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Cable 375: Controversy in Brazil over 1975 Extrajudicial Killing of Journalist Vladimir Herzog

Cable 375: Controversy in Brazil over 1975 Extrajudicial Killing of Journalist Vladimir Herzog

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Published by Andres
This is a 2004 US embassy report on the political controversy generated in Brazil by media reports indicating that Vladimir Herzog, a prominent left wing journalist who disappeared in 1974, had been tortured and murdered while in the custody of state security forces.
This is a 2004 US embassy report on the political controversy generated in Brazil by media reports indicating that Vladimir Herzog, a prominent left wing journalist who disappeared in 1974, had been tortured and murdered while in the custody of state security forces.

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Published by: Andres on Jul 31, 2011
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07/31/2011

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Wikileaks Note: The full text of this cable is notavailable.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BRASILIA 002684SUBJECT: HERZOG CASE REOPENS WOUNDS FROM BRAZIL'SDICTATORSHIP
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. In 1975, during Brazil'smilitary dictatorship, leftist journalist VladimirHerzog died under suspicious circumstances in agovernment facility in Sao Paulo. The regimeclassified his death as a suicide, but mostbelieved he had been murdered, and Herzog became acase study for regime abuses. Two weeks ago,Brasilia's daily paper "Correio Brasiliense" ran astory highlighted by leaked photos that apparentlyshow a humiliated Herzog in his cell shortly beforehis death. If accurate, the photos of his abusewould support the theory that he was murdered.Shockingly, the Brazilian Army responded with astatement legitimizing the measures of thedictatorship and dismissing the press coverage as a"little attempt at revenge". President Lula wasoutraged and the Army Chief quickly issued a betterstatement expressing remorse for Herzog's death.In another twist, it then emerged that the man inat least two of the three photos was not Herzog atall, but a Canadian priest who ran afoul of theregime and was briefly detained in 1975. Thelegacy of the Herzog case will be a broaderdiscussion about how to handle the militaryarchives from the dictatorship period, which arecurrently sealed for fifty years. President Lula,
 
mindful of the need for smooth relations with themilitary and the importance of moving forward withhis policy agenda, is in no hurry to open thedictatorship's files. He will leave the next stepsto the Congress, courts, and public opinion. ENDSUMMARY.
--------------------------------------HERZOG'S DEATH AND THE FORGOTTEN FILES--------------------------------------
2. (U) When he was detained by the militaryregime on 24 October 1975, Vladimir Herzog was amember of the Brazilian Communist Party andDirector of Journalism at "TV Cultura". He wastaken for interrogation at a notorious regimefacility in Sao Paulo, becoming one of about 3,000political prisoners held at the time. The nextday, photos of his body were released --he had beenhanged from his cell's window (the window is so lowto the ground that Herzog's knees nearly touch thefloor, generating immediate doubts about thehanging scenario). Although the regime insistedHerzog had committed suicide, he was widelybelieved to have been tortured and murdered. TheSao Paulo rabbi who presided over his funeralrefused to bury Herzog in the cemetery's suicidesection.¶3. (U) In 1997, twelve years after the return tocivilian rule. An intelligence officer who, evenas late as 1995, was spying on leftist politicalparties, had a crisis of conscience. He gatheredup a stack of files from the military intelligence
 
center and delivered them to the Human RightsCommittee of the federal Chamber of Deputies, wherethey gathered dust until this month. The HumanRights Committee is now reorganizing its archives,and the files resurfaced. On 17 October 2004, in asplashy six-page spread, Brasilia's daily newspaper"Correio Brasiliense" ran three photos leaked bythe committee that apparently show a nude andhumiliated Vladimir Herzog, head in hands, sittingin his jail cell.
---------------------------------- MILITARY'S SHOCKING FIRST RESPONSE----------------------------------
4. (U) The response by the military to thearticles was nothing short of shocking in itsdefense of the military dictatorship:“From the mid-1960s through the early 1970s", readsthe statement issued by the Army's CommunicationsCenter, "there was a subversive movement in Brazilacting on orders from well-known centers of theInternational Communist Movement, planning totopple by force the legally constituted Braziliangovernment. At the time the Brazilian Army,responding to popular demand, put together, alongwith the other armed forces and police forces, apacification force that returned Brazil tonormality. The measures taken by the Legal Forceswere a legitimate response to the violence of thosewho refused dialogue and opted for radicalism. ...The Movement of 1964 (i.e., the military coup),fruit of popular demand, created the conditions forbuilding a new Brazil in an environment of peace

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