre, Sao Paulo’s Public Archive has been thrown open to online access, as its 16 million documents are progressively digitalised. The digitalization project involved 70 people over three and a half years, with documents dating from the 1920s, but the main interest centres on the period of military dictatorship, 1964-85.

Like all secret police files, the DOPS archive is full of lies and absurdities.

There is a file on Karl Marx, which is understandable, but also on Pope John Paul II, who played an important role in the downfall of communism. But in the simplistic reasoning of DOPS he himself was a communist, because he was Polish and in 1979 when he became pope, Poland was communist. Even Pelé was considered subversive for remarks he made about Brazilians not being ready to vote, because they were uneducated, while scores of well known musicians, singers, and playwrights were watched and followed for years, even after the military regime ended. Ex-governor Jose Serra, now a conservative politician, but once a fiery student leader, was noted to have “wept” at the mention of the Soviet Union during a meeting. Present at the ceremony, he denied he had.

When Professor Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro began to explain the work of the National Truth Commission, he was interrupted by a group of young people – the Levante Popular da Juventude (Youth Popular Uprising) who held up a banner demanding the extension of the Commission’s two year time limit, more transparency, and more involvement of the families of the disappeared.

Pinheiro explained that either these demands were already being met, or that they did not depend on him. He also categorically denied newspaper reports that President Dilma Rousseff is demanding faster results from the Commission, which has been under attack for not revealing information, but keeping it for the final report. That is not due until May 2014.

The day after the ceremony, attended by the state governor, Geraldo Alkmim, the newspaper Estado de S. Paulo revealed that the governor’s private secretary, Ricardo Salles, who was also present, is an apologist for the 1964 coup, who has questioned whether any crimes were committed by the military. The governor’s judgement, in not only choosing such a person as his private secretary, but also taking him to such a ceremony, is definitely open to question.

Latin America Bureau has recently published ‘K’, a novel by Bernardo Kucinski based on the disappearance of his sister in 1973 during the military dictatorshop. More details are available here.