May 12, 2000
Brazil to probe reported 'Condor' murders

                  BRASILIA, Brazil (Reuters) -- Brazil is about to hold hearings into whether its
                  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
                  the time.

                  "If other countries were killing political leaders, why shouldn't we think that the
                  same thing happened in Brazil?" asked Araujo.

                  The investigation comes years after Brazil's neighbors, including Argentina and
                  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 died
                  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 requests
                  from human rights groups.

                  Araujo said the human rights commission would also seek to shed light on the
                  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.