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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

10 - Amnesty in the age of accountability: Brazil in comparative context


A childhood disrupted by military dictatorship. This is how Janaina and Edson Teles might describe growing up in São Paulo, Brazil in the 1960s and 1970s. The military police raided their house one night, apprehended their parents and took them to the notorious Department of Operations of Information–Centre for Internal Defence Operations torture centre. The children at first remained at home in the care of their ‘nanny’. When the military realized the nanny's identity – the children's aunt, their mother's sister – she too ended up in the detention centre. A prison guard took the children into her home, bringing them to the detention centre during the day where they could see their parents. Rather than contributing to the family's well-being, these visits tortured the Teles parents and children. The parents saw their children's presence as a threat; their failure to provide the information the military desired would bring harm to their children. The visible signs of physical and emotional abuse of their parents, without having any capacity to stop it, tormented the children.

The military detained and tortured the Teles family for their involvement in a political movement in Araguaia. In the early 1970s, members of the Communist Party of Brazil fled urban centres and the military dictatorship to form a resistance community in the Amazon. Once the military discovered the enclave, it tortured, killed and disappeared nearly all of the members of the group and community sympathizers. The massacre in Araguaia accounts for nearly 80 of the estimated 436 dead and disappeared during military rule (Comissão de Familiares de Mortos e Desaparecidos Políticos/IEVE 2009: 19).

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