Brazilian Senate Debates Freedom of Information Law

June 21, 2011 8:00 am 0 comments

National Congress Building in Brasilia. Photo by BKM_BR.

A bill to pass a freedom of information law in Brazil, introduced by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2009 and approved by the Chamber of Deputies last year, is currently stalled in the Brazilian Senate as lawmakers debate whether or not to enact amendments that would allow some ultra-classified documents to remain in “eternal secrecy”.

Law 41/2010 is one of several projects that would open Brazil’s 1964-1985 dictatorship – and older state and military secrets – to national and international scrutiny. Besides the freedom of information law, Brazilian Congress is currently debating whether or not the country should create a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses committed in the military era.  Recently, President Dilma Rousseff, a former political prisoner, declined to review the country’s Amnesty Law, reinforcing the decision made by the Brazilian Supreme Court in April 2010 that dictatorship-era cases could not be reopened.

The freedom of information law, if approved in its current state, would release government documents dating back to the dictatorship and do away with the policy of keeping sensitive government documents in “eternal secrecy” by releasing them after a maximum 50 years. While Rousseff initially embraced the law, questions about the bill’s constitutionality and pressure from opposition politicians have since caused Rousseff to revise her stance.

Those critical of the proposed law include Rousseff’s presidential predecessors, Senate President José Sarney and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Fernando Collor de Mello, who faced impeachment as president and eventually resigned. Former President Sarney said that releasing certain documents would amount to a “Wikileaks” for Brazilian diplomacy, adding “Let’s embrace the country and preserve what it has. We won’t open up those wounds from the past, from our history.”

While the documents could provide details about Brazil’s cooperation with other Latin American governments in carrying out massive human rights abuses under Plan Condor during the 1970s and 1980s, as well as more recent nuclear research and military exercises, not all of the sensitive documents refer to Brazil’s recent past.  Some date back to the war between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay), which decimated Paraguay’s male population between 1864-1870. Others refer to Brazil’s acquisition of the state of Acre from Bolivia. Opponents to the law argue that new revelations about these events could imperil Brazil’s relationships with its neighbors.

Nonetheless, members of Rousseff’s own Workers’ Party (PT) have criticized the president’s reversal. “The PT does not agree with changes to the project, because it is not in favor of eternal secrecy,” said Humberto Costa, leader of the PT in the Senate.

Any revision to the freedom of information law would send it back to the Chamber of Deputies for approval, and then back to the Senate, delaying the passage of the law.

Meanwhile, human rights organizations like the Inter American Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Deceased and Disappeared Political Victims in Brazil are monitoring Rousseff’s commitment to passing the law. Gonzalo Marroquín, President of the Inter American Press Association, called on Brazil to “avoid missing the opportunity to assume responsibility in regard to public access to information, a privilege that belongs to all citizens”.

Photo: BKM_BR @ Flickr.

Leave a Reply


Other News

  • North America Today in Latin America United States Sidestepping Congress, Obama Unveils Plan To Protect 5 Million From Deportation

    Sidestepping Congress, Obama Unveils Plan To Protect 5 Million From Deportation

    Top Story — U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled a three-part executive order on immigration that would protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation, sidestepping a year of gridlock over immigration reform in the Republican-led House of Representatives. The president’s plan, presented in a fifteen-minute speech, would also expand border enforcement and facilitate legal immigration for skilled immigrants. Obama stressed that while the nearly five million undocumented immigrants affected would be allowed to register and legally seek […]

    Read more →
  • Central America Honduras Today in Latin America Missing Beauty Queen, Sister, Found Dead in Honduras

    Missing Beauty Queen, Sister, Found Dead in Honduras

    Top Story — The bodies of reigning Miss Honduras María José Alvarado, 19, and her sister Sofía, 23, were found in a riverbank grave in an area west of the capital city, Tegucigalpa, police announced Wednesday. Since the sisters went missing on Nov. 13, their disappearance has become national news in the country with the world’s highest peacetime murder rate. Sofía Alvarado’s boyfriend, Plutarco Ruiz, has been arrested and is considered the main suspect in the killings. Aris Maldonado, an […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Colombia News Briefs North America Colombian Government and FARC Agree on Process to Free Kidnapped General

