The Brazilian Dictatorship and the Two Demons

I read in SWI

Buenos Aires, Dec 8 (EFE) – Argentine President Alberto Fernandez paid tribute on Wednesday to the twelve people kidnapped between December 8 and 10, 1977 in the Church of the Holy Cross, one of the most remembered episodes of the last Argentine civil-military dictatorship (1976-1983).

Among the disappeared are three leaders of Mothers of Plaza de Mayo (Azucena Villaflor de Vicenti -founder of the group-, María Ponce de Bianco and Esther Ballestrino de Careaga), as well as two French nuns (Léonie Duquet and Alice Domon).

Here there were not two demons. There was a State terrorism that took the lives of thousands and thousands of Argentines. This is a tribute that Argentina owes to every victim of State terrorism”, assured Fernandez in declarations collected by the Presidency.

And more I read, in news from the Casa Rosada:

President Alberto Fernandez said tonight that ‘today what is central is memory, what is central is to maintain the demand for the search for truth and justice’, while participating in the tribute to the 12 people kidnapped between December 8 and 10, 1977 by the civil-military dictatorship.

What a difference to Brazil! Here, we continue with the two demons in the right-wing discourse: “If there were murders, there were murders on both sides,” they talk, while omitting the tortured and killed prisoners from only one side. Worse, we have continued under the demon of state terror, as the denialism of the dictatorship returns. The fascist government calls authors of crimes against humanity heroes. Upon us, like a Pentecost of terror, a new language descends that mocks civilization.

Then I am forced to go back to the memory of what the extreme right in Brazil wants to hide. That is, I go to a page from my novel “Never-Ending Youth” in a passage that recounts the year 1973:

In the people I saw there were no martyrs. In them there was never pain, death as a stage for the future life, their own, individuals, never. The future was for everyone, it would be for humanity. It is difficult, a satan blows me, to have change supported by general ideas. I astonish this dispersion of the satan. I have the view that the massacred militants were heroic, but heroism was not in their plans. Even if they proclaimed, in pamphlets and heated discussions, that the repression would not pass, that they, the warriors, would go to the last in defense of their convictions, still, one thing is what is said, another is the actual moment of definition. And for this last reality we are never prepared. You act or you die. Worse, you act and you die.

Vargas was terrified: “Dread, dread, Vargas’ eyes were just dread,” registered lawyer Gardenia in her diary. And from her, from her word of truth, a record never denied from the pages of her diary, we can see it. When Vargas went up the elevator in that Gold building, he was just a desperate man. Unsure of the steps he would take from then on. It had become clear to him that Daniel, the friendly, helpful and courageous Daniel, was nothing more than an undercover agent. The information had been confirmed to him by someone he trusted, his cousin Marcinho. And his clue and confirmation was that the ‘brave’ Daniel was using the car of an anti-communist Army colonel. So Vargas knew he would be the next to fall. But he didn’t know where to, nor the precise extent of the height of the precipice where he would be pushed. He was the ‘terrorist’ to be arrested next. ‘Arrested’, was his fragile and uncertain hope. He saw himself in the elevator as a candle flame blown by wind on a dark night. His life was a flame bending, dimming, and he with his hands sought to protect it. In fact, not so much himself, because he already saw himself thrown into the mess, like a piece of crushed cane, but the flame he didn’t want to extinguish was that of his companion, the tender and defenseless Nelinha, the little and only Nelinha. That the damned, the fascists would get to him, that was predictable. ‘I am a man,’ he tells himself inwardly, more like a wish than a certainty. ‘If I am not a man, I will be,’ he tells himself later, before he presses the grave of lawyer Gardenia’s apartment. But how things, even there, have an ironic accent. ‘Campa,’ he clasps with trembling hands, which may lead to the other grave, in the cemetery.

What happens to a man when he is on his way to his death? He entered the building almost in a leap, like someone who enters the consulate in a civil war-free area. He climbed the elevator as dead-end people go, and now he clutches the lawyer’s grave with his quivering flame. Life whipped by the wind in his hands. ‘I am a man,’ and from so much hatred for the uncontrollable trembling, he clenches his fists, cracks his mouth, presses his jaws together. ‘I am a fucking man. I don’t betray. I will not betray what I am. Fuck!’ And the door opens. In front of her appears herself, the beautiful and fiery lawyer Gardênia Vieira. She is not tall, nor is she soft or feminine, I mean in that delicate porcelain ballerina sense. On the contrary, instead of amiable, because her fine china could break, from Gardênia comes a moral strength that shelters, as it has sheltered more than one person, physique and tortured soul in Recife. But beyond moral fortitude, where does her beauty and femininity come from? One had to see her to notice what is not revealed in the portraits. Gardenia looks firm and direct, as few women use and dare to look deep into a man, and not for this reason does it arouse the most carnal desire for sex. Not immediately, no. The desire to love her would come spiritualized, if we can talk like that, when to her small height, with her burning gaze, we associate the courage and the corpses that she has seen and denounced, and the abject world against which she is outraged. I know, I’m still not clear here. I mean, love for the woman Gardênia Vieira comes not only mixed with respect for the person, but in essence with her visitation to the corpses of tortured socialists. So, if you will permit a more pimp Portuguese, she awakens a hard-on that is outside the genitalia. A hard-on of the spirit.

For us too, for all Brazilians there was only one demon, that of State terror.

Urariano Mota is the author of Never-Ending Youth.