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Bolsonaro praises accused torturer and symbol of Brazil's dictatorship as 'national hero'

Evaristo Sa, AFP | Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro attends the changing of the guard ceremony at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on July 31, 2019

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro made waves on Thursday by meeting with the widow of an army colonel widely seen as a symbol of the country's 1964-1985 dictatorship and praising him as a hero.

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The right-wing Bolsonaro, himself a former army officer, decribed Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra as "a national hero, who prevented the country falling into the kind of thing that the left would still like today".

Brazil's National Truth Commision attested that 45 deaths or disappearances occurred during Colonel Ustra’s four years heading up military intelligence. An estimated 400 people were killed or disappeared and as many as 20,000 tortured during Brazil's dictatorship.

Ustra, who died in 2015, was found guilty in 2012 of human rights violations and ordered to pay compensation in connection with the abduction and torture of a journalist.

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