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Tanks occupy the Avenida Presidente Vargas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 4, 1968. © 1968 Correio da Manhã
President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has reinstated commemorations of the 1964 coup that inaugurated two decades of military dictatorship marked by widespread torture and killings, Human Rights Watch said today.

“Bolsonaro rightly criticizes the Cuban and Venezuelan governments for violating their people´s basic rights,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “But at the same time, he celebrates a military dictatorship in Brazil that caused untold suffering to tens of thousands of Brazilians. It is hard to imagine a clearer example of a double standard.”

Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has reinstated commemorations by the military of the March 31, 1964 coup that deposed a democratically elected president and imposed a military regime that lasted until 1985. In doing so, Bolsonaro reversed a policy established in 2011 by President Dilma Rousseff, a survivor of torture herself, who ordered the armed forces to end any celebration of the coup.

This is what Bolsonaro is celebrating:

Nobody has ever been held accountable for those abuses, Human Rights Watch said.

One of the victims was Vladimir Herzog, a journalist who was brutally tortured and killed in 1975 by the dictatorship´s henchmen. “I am outraged,” Herzog’s son Ivo told Human Rights Watch. Commemorating the coup “is offensive; it´s torture for the families” of those killed, Herzog said.

Bolsonaro, a member of the armed forces during the dictatorship, repeatedly defended the military regime’s record during his almost 30 years as a congressman.

He has said the dictatorship made a mistake by torturing people when it should have killed them and repeatedly referred to one of the worst torturers of the dictatorship as a “hero.” In 2009, he hung a poster on his office door in Congress that said “whoever looks for bones is a dog,” in reference to the search for the remains of suspected members of the Araguaia guerrilla group who were forcibly disappeared.

Recently, Bolsonaro praised the former Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner as “a visionary, a statesman.” And after one of Bolsonaro´s ministers said that the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet “had to cause a bloodbath” and applauded his economic policies, Bolsonaro said that the previous dictatorships in South America “pacified” the region.

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