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On demons and dreamers: Violence, silence and the politics of impunity in the Brazilian Truth Commission

Tavares Furtado, Henrique

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Abstract

Measures towards post-conflict or post-authoritarian justice have historically relied on the merging of the concepts of silence, violence and impunity in order to create a single promise of justice. Scholars and practitioners in the field usually defend a trifold agenda of breaking the silence about violations of human rights, denouncing systematic violence in the past and fighting impunity as the only way of ensuring that violence never happens again. This trope was mobilized in Brazil in 2014, when the report of the country’s National Truth Commission (CNV) was released. However, in the Brazilian case, truth-seeking also produced its own form of ‘silence’. Whereas the CNV commendably denounced 377 perpetrators as the ‘demons’ responsible for implementing a state of terror during the last dictatorship (1964–1985), it also created a depoliticized and victimized idea of leftist militants as mere dreamers who fought for liberty and democracy in the past. By representing leftist militants as freedom fighters, the CNV silenced their fundamental ideas (and actions) regarding the concept of revolutionary violence and its radical programme of structural change. In this article, I provide an explanation that connects the CNV’s ‘silencing’ of this political project to the unreflective merging between the concepts of silence, violence and impunity in the literature. Via a narrative analysis of the CNV’s report and a critique of transitional justice debates, I argue that the silence on the political project of the radical left in Brazil echoes transitional justice’s silence about the complexities of violence in general.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Aug 1, 2017
Journal Security Dialogue
Print ISSN 0967-0106
Electronic ISSN 1460-3640
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 48
Issue 4
Pages 316-333
APA6 Citation Tavares Furtado, H. (2017). On demons and dreamers: Violence, silence and the politics of impunity in the Brazilian Truth Commission. Security Dialogue, 48(4), 316-333. https://doi.org/10.1177/0967010617696237
DOI https://doi.org/10.1177/0967010617696237
Keywords Brazil, cnv, human rights, impunity, national truth commission, transitional justice, violence
Publisher URL http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0967010617696237
Related Public URLs http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0967010617696237

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