11/17/2004

Yahoo! News - Brazil Says Will Open 'Dirty War' Archives

Yahoo! News - Brazil Says Will Open 'Dirty War' Archives

RIO CUEIRAS, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil's center-left government will unseal archives of the country's 1964-85 military dictatorship in an effort to resolve a painful chapter in the nation's recent history, the justice minister said on Tuesday.

The records, which could detail the extent of the military's 'dirty war' against leftist sympathizers during the dictatorship, will be open before President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva finishes his first term at the end of 2006, Justice Minister Thomas Bastos said.

'Maybe it is important for Brazil to bring reconciliation with its own history,' Bastos told Reuters.

He added, however, the government was still studying how and when it would open the archives, which were sealed for up to 100 years in 2002 by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

'It has to be done as part of a process that does not cause any trauma, that does not cause any fear,' Bastos told reporters while visiting an environmental police base in Brazil's Amazon jungle.

The fate of the archives was pushed to the forefront last month after a Brazilian newspaper published pictures it said showed a journalist hours before he died under military custody in 1975. The government later clarified the pictures were not of the journalist, but the incident has sparked an ongoing debate about the archives.

Relatives of the dictatorship's victims have called on Lula to force the military to open the archives. Some 400 government opponents were killed, often kidnapped and tortured, during military rule.

Lula, a former union leader who was himself jailed during the dictatorship, had been wary of damaging relations with the military.

Nevertheless, he forced the army to retract a statement in which it defended the dictatorship's crackdown on opponents. Defense Minister Jose Viegas also resigned earlier this month, accusing the army of authoritarian thinking."

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