Amnesty, Transitional Justice and the Legacies of Dictatorship
October 11, 2013
Brief Sketches of Those Honored by the Brazilian Amnesty Commission
All of the following individuals have had long and full lives as activists in many different campaigns for social justice, equality, and human rights. The following brief sketches represent only a tiny glimpse into a single moment of their professional and political activities when they led campaigns in the United States against torture and repression in Brazil.
Marcos Arruda became involved in political activities as a geology student in the early 1960s. After being blacklisted from employment as a geologist in Rio de Janeiro, he moved to São Paulo where he worked in a factory in order to help reorganize the labor movement that had been decimated after the 1964 military coup. In 1970, he was arrested, accused of subversive activities, and nearly died under torture. After being released from prison, he moved to the United States where he founded the Committee Against Repression in Brazil and was involved in campaigns throughout the United States to denounce the military regime. A profile story about his arrest and torture published in the Washington Post in 1970 helped move that newspaper to publish a scathing editorial against the Brazilian government and consistently criticize U.S. government support for the dictatorship.
Margaret E. Crahan is a Senior Research Scholar at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Columbia University. Until September 2009 she was the Kozmetsky Distinguished Professor and Director of the Kozmetsky Cente for Excellence in Global Finance at St. Edward’s University. From 1982-1994 she was the Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Power and Political Process at Occidental College, and from 1994-2008 the Dorothy Epstein Professor of the City University of New York. She is Vice President of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights. While a graduate student at Columbia University in the 1960s, she supported the campaign to denounce torture and repression in Brazil. Among her activities was accompanying Congressman Márcio Moreira Alves, who had been stripped of his political rights in Brazil in 1968, on a campus tour of colleges and universities on the East Coast and in the Midwest in the spring of 1970 to educate students about the political situation in Brazil.
Ralph Della Cava is Professor Emeritus in Latin American History, Queens College, CUNY. He was a founding member of American Friends of Brazil in New York in 1970, and one of the chief architects of the campaigns to denounce torture in the United States in the 1970s. His article “Torture in Brazil,” published in Commonweal magazine in April 1970, provoked a polemic with former Ambassador Lincoln Gordon, in which Della Cava revealed Gordon’s complicity with torture that took place in Brazil soon after the 1964 coup d’etat. A co-organizer of the dossier Terror in Brazil, Ralph Della Cava was involved in all the campaigns to denounce human rights abuses in Brazil throughout the 1970s.
Anivaldo Padilha was involved in the youth movement of the Methodist Church in São Paulo in the 1960s, as well as in the progressive ecumenical movement. In 1970 he was arrested and tortured because of his involvement in underground activities against the military regime. Through church connections, he managed to obtain a visa to come to the United States where he worked in California to organize anti-dictatorship campaigns throughout the 1970s. In addition to being an editor of the Brazilian Information Bulletin, he coordinated numerous activities among a diverse group of Brazilian students and U.S. activists.
Jovelino Ramos is a retired Presbyterian minister who was active in social justice issues in Brazil in the 1960s. Indicted under the National Security Law for alleged subversive activities, he came to the United States in 1968 and participated in various activities on the East Coast to educate the U.S. public about human rights violations in Brazil. These included gathering support for the “We Cannot Remain Silent” statement that mobilized clergy, civil rights leaders, and prominent individuals to denounce the use of torture on political prisoners in Brazil. He served as an important liaison between the anti-dictatorship activities and the religious community.
Paul Silberstein had returned from Peace Corps service in Brazil and was studying at the University of California, Berkeley, when he happened to view the film Brazil: A Report on Torture (1971) that documented the torture of former Brazilian political prisoners exiled in Chile. Soon thereafter he joined a small group of Brazilians who were producing the Brazilian Information Bulletin, a newsletter that documents the human rights abuses of the military regime. Working discreetly behind the scenes, Paul was an editor of the Bulletin that circulated among academics, members of Congress, and others interested in Brazil. Published from 1971 until 1976, the Bulletin was a consistent voice of opposition to the military regime.
