Brazil: Volkswagen negotiates compensation for dictatorship support

Issue 

In what could be a historic move for reparations, car manufacturer Volkswagen has opened dialogue with the Brazilian government to negotiate compensation for the German multinational's support of Brazil's 1964-'85 dictatorship.

Volkswagen was among many private companies that backed Brazil's military dictatorship financially and operationally. Corporate complicity was revealed by Brazil's Truth Commission that investigated dictatorship-era crimes against humanity.

Brazilian and foreign companies also spied on union activists, passing sensitive and personal information to the country's military government.

The Truth Commission found Volkswagen guilty of handing over facilities at a factory in an industrial area of São Paulo to the military. The regime then used the facilities as detention centres and torture chambers.

The German company also registered records of union activity with the military. This included a 1983 union rally in which former president Lula da Silva, then a union leader and member of the newly founded Workers' Party, took part.

Volkswagen also gave the military regime about 200 vehicles, which were used in carrying out acts of repression, the commission said.

After the release of the Truth Commission, Volkswagen was the only company implicated in collaborating with the military regime that committed to investigating its own involvement with the dictatorship.

According to Volkswagen, the company is now in the preliminary phases of reaching an agreement with authorities in Brazil on how to compensate for its historical wrongdoing.

Under consideration in the negotiations with Brazilian institutions is the possibility of creating a museum, funded by Volkswagen, in memory of victims of the dictatorship in São Paulo.

Last year, Brazil's Truth Commission released its report on the atrocities committed under the country's 21-year military dictatorship and called for an end to amnesty for perpetrators of dictatorship-era human rights violation.

The Truth Commission found that at least 400 people were killed or disappeared during the more than two-decade period, and many more were victims of arbitrary detention and torture.

But prosecuting the perpetrators of these abuses has not been possible because an amnesty law put in place under the dictatorship in 1979 — and ratified four years ago by the Supreme Court — protects perpetrators from being tried.

Many of Brazil's disappearances occurred as part of the US-backed Operation Condor, which supported dictatorships to quash left-wing rebellions and movements throughout the continent.

[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]

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