Democrats call on Biden to declassify documents on Brazil’s dictatorship for 60th anniversary

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A group of House Democrats is marking the 60th anniversary of Brazil’s 1964 military coup by calling on President Biden to declassify U.S. government documents detailing atrocities and human rights abuses during the nation’s more than two-decade military dictatorship.

Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Susan Wild (D-Pa.) led more than a dozen colleagues in a letter to the president and Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting that 13 specific documents be declassified in an effort to build stronger ties with Brazilian civil society.

“As this week marks the 60th anniversary of the military coup in Brazil and we celebrate the bicentennial of U.S.-Brazil relations, we emphasize that transparency and historical understanding are crucial components of fostering strong international partnerships,” the lawmakers wrote.

“As we strive to foster open dialogue and strengthen the ties between our nations, we believe that declassifying these documents will demonstrate our dedication to transparency, justice, and the advancement of democratic principles,” they continued.

“By doing so, we can contribute to healing historical wounds and ensuring that the lessons of the past guide our efforts toward a shared future founded on democracy and human rights.”

Biden, as vice president, traveled to Brazil and provided it a first tranche of declassified documents from the U.S. detailing the Brazilian dictatorship over its 21-year reign.

Biden, speaking from Brasilia in 2014, said he was “pleased” to take the first step in sharing documents with Brazil’s National Truth Commission and that the handover of an initial batch of documents would promote closer ties.

“I hope by taking steps to come to grips with the past, we can find a way to focus on the immense promise of the future,” Biden said during a press conference.

Brazilian human rights and civil society groups view the declassification of U.S. government documents from the time of Brazil’s dictatorship as a key piece in pushing back against the historical narrative that the government at the time was unaware of or disconnected from the torture, disappearances, executions and other atrocities against detractors or people viewed as a political threat.

The Washington Brazil Office (WBO), a nonpartisan, nongovernmental organization dedicated to fostering closer U.S.-Brazilian ties, put its support behind the lawmakers’ initiative.

“Transparency is a key step to strengthen democratic relations between Brazil and the U.S. and provide understanding about our shared history. We expect the White House to heed this call, which echoes the demands from Brazilian civil society, and swiftly declassify the documents.”

The WBO was one of 24 Brazilian groups and individuals who requested the documents and put their support behind the Democrats’ letter.

In an earlier letter to Biden, these groups described the Obama administration’s decision to declassify 660 documents for the National Truth Commission as a “remarkable act of transparency.”

“In light of this achievement, we kindly request that you continue to champion openness by encouraging the declassification of further documents that remain classified, enabling the U.S. public to gain a deeper insight into our own nation’s history. By releasing these documents, we can foster trust, promote accountability, and strengthen the foundations of democracy,” the groups wrote.

Updated at 2:21 p.m. EDT

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