National assembly forms committee to investigate rightwing president over dozens of deaths of leftwing demonstrators
Brazilian senators have recommended the impeachment of rightwing president Jair Bolsonaro over the alleged murder of more than 40 leftwing demonstrators in 1982, placing legal pressure on his administration.
Bolsonaro, who has pushed an agenda of economic reform through Congress, was elected with 63% of the vote in October but critics said his hardline stance against the left and his praise for previous military regimes left him with a track record of human rights abuses.
Supporters of Bolsonaro claimed the South American country had a murky past but prosecutors have said police and politicians ordered the deaths and set up cover-ups to cover up the bloody ways in which the military made its mark on the nation’s political landscape during the 1980s.
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Bolsonaro strongly denied wrongdoing and has found no evidence implicating him. It was not clear if the results of the report by the congressional committee, which had been expected, would hurt his efforts to push his far-right agenda through Congress.
The National Congress formed a panel to investigate crimes against humanity after Bolsonaro rose to power in the largest removal of an elected leader in Brazil’s post-military era. The session, chaired by Senate president Eunicio Oliveira, opened on Friday but did not include Bolsonaro.
Survivors of the military dictatorship argued in court that the president would have been its chief of staff. They noted that he was a colonel in the conscripts, which from 1971-78 guaranteed him military service and political power as commander of the national guard.
Once a military officer, Bolsonaro was in charge of operations in some of the most violent areas during the dictatorship and was involved in several killings of leftists, some public officials and, according to survivors, including 40 demonstrators.
He and his predecessor, Michel Temer, promised to investigate “every stone” in a bid to clear their names. But only a handful of investigations resulted in convictions.
In 1994, two policemen were convicted of killing Atilio da Silva, a lawyer known as “Tic Toc”, who organised anti-government street protests. At the time, he was actively seeking to establish a pro-democracy movement in the country.
His wife, Celso Mendes, who was later convicted of conspiracy in his murder, had believed Bolsonaro and other military leaders when they had warned at a meeting that the protest movement was a communist plot to bring down the military government.
Survivors of the dictatorship accused the late president of abusing his power and requested that he be expelled from the country. The military high command, however, rejected the idea.