Exhumation of Brazil’s João
Set for Month of John in the U.S.
It’s just a coincidence, but as the U.S. President John Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago this month spawned the mother of all conspiracies, the exhumation of João Goulart, Brazil’s last democratically elected president before the 1964 military coup, is indeed spooky.
We’re not making light of what’s pretty much one of Brazil’s first attempts at exhuming its own past. Goulart’s death in Mercedes, Argentina, on Dec. 6, 1976, has been the subject of popular suspicions that he was poisoned, not felled by his heart, ever since.
After all, the dictatorship that had deposed him was at the peak of its most ravaging efforts to eradicate from the national memory his leftist legacy of populism. Plus, less than four months earlier, his predecessor, Juscelino Kubitschek, had also died in mysterious circumstances.
Earlier this year, the National Truth Commission, which has a mandate to probe human rights violations during the military rule, said it’d been looking into the car crashed that killed Kubitschek, a centrist whose term saw a boost in Brazil’s urban explosion, and the rise of its World Heritage capital, Brasilia.
The commission was checking allegations that Kubitschek’s driver had been shot before the collision with a bus near São Paulo. But so far, there hasn’t been any new word on the investigation, and the commission has the prerogative of not releasing any of its findings.
Rumors that Jango had been killed by orders of Brazil’s generals got a boost in 2008 when a former agent from Uruguay, Mario Neira Barreiro, told Folha de São Paulo that he’d spied on him for four years. Speaking from a Brazilian jail, where he’s been since 2003 on unrelated charges, he didn’t offer any material proof though.
Since Folha hasn’t managed to confirm his allegations either, mainly because most of those who could vouch for them are already dead, today’s forensics techniques may be the only hope to find out any corroboration of the thesis of poisoning. In the case of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, however, similar suspicions have just been disproved.
RISE OF A DOOMED MEDIATOR
Jango, as he was known, had been the Labor Minister in the second presidency of Getulio Vargas, arguably Brazil’s most popular leader, and the man known for creating state-run oil giant, Petrobrás. Vargas, who had led an autocratic government in the 1930s, managed to come back 20 years later supported by a popular coalition.
His suicide while still in office, in 1954, remains one of Brazil’s most traumatic events and helped to throw the country’s incipient political institutions into a tailspin. He was succeed briefly by his vice-president, and then, in quick succession, the Senate’s president and its vice president all within two intense years.
When Kubitschek, with Jango in the ticket, was elected by a large majority, though, Brazil seemed to have regained its true north, with a vibrant urbanization process and a rush to make its industrial park competitive. The 1960 inauguration of Brasilia marked the nadir of a new era for the country, now known for its youthful culture and a so-called racial democracy.
It was not to last, even if any of the aforementioned landmarks were true or consistent with the underbelly of global politics. Kubitschek became the first Brazilian president to fulfill his mandate, and the last Continue reading