The Other Torture Report: U.S. Taught Torture Techniques to Brazil Dictatorship

Monday, December 15, 2014
President Dilma Rousseff presents Brazilian torture report

The United States wasn’t the only country releasing information about past human rights abuses last week. A report released by the Brazilian Truth Commission found that some members of that country’s military came to the United States for a special kind of education—to learn how to torture dissidents in their country.


More than 300 Brazilians came to the School of the Americas, located at Fort Benning, Georgia, where instructors “recommended interrogation techniques like torture, execution, blackmail and arresting the relatives of those being questioned,” according to a Pentagon manual released in 1996. 


That school was the alma mater for several notorious Latin American leaders, including Panama’s Manuel Noriega, and Roberto D’Aubuisson, who ran El Salvador’s death squads. It was one of the U.S. responses to the perceived threat of communism in this hemisphere.


The Truth Commission, which investigated the military dictatorship that ran Brazil from 1964 to 1985, identified more than 377 people by name who participated in human rights abuses. Among their victims was Dilma Rousseff, who was a political activist in the 1960s and is now Brazil’s president. She broke down last week when giving a speech marking the release of the report.


“Brazil deserves the truth. The new generations deserve the truth,” she said. “And most of all, those who deserve the truth are those who lost family members, friends, companions and continue to suffer as if they died again each and every day.” Previous reporting has shown Rousseff was punched, given electric shocks and forced into stress positions while in police custody.


Although about 100 of those who participated in the torture are still alive, but they’re not likely to be prosecuted because of a 1979 law giving members of the military amnesty for their crimes. And the School of the Americas is still in business, although allegedly in a kinder, gentler way. Now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, it doesn’t teach torture anymore.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

The U.S. Spent Decades Teaching Torture Techniques to Brazil (by Hayes Brown, Buzzfeed)

Report Implicates U.S. In Brazilian Dictatorship’s Torture Practices (by Joaquim Moreira Salles, ThinkProgress)

Brazil’s Torture Report Brings a President to Tears (by Adam Taylor, Washington Post)

Brazil Releases Report on Past Rights Abuses (by Simon Romero, New York Times)

Access the Final Report of the CNV (National Truth Commission)


Leave a comment