New Details Surface about Dilma’s Experiences in the Torture Chamber

Posted by Robyn Smith and Rebecca Atencio

A document recently discovered moldering in the archives of the Human Rights Council of Minas Gerais (Conselho de Direitos Humanos de Minas Gerais) reveals that during the dictatorship current President Dilma Rousseff was tortured in the town of Juiz de Fora. The document consists of testimony that Dilma gave to the Council roughly a decade ago (for excerpts in English, see here). In it, she describes the various forms of torture she experienced while in Minas Gerais in 1972, including electrical shocks, parrot’s perch, and punches to the face resulting in damage to her teeth.

Prior to the discovery of Dilma’s testimony, it was believed that she had been tortured solely in São Paulo and Rio. The fact that the president has never publicly revealed this information herself is not exactly surprising, since she has tended to be very close-mouthed about her experiences in the torture chamber, possibly to fend off accusations of being revanchista (a politically-loaded term meaning “vengeful” that apologists of the military regime often deploy in an attempt to undercut the credibility of those who demand memory and justice).

As journalist Sandra Kiefer writes in the Correio Braziliense, “Whether out of discretion or as a precaution, Dilma has always avoided speaking about her torture. She has never given testimony for inclusion in human rights archives nor the anthology Women who Joined the Armed Struggle, edited by Luiz Maklouf in 1998. Only later, in 2003, did Maklouf manage to get Dilma to relate details about the torture she endured as  a political prisoner in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo [but not in Juiz de Fora].”

The document was handed over to the National Truth Commission where it will serve as important evidence of the existence of a torture center in Juiz de Fora. Commission coordinator Gilson Dipp says he was “shocked” by the revelation. The Truth Commission believes that more documents exist regarding the torture that occurred in Juiz de Fora and will be using the newly discovered document to learn about other victims’ experiences. Moreover, the Commission has announced it will send a task force to Belo Horizonte to examine the archive in hopes of uncovering more new information.

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