Declassified Documents Given By Biden to Rousseff Detail Secret Dictatorship-Era Executions, “Psychophysical” Torture in Brazil

Jul 09, 2014

During Vice President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Brazil, President Rousseff was given a recently declassified US report containing the details of Brazilian torture during the military dictatorship.  In "one of the most detailed reports on torture techniques ever declassified by the U.S. government," it described procedures employed between the years of 1967 and 1977, often exposing practices that were previously hidden from the press. 

With the disclosure of this document to the Brazilian public, Biden hoped that the two countries would foster higher levels of cooperation in the future.  Brazilian officials and organizations responded with positive feedback, looking forward to increased US-Brazil relations.

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Peter Kornbluh – The National Security Archive, 7/8/2014

The Brazilian military regime employed a “sophisticated and elaborate psychophysical duress system” to “intimidate and terrify” suspected leftist militants in the early 1970s, according to a State Department report dated in April 1973 and made public yesterday. Among the torture techniques used during the military era, the report detailed “special effects” rooms at Brazilian military detention centers in which suspects would be “placed nude” on a metal floor “through which electric current is pulsated.” Some suspects were “eliminated” but the press was told they died in “shoot outs” while trying to escape police custody. “The shoot-out technique is being used increasingly,” the cable sent by the U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro noted, “in order to deal with the public relations aspect of eliminating subversives,” and to “obviate ‘death-by-torture’ charges in the international press.”

Because of the document’s unredacted precision, it is one of the most detailed reports on torture techniques ever declassified by the U.S. government.

Titled “Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives,” it was among 43 State Department cables and reports that Vice President Joseph Biden turned over to President Dilma Rousseff during his trip to Brazil for the World Cup competition on June 17, for use by the Brazilian National Truth Commission (CNV). The Commission is in the final phase of a two-year investigation of human rights atrocities during the military dictatorship which lasted from 1964 to 1985.  On July 2, 2014, the Commission posted all 43 documents on its website. “The CNV greatly appreciates the initiative of the U.S. government to make these records available to Brazilian society and hopes that this collaboration will continue to progress,” reads a statement on the Commission’s website.

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Image courtest of Flickr user Midia Ninja

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