World Bulletin / News Desk
A Truth Commission in Brazil says it has discovered evidence that former President Juscelino Kubitschek was assassinated by the country’s former military regime, which ruled from 1964 until 1985.
Kubitschek – widely known as JK – was killed in a car accident in 1976 while travelling from Sao Paulo to Rio. But rumours that the accident was rigged because the politically popular Kubitschek posed a threat to the regime have existed ever since.
“There has always been a lot of suspicion that this was not a normal accident, and was planned,” said David Fleischer, political science professor at the University of Brasilia.
Sao Paulo´s Truth Commission, which is made up of city councilors, said Tuesday that it has found dozens of pieces of evidence to suggest the car crashed because the driver was shot in the head.
"We are convinced that Juscelino Kubitschek was murdered, we have no doubt about that,” said the chairman of the Truth Commission, Councilman Gilberto Natalini.
Kubitschek was president from 1956 to 1961, during which time he famously moved the capital of the country from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, newly built on the savannah plains in the centre of the country. A popular politician, he had regained rights to run for election again shortly before his death.
Natalini said that they had a total of 90 pieces of evidence that point to Kubitschek’s murder. Particularly conclusive, he said, were reports of pieces of metal in the skull of Juscelino Kubitschek’s driver, Geraldo Ribeiro.
These “indicate that he was shot and therefore lost control of the car,” Natalini said.
Fear of a popular political rival
Natalini said that their evidence suggests that Kubitschek was assassinated to prevent any chance of him presenting a political threat to the military regime.
A letter sent in 1975 from a Chilean Colonel, Manuel Contreras, to Brazil’s chief of the National Intelligence Service, General João Baptista Figueiredo, raised the possibility that Jimmy Carter would become president of the United States, thus strengthening democratic opposition to the Southern Cone military juntas, according to the report.
Kubitschek had formed an opposition movement known as the Broad Front, with another former Brazilian President, João Goulart, who was deposed in the military coup, and journalist and politician Carlos Lacerda, explained Professor Fleischer.
“Together with Goulart and Lacerda...Kubitschek was articulating for the return of democratic rule,” Professor Fleischer said. “JK was the most charismatic and popular, and was seen as the most credible threat.”
Kubitschek died shortly after the letter was sent, in 1976, as did a prominent Chilean opposition leader and political activist, Orlando Letelier, who was killed by agents of General Pinochet in Washington DC. Carlos Lacerda died suddenly in Rio de Janeiro in 1977.
Goulart died in exile on his farm in Mercedes, Argentina, in 1976, apparently of a heart attack. In November, Jango was exhumed to determine if he had been poisoned as part of Operation Condor, a secret scheme waged jointly by leaders of Southern Cone dictatorships to eliminate dissidents and threats across each other’s borders.
Truth and reconciliation for an ugly past
Although Brazil’s military dictatorship was less bloody than those in neighboring Argentina and Chile, some 500 people were killed or disappeared, while more than 50,000 people were detained and 10,000 forced to go into exile, according to research by Paulo Roberto Filho of Yale University. Many others were tortured, including President Dilma Rousseff, at that time part of a leftwing guerilla group, who received electric shocks and was hung upside down, naked, with bound ankles and wrists.
The findings of Sao Paulo’s Truth Commission will be passed to President Rousseff, Senate President Renan Calheiros, Supreme Court President Joaquim Barbosa and the National Truth Commission.
Critics of Brazil’s Truth Commission, set up in 2011 to investigate the military era, have called it toothless. Those investigated and found accountable currently cannot be convicted due to a 1979 law granting total amnesty to anyone involved in politically motivated crimes during the dictatorship, including torture and murder, either on the side of the military leaders, or of dissidents.
Brazil’s Supreme Court found the controversial amnesty law constitutional in 2010. However, Professor Fleischer said that the composition of those who preside over the court has changed so radically in the three years since that if the issue returned to the court, it could be overturned.
“Some on the Supreme Court are now saying they have enough votes to throw the amnesty law out,” Fleischer said. “That might happen next year, and would be very big news.”Last Mod: 12 Aralık 2013, 10:09