Thanks to the Washington Monthly’s Nancy LeTourneau, I was alerted to another torture report that came out in recent days, this one from Brazil. That country’s National Truth Commission reported on its investigation into the 21-years of dictatorship that came to an end in 1985.   A central finding:

…[T]he U.S. played a direct role in encouraging state sponsored torture in Brazil. …[O]ver 300 members of the Brazilian military spent time at the School of the Americas, run out of Fort Benning near Columbus, Georgia, where they had “theoretical and practical lessons on torture, which would later be replicated in Brazil,” the report notes.

Among other things, the report discusses a Pentagon training manual used at the School which provided instruction in interrogation techniques like torture, execution, blackmail and arresting the relatives of those being questioned. The School, established in 1946, played a major role in developing the armed forces of much of Latin America, establishing lasting bilateral military relationships that helped ensure US political influence. The occasional unruly democracy that might be tempted to threaten US interests had to be mindful of the ever-present possibility of a coup by the US-friendly military. We can be reasonably confident that the practices the report details for Brazil were also utilized in other dictatorships that met US favor during the Cold War, as in Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, Guatemala, etc.

Given the US’s long, unsavory record of democracy prevention in Latin America, is it surprising that Latin Americans find it hard to take very seriously Americans’ self-righteous denunciations of the lack of democracy in Cuba?


  1. Jeffrey Herrmann December 22, 2014 at 6:50 am

    The quoted excerpt has a whiff of the “Yanquis-made-us-do-it” defense, so I would like to see some corroboration before believing it, but I’m too busy trying to determine whether the U.S. is falsely framing North Korea for the Sony hack and whether India staged the school massacre in Pakistan.

    • tonygreco December 22, 2014 at 6:47 pm


      The report (2000 pages) is overwhelmingly focused on the crimes committed by Brazilians against Brazilians. In that context, I don’t see that an observation about US complicity can be read as an attempt to shift blame to the US. Anyway, there is a considerable body of scholarly literature documenting the US role in enabling various forms of brutality by US-friendly dictatorships in Latin America.

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