Brazil Truth Commission aims to tackle dark past

RIO DE JANEIRO,  (Reuters) – Brazil is close to  creating a Truth Commission to investigate abuses committed  during its 1964-1985 military dictatorship, ending a 26-year  taboo on delving deeply into the period but falling short of  calls for human rights abusers to face justice.

A bill to create the commission, loosely based on South  Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission,  has won the backing of the still-influential armed forces and  enough support in Congress for President Dilma Rousseff to sign  off on it in coming weeks, government officials say.

Rousseff, a former leftist guerrilla who was tortured with  beatings and electric shocks in the early 1970s, made creating  the body one of her priorities for her first year in office  that has so far been dogged by graft scandals and a lack of  progress on reforms.

But she has had to steer a delicate path between  long-standing demands from the leftist wing of her Workers’  Party to address the abuses and the military’s rejection of  anything that smacks of “revenge.”
As a result, the new body will be a timid step compared to  Brazil’s regional neighbors such as Argentina and Chile, where  former military top brass have been tried and imprisoned.

The Brazilian military’s long-held opposition to a  commission has eased since last year when the Supreme Court  upheld the interpretation of the country’s 1979 Amnesty Law,  which protects suspected torturers from facing trials.

The commission’s aim is not to apportion blame, but to  “rescue memories” and give Brazilians the first comprehensive  history of abuses committed during the period, officials say.

“At the moment the most important thing is memory,” said  Jose Genoino, special adviser for the defense ministry.

“This is more radical than condemning anyone. After we have  memory and truth, there may be other questions.”

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