    Colombian Government and FARC Agree on Process to Free Kidnapped General

    An agreement has been reached between FARC rebels and the Colombia government on steps to release Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate, according to a statement released by the Cuban and Norwegian governments, which were involved in brokering the deal. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended two-year-old peace talks with the FARC in the wake of Alzate’s capture, insisting that the talks would not resume until Alzate was returned. Alzate, who is the the highest-ranking officer to be taken by the […]

    Read more →
  • Mexico North America Today in Latin America Peña Nieto Says Protesters Seek To Destabilize Mexico

    Peña Nieto Says Protesters Seek To Destabilize Mexico

    Top Story — Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto on Tuesday accused “violent movements” of taking advantage of anger over the September disappearance of 43 students to sow unrest as discontent over the issue shows no sign of abating. His remarks come as pressure builds over the missing students from the rural Ayotzinapa teacher training school in Guerrero state, who officials recently said corrupt local police arrested and turned over to a drug gang, which killed them and incinerated their bodies. […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Peru Today in Latin America Report Highlights Activist Murders in Peru Ahead of Lima Climate Talks

    Report Highlights Activist Murders in Peru Ahead of Lima Climate Talks

    Top Story — Just two weeks before the U.N. Climate Change Conference begins in Lima, Peru, nonprofit Global Witness has released a widely publicized report naming the country the fourth deadliest in the world to be an environmental or land activist. Since 2002, 57 activists have been killed in Peru, more than half of them in the last four years. Peru is facing international scrutiny due to the slow pace of an investigation into the Aug. 31 killing of four […]

    Read more →
  • Brazil Southern Cone Today in Latin America Brazil Arrests 27 in Petrobras Corruption Scandal

    Brazil Arrests 27 in Petrobras Corruption Scandal

    Top Story — Brazilian authorities on Friday arrested 27 people in connection with an investigation into a multibillion-dollar corruption scheme at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Among the 27 was the firm’s engineering director, the second senior executive to be arrested in connection with the scandal. Following the arrests, President Dilma Rousseff said that the “symbolic case” would change Brazilian society forever. Rousseff served as energy minister under her predecessor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The investigation began when a […]

    Read more →
  • Colombia News Briefs Colombia Suspends Peace Talks Over General’s Apparent Kidnapping

    Colombia Suspends Peace Talks Over General’s Apparent Kidnapping

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has suspended the government’s peace talks with FARC guerrillas after the group’s apparent detention of an army general, jeopardizing the future of the negotiations at a key moment. General Rubén Darío Alzate and two others reportedly went missing in the rebel-dominated northern province of Chocó. The president has said that all signs point to FARC, and that he expects the group to release the three before continuing with negotiations. The FARC, however, have not confirmed […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Today in Latin America Venezuela Venezuela Court Refuses to Release Opposition Leader, Despite U.N. Appeal

    Venezuela Court Refuses to Release Opposition Leader, Despite U.N. Appeal

    Top Story — A Venezuelan court has refused to release leading opposition politician Leopoldo López, despite appeals by the United Nations, the López’s defense lawyer said Thursday. López has been imprisoned along with other opposition figures since February for his alleged role in anti-government protests that left at least 40 people dead and hundreds injured. He faces charges of inciting violence in an attempt to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, who took office after his predecessor and mentor Hugo Chávez died […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Blog Colombia Today in Latin America FARC Apologizes for Killing Indigenous Leaders

    FARC Apologizes for Killing Indigenous Leaders

    Top Story — The FARC, Colombia’s largest rebel group, has issued a statment saying that they “profoundly lament” killing two indigenous Nasa men near the southwestern municipality of Toribío earlier this month. The apology comes after seven FARC rebels were put on trial in a tribal court for the killings on Nov. 9, and five of them given long prison sentences. The two Nasa men were part of the indigenous guard, the police force in the indigenous territory. According to […]

    Read more →
  • Andes Today in Latin America Venezuela Maduro Puts Price Limits on Barbies, Fearing Holiday Speculation

    Maduro Puts Price Limits on Barbies, Fearing Holiday Speculation

    Top Story — Barbies are flying off the shelf in Venezuela after its socialist government mandated the plastic dolls be sold at a special discount price for the holidays. The low price cap is part of President Nicolás Maduro’s “Operation Merry Christmas,” a plan designed to insulate consumers from skyrocketing prices during the holiday season. Refrigerators, plasma TVs, computers and other electronic appliances are also part of the Christmas special, and Venezuelans have been camping by the hundreds outside of […]

    Read more →