Report exposes use of torture in Brazil's recent past

Torture in Brazil. A report by the Archdiocese of Sao Paulo. Edited by Joan Dassin and translated by James Wright. New York: Vintage Books. 232 pp. $5.95. After decades of military dictatorship and severe repression, Brazil is looking closely at the recent past. Until now, it almost seems that no one ever questioned the fact that torture was an appropriate method for dealing with ``political'' prisoners.

Based on official investigations into the subject by civilian investigators, ``Torture in Brazil'' is the most complete and detailed account yet of the actual institution of torture set up and run by the military during their reign that has yet appeared in the country. It includes court proceedings of a large number of military trials as well as testimonies of political prisoners who survived.

Reading this report one comes to the shocking realization that in Brazil torturing came to be another job like any other; the torturers became more efficient and more expert; they were proud of their skills and were rewarded by their superiors for outstanding work.

And yet today, Brazil, like its neighbors Argentina and Uruguay, is now experiencing a new political revival following the return to democracy. These countries are all traversing a hopeful period of their history. Honest self-scrutiny, such as is reflected in this book, is necessary, and crucial to the future of democracy.

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