Brazil court overturns bar on '64 coup commemoration

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


An appeals court judge in Brazil on Saturday overturned another judge's decision to bar commemorations, sought by President Jair Bolsonaro, of a 1964 military coup that established a 21-year dictatorship.

Bolsonaro, a right-wing former paratrooper and an unabashed admirer of the country's former dictators, on Monday ordered the military to observe the 55th anniversary of the coup "appropriately" in the nation's military barracks.

His call to mark the armed overthrow of left-wing President Joao Goulart sparked widespread anger, and several street protests are planned for Sunday.

The attorney general's office on Wednesday called on personnel to "abstain" from paying tribute to a regime that committed "serious human rights violations."

And on Friday, Judge Ivani Silva da Luz in Brasilia declared that such a commemoration was "not compatible with the process of democratic reconstruction" promoted by the country's 1988 constitution.

But the ruling was overturned on Saturday by an appellate judge, Maria do Carmo Cardoso, who accepted the government's argument that Brazilian democracy was strong enough to support "a pluralism of ideas."

"I see no violation of human rights, particularly as similar demonstrations took place in the barracks in preceding years with no negative consequences," she wrote.

In recent days, troops in some barracks went ahead to mark the 1964 coup. A message from the defense minister citing the military as a necessary "rampart against totalitarianism" was read.

Bolsonaro is the country's first president since democracy was restored in 1985 to publicly exalt the military regime, though he argues its rise to power was not a "coup."

In the past, the outspoken Bolsonaro has referred to the dictatorship as a "glorious" time in Brazilian history. He was quoted in 2008 as saying that "the error of the dictatorship was that it tortured but did not kill."

Since taking office, Bolsonaro has had fond words for military dictators in 1970s and 1980s Latin America, such as Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay and Chile's Augusto Pinochet.

Bolsonaro, who ran for the presidency as a political outsider determined to dismantle a culture of corruption, has seen his approval rating plunge amid scandals and missteps since his January 1 inauguration.

His idea of marking the 1964 coup has received little support outside his own ultraconservative Social Liberal Party (PSL).

- Protests set for Sunday -

Street protests against the commemorations -- and in memory of the dictatorship's victims -- are planned for Sunday in major cities including Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, under the banner of "Dictatorship -- Never Again."

A 2014 report published by a national truth commission found that 434 assassinations were carried out in the years after the 1964 coup, as well as uncounted arbitrary detentions and cases of torture of political opponents.

But unlike its South American neighbors, Brazil has not prosecuted military officials for regime-era crimes, leaving the events of that dark period unresolved.

Scholars have dismissed his and others' attempts to legitimize the 1964 overthrow and the decades of military rule that followed.

"This always falls in the camp of folklore, the ridiculous, because the scientific evidence is indisputable," said Carlos Fico, a history professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.