Harry Strharsky and his wife Loretta Strharsky met Marcos Arruda in Washington, D.C. in 1971 and quickly became involved in organizing a demonstration to protest the visit of President-General Médici to the Nixon White House. They and others formed the Committee against Repression in Brazil (CARIB) as a public face for their activities that involved organizing public protests, building links to progressive members of Congress, and supporting the Bertrand Russell Commission on Torture and Repression in Brazil, Chile and Latin America. Harry Strharsky served as the U.S. liaison to the Commission and coordinated its U.S. activities.
Loretta Strharsky, along with her husband Harry Strharsky, formed part of a small group of activists in the Washington, D.C. area who were involved in anti-dictatorship activities in the early 1970s. As part of the campaign to protest the official visit of President-General Médici to the United States, Loretta agreed to be photographed in simulated torture scenes that were displayed in front of the White House. A co-founder and tireless member of the Committee against Repression in Brazil (CARIB) and later the Common Front for Latin America (COFFLA), she helped sustain these groups that served as the focal point for Latin American solidarity activities in the Washington, D.C. area.
William Wipfler was the Associate Director and then the Director of the Latin American Department of the National Council of Churches. In 1970 he took a series of documents detailing human rights abuses in Brazil to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States. The cases that arose from those denunciations led the Commission to declare in 1974 that Brazil had been involved in the gross violation of human rights. An 1970 article denouncing torture in Brazil entitled “What Price Progress?” and published in Christianity and Crisis was a stinging indictment of the military regime and helped recruit many clergy and religious people to the cause of human rights in Brazil.
Paulo Abrão is Brazil’s National Secretary of Justice and has been President of the Brazilian Amnesty Commission since 2007. He holds a Ph.D. in law from the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), a J.D. from Uberlândia Federal University (UFU) and an M.Sc. from Vale dos Sinos University. Dr. Abrão is a Law Professor at Catholic University-Porto Alegre (PUCRS) and at the European Graduates Program on Human Rights, Pablo de Olavide University, Spain. He has also served as vice-president of ABEDi, Brazil’s Law Professors’ Association.
Gustavo Azenha is an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University’s Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS), where he serves as the Director of Graduate Studies (MARSLAC program) and Associate Director of the Center for Brazilian Studies. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. from Cornell University, with an interdisciplinary background in biology and the social sciences. His expertise is on social movements and public policy in Brazil, especially around health and environmental issues.
Pamela M. Graham directs the Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research at Columbia University Libraries, where she also directs the Global Studies Division. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science with a specialization in Latin American studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
James N. Green is a Professor of History and Brazilian Culture at Brown University. He received his doctorate in Latin American history at UCLA and is the author of We Cannot Remain Silent: Opposition to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship in the United States (Duke University Press, 2010). His research and writings focus on the political, social, and cultural history of 19th and 20th century Brazil.
Cleber Kemper is currently a Fellow in the Historical Dialogue and Accountability program at Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. In Brazil he worked for the Comissão Especial sobre Mortos e Desaparecidos Políticos, in the Secretariat for Human Rights of the Presidency of the Republic.
Carla Simone Rodeghero is an Associate Professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, where she earned a masters degree and doctorate in history. Her research focuses on Brazilian history, specifically anti-communism, dictatorship, amnesty, oral history, and memory. She also completed a post-doctoral appointment at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Brazil.
Mariana Sanches is a Brazilian journalist and social scientist, working for the last eight years as a reporter covering politics, social conflicts and public policies throughout Brazil and Latin America. She has received several awards for her work on indigenous populations, landless and homeless movements and corruption. She is currently enrolled in the M.A. program in Latin America Studies at Columbia University and her thesis will discuss violations against women committed by Brazilian military regime.
Marcelo D. Torelly is currently a visiting researcher at the Institute for Global Law and Policy, Harvard Law School. He holds a J.D. from Catholic University-Porto Alegre (PUCRS) and a M.Sc. from Brasilia University Law School (UnB) where he’s currently a PhD candidate. Between 2007-2013 has served as head of the Historical Memory Department from the Brazilian Ministry of Justice Amnesty Commission, and as manager for the Transitional Justice Exchange and Development Program jointly sponsored by the Brazil’s Federal Government and the UNDP.