Araguaia guerrilla

Araguaia guerrilla
Part of the Cold War and Brazilian coup d'état
Araguaia River banks
Date 1966 – 1974
Location State of Goiás current State of Tocantins, Brazil
Result Military Government victory; guerrilla exterminated
Brazil Brazilian military government Communist Party of Brazil
Commanders and leaders
Emílio Garrastazu Médici
Ernesto Geisel
Gen. Orlando Geisel
Gen. Milton Tavares de Souza
Gen. Olavo Viana Moog
Gen. Hugo de Abreu
Gen. Antônio Bandeira
João Amazonas
Maurício Grabois
Elza Monnerat
Ângelo Arroyo
5,000 - 6,000 Army
100 - 300 Marines Corps
80 - 150 guerrillas

The Araguaia guerrilla (Portuguese: Guerrilha do Araguaia) was an armed movement in Brazil against its military dictatorship, active between 1966-1974 in the Araguaia river basin. It was founded by militants of the Communist Party of Brazil , the then Maoist counterpart to the Brazilian Communist Party, which aimed at establishing a rural stronghold from whence to wage a War of National Liberation against the Brazilian military dictatorship, which had been in power since the 1964 coup d'état.[1] Its projected activities were based on the successful experiences led by the 26th of July Movement in the Cuban Revolution, and by the Communist Party of China during the Chinese Civil War.

The guerrilla was countered by the Brazilian Army from 1972, when several of its members had already been established in the region for at least six years. The stage of combat operations between the guerrillas and the Army took place in the border of the states of Goiás, Pará and Maranhão. The movement's name came from the fact that its fighters were established on the banks of the Araguaia river, near the towns of São Geraldo, Pará and Xambioá, in northern Goiás (currently located in northern Tocantins, at a region popularly known as Bico do Papagaio (Parrot's Beak).[2]

It is estimated that the movement was composed of about 80 guerrillas. Of these, fewer than twenty survived - among them José Genoino, former president of the Workers' Party, who was arrested by the Army in 1972 during the first stage of military operations. The vast majority of combatants, primarily composed of former college students and self-employed workers, was killed in battle in the jungle or executed after arrest and torture during the final stages of military operations in 1973 and 1974.[1][2] However, none of the individuals was acknowledged as dead, remaining in the status of persons who had disappeared for political reasons.[1] Currently 60 of the combatants are still considered desaparecidos.[1][3]

Unknown to the rest of the country's population at the time it occurred, protected by a curtain of silence and censorship, the details about the Araguaia guerrilla only began to appear some twenty years after the movement was quashed by the Armed Forces, during the redemocratization period.


When democracy was being restored, in 1982, family members of 22 of the disappeared persons brought proceedings in the Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro, asking for the whereabouts of the disappeared persons to be established and their remains located so that they could be given a decent burial and their death certificates could be registered.[1] At first, the national courts processed the case in the usual way, requesting documents from Executive Branch officials, and summonsing witnesses.[1] However, on March 27, 1989, after the judge responsible for the case was replaced, the Araguaia guerrilla case was dismissed without ruling on the merits, on the grounds that it was legally and physically impossible to comply with the request.[1] Similarly, the judge considered that what the plaintiffs were requesting was covered by the Amnesty law and did not require a judicial action.[1]

The plaintiffs appealed the decision to dismiss the case and, on August 17, 1993, obtained a ruling from the Federal Court of Appeals, which reversed the decision of the lower court, and returned the case to the same judge for finding of fact and a ruling on the merits.[1] On March 24, 1994, the Federal Government filed requests for clarification against the Federal Court's ruling.[1] The appeal was not heard by the Court, based on a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals itself on March 12, 1996.[1] The Government lodged a special appeal against this decision, which was also ruled inadmissible by the Court of Appeals.[1]

On March 6, 2001, the plaintiffs appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which decided to declare the Araguaia guerrilla case admissible with regard to alleged violations of the American Declaration and the American Convention.[1] On May 20–21, 2010, the case was heard at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.[4] On December 14, 2010, the Court ruled that Brazil has broken the American Convention on Human Rights by using its Amnesty law as a pretext for not punishing human rights violators of the military regime.[5]

On April 29, the Supreme Federal Court decided, by a score of 7-2, to uphold the 1979 Amnesty law, which prevents the trial of those accused of extrajudicial killings, torture and rape during the military regime.[6] According to University of São Paulo professor Fábio Konder Comparato, author of the Order of Attorneys of Brazil's plea against the Amnesty law in the Supreme Federal Court, the May 20 hearing at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights might cost Brazil its coveted seat at the United Nations Security Council.[4]


External links

  • (English) Inter-American Commission on Human Rights official website

See also

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