BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) -- Brazil is about to hold hearings into whether
ex-military rulers participated in "Operation Condor," the reported conspiracy by
South American dictators to kill leftist leaders hiding in neighboring countries,
investigators said Friday.
The probe will focus on whether ex-Brazilian President Joao Goulart, deposed
when the military came to power in 1964, was murdered in his sleep while in
exile in Argentina in 1976, perhaps as a result of Operation Condor.
"This is one of stories that have not been explained in Brazil," said Congressman
Marcio Marques de Araujo, head of the human rights commission that will hold
the hearings set to begin next Wednesday.
Goulart's family and his political party say that he may have been poisoned
instead of dying from a heart attack in his Buenos Aires residence, as reported at
"If other countries were killing political leaders, why shouldn't we think
same thing happened in Brazil?" asked Araujo.
The investigation comes years after Brazil's neighbors, including Argentina
Chile, began investigating their atrocities under their respective military regimes,
which were much more severe and widespread than in Brazil.
Military governments ruled Brazil until 1985. Hundreds of political activists
in Brazil and more than 3,000 died in Chile. In Argentina, human rights groups
say 30,000 people were slaughtered by the military government.
Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is alleged to have led the conspiracy,
which supposedly got its name from Chile's national bird, the condor.
Reports of the network first emerged in 1992 when an Paraguayan lawyer
uncovered a so-called "Archive of Terror" detailing Paraguay's illegal swap of
"disappeared" prisoners among South American nations during its own
No other country has yet turned over its files for review, despite many
from human rights groups.
Araujo said the human rights commission would also seek to shed light on
deaths of Brazilian leaders on domestic soil.
Former President Juscelino Kubitschek, a strong opponent of the military
government, died in a 1976 auto crash. Alencar Castello Branco, Brazil's first
military dictator, died in a mysterious plane crash after calling for a return to
democracy shortly after leaving office in 1967.
Araujo said the panel faces no deadline.
Copyright 2000 Reuters.