60 years since the coup: by not facing the memory,

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The 60th anniversary of the business-military coup in Brazil, completed this April 1st, arrives at a “very delicate historical moment” in the assessment of historian Carla Teixeira. While Lula gives interviews saying that he will not “remember the past” and keeps the recreation of the Special Commission on the Dead and Missing (dismantled under Bolsonaro’s administration) in a drawer, four-star generals are called to testify to the Federal Police (PF) about the acts January 8th scammers.

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At the same time, the Ministry of Human Rights planned to hold an event called “without memory there is no future”. With an ironically premonitory air, the title seemed to warn about the consequences of what its prohibition, precisely, could mean. The institutional event was vetoed by President Lula (PT). As well as anyone else that alludes to the dictatorship.

In the Senate, parliamentarians have received visits from the Minister of Defense, José Múcio, who is trying to forge agreements to advance the so-called “PEC dos Militares”. The federal government’s Constitutional Amendment Proposal, which needs three-fifths of the votes to be approved, establishes rules for the entry of military personnel into institutional politics.

Still under negotiation, the text should prevent members of the Armed Forces from returning to a military career after becoming candidates. However, they could continue to be paid by the institution.

“This PEC will not necessarily guarantee a reduction in the participation of the military in politics, because this can happen in a more subtle way”, assesses Teixeira, a PhD student in History at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). “They have guns. Which puts them in a very superior position in relation to the political leaders of the civilian class”, she highlights.

“That’s why they [os militares] They staged a coup, which is why they remained in power for 21 years, which is why they protected the democratic transition and guaranteed their privileges in the New Republic. That’s why, in 2014, when the National Truth Commission revealed part of the crimes committed by the military dictatorship, there was so much outcry. That’s why the military supported the coup against President Dilma, supported Lula’s arrest and did not hesitate to join the Bolsonaro (PL) government”, says Teixeira.

“What we need is the deepening of democratic values ​​so that the military corporation is subordinated to the interests of civil society”, says Teixeira, co-author of the book Illegal and Immoral: authoritarianism, political interference and military corruption in the history of Brazil.

Student demonstration against the military regime in Praça da República / National Archives/Correio da Manhã

Lula government and the military

The resistance of the military class to the Lula 3 government, right at its beginning, had as a symptomatic episode the refusal of the former Navy commander, Almir Garnier Santos, to attend his successor’s inauguration so as not to salute the new president. Santos would later be the target of a search by the PF for alleged involvement in January 8th.

“We see, therefore, a situation in which the Lula government is already having to reconcile with the Armed Forces”, describes Teixeira, for whom the military currently “regained a leading role that they had lost in the 1980s, when they left power” .

Thus, the historian outlines, “while the Lula government conciliates, it is the judiciary that assumes the position of responsibility”. The government, in the historian’s view, “makes mistakes and chickens out”. The acts of January 8, 2023 are, precisely, “the return of those who were not”, she characterizes. “Because they were not held responsible for the crimes committed during the dictatorship, there is the resourcefulness for actions like this to happen”, she says.

For Teixeira, Lula’s position “from a political point of view is bad, from a historical point of view it is terrible and the construction of a memory that seeks to establish democracy is absolutely counterproductive. It reaffirms our tradition of a political culture of conciliation and accommodation, which aims to conceal conflicts in order to establish a deeply unequal social organization.”

Débora Silva is the founder of the Independent Mothers of May Movement, born in reaction to the so-called May crimes, when in 2006 the police killed at least 429 people in just 11 days. For her, who fights against state violence in democratic times, “it’s not about dwelling on the past”: “We need to see that the past is being present. That’s the difference. A country that has no memory is moving slowly in reverse.”


Mothers of victims of police brutality in a democratic regime protest during the Cordão da Mentira parade, as the Brazilian military coup celebrated its 59th anniversary / Gabriela Moncau

Citing the lethality of Operation Escudo e Verão, implemented by the Tarcísio de Freitas (Republicans) administration in Baixada Santista since July 2023 and with no end date, Silva highlights that “the São Paulo police apply, on a daily basis, the AI-5 in the outskirts ”.

Since its inception, the function of the Armed Forces and State security agents, points out Teixeira, who is also a substitute professor of History of Republican Brazil at the Federal University of Uberlândia (UFU), “has been to guarantee order and maintenance of property toilet”.

“And it continues to be. Anyone who thinks it serves to protect the interests of the Brazilian population is mistaken. Unfortunately, the Brazilian Armed Forces serve to serve the interests of big capital, big property and the corporation itself”, he summarizes.

The little importance given to the topic in Brazil

In September 2023, Flávio Dino, then Minister of Justice, declared that the government would create a Museum of Memory and Human Rights. The announcement took place in Chile, when events and demonstrations marked the 50th anniversary of the military coup led by Pinochet against Allende’s government.

Months later, on the 60th anniversary of the Brazilian case, with a lukewarm public debate on the topic and institutional events vetoed, the museum project was aborted.

Thiago Mendonça, one of the organizers of Cordão da Mentira — a block that takes to the streets of São Paulo every April 1st in denouncement of state violence in dictatorial and democratic times — lists factors that explain the little importance given to the dictatorship debate in Brazil, in comparison to countries like Chile and Argentina.

“On the one hand, I think we symbolically lost this fight by not being able to explain to society how harmful the dictatorship was. In large part, this is because we did not put crimes against the civilian population that were not privileged on the agenda. As the peripheral population died in large numbers at the hands of death squads, which were the same agents in São Paulo who tortured as ‘political police’, we were unable to show this relationship”, reflects Mendonça.

“In parallel, while we do not face this memory — and we are even advised by the hegemonic left currently in government to leave this aside — the right appropriates this memory as something positive”, describes Thiago Mendonça.

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Paintings by the Communist Hunting Command (CCC) during the business-military dictatorship / National Archives/Correio da Manhã

In his view, this is a symbolic dispute from which Brazil has withdrawn since the 1980s. “This applies to the arts, to academic discussion, but it applies mainly to the struggle within social movements, grassroots movements” , says the activist.

“We didn’t make this a central focus. And the price we pay is that this memory is erased and reappropriated by the extreme right. And that’s the hole we’re digging ourselves into”, says Mendonça, defending the urgency of “recovering this memory as a process of collective understanding of the country and a priority for social movements”.

Editing: Matheus Alves de Almeida

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The article is in Portuguese

Tags: years coup facing memory

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