SAO PAULO – At least 19 children and teenagers were kidnapped during the 1964-1985 Brazilian military dictatorship, a “secret” buried for decades but which journalist Eduardo Reina is now revealing by naming names in his book “Captivity without end.”
In contrast to other Latin American countries, like Argentina, the kidnapping of kids during Brazil’s military government has been “forgotten” to date in Brazil’s history because the matter was never investigated, Reina told EFE in an interview.
“The history of the dictatorship is a secret and the kidnapping is a secret within the secret. Since that kind of crime existed in Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Bolivia, it kept going around in my head. I asked myself: Could something like that have happened in Brazil?” Reina said.
The Brazilian reporter began his research two decades ago, and since that time he has traveled more than 20,000 kilometers (12,400 miles) seeking information, but starting in 2016 he began turning up concrete data about the children who were taken from their parents by the Brazilian dictatorship.
Eleven of the 19 kidnappings documented by Reina were committed by agents of the military regime in the Araguaia region, where a communist guerrilla movement fought the government in the Amazon jungle in the early 1970s.
Among the kidnapped children are Giovani – the offspring of Orlando Oswaldo da Costa, one of the main guerrilla leaders in Araguaia – and Lia Cecilia, the daughter of guerrilla fighter Antonio Teodoro de Castro.
“The victims of the kidnapping became a type of war booty for those soldiers. It’s state terror practiced to the maximum. It was to demonstrate power, and so the children of peasants were also kidnapped,” Reina said.
He said he does not know the present whereabouts of Giovani, but he managed to get in contact with Lia Cecilia, who at just a few months of age was torn from her mother’s arms and transported from Araguaia to an orphanage created by a military man in the city of Belem, the capital of the Amazon state of Para.
Once there, the little girl was adopted by a couple who worked in the administration the orphanage and she only learned of her true origins in 2011, after seeing a report in the press about the relatives of guerrillas killed in Araguaia.
“In that report there was a photo of the sisters of Antonio Teodoro, her biological father. On seeing the photo, she noticed a great resemblance. She went after them and got DNA testing done, and they showed a 90 percent compatibility,” he said.
The story of the kidnapped children, kept quiet for decades, shows that the military dictatorship was “cruel, bloodthirsty and disproportionate,” not a “benign dictatorship,” as some sectors of society claim, the author said.
Current Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, an ultrarightist, this past week denied that there had been a dictatorship in Brazil and said that the “appropriate commemorations” of the 1964 military coup would be performed on the 55th anniversary of that event, but after a wave of criticism he changed the word “commemorate” to “remember.”
Amid the controversy, the Attorney General’s Office said that the toppling of President Joao Goulart in 1964 was without doubt a “violent and anti-democratic rupture of the constitutional order” that gave rise to “a regime restricting basic human rights and (engaging in) violent and systematic repression of political dissidence.”
“I agree with what the AG’s Office is saying about the president’s statement. It’s a lack of respect for Brazilian constitutional law and human dignity,” Reina said.
In his book, which will be released next Tuesday, the writer said he does not want to “point the finger at anyone,” but rather “to show a hidden reality” in Brazil.
“Kidnapping cases don’t (currently) exist in Brazil, (but) they are being denounced now. I hope that the book contributes and breaks that barrier and helps new cases – sadly – appear,” he said.