Thursday, May 14, 2009

Brazil News Bulletin: Violence Erupts in Sao Paulo; Government Releases Torture Files Online

Thursday, May 14, 2009
19:32 Mecca time, 16:32 GMT

Violence erupts in Brazil slum

Firefighters battled to put out fires set by angry residents

Police in Brazil have increased patrols in one of the nation's biggest slums in the city of Sao Paulo after violence erupted on Wednesday night following the arrest of three alleged drug dealers.

At least 11 people were reported injured, including a baby, after local residents burned vehicles, threw rocks and blocked key roads in the Penha slum in protest against the arrests, local media said on Thursday.

Images from Bandeirantes TV, a local television station, showed heavily armed riot officers at the scene on Wednesday and firefighters hosing down burnt out vehicles and the tire barricades.

Two of the three drug dealers arrested managed to escape during the riot, a spokesman for Sao Paulo's public safety department told AP news agency.

Luiz Felipe Muffo said on Thursday authorities are investigating whether the city's infamous First Capital Command gang was involved.

The First Capital Command gang reportedly controls most of the drug trade in Sao Paulo's slums.

It was blamed by authorities for a month of violence in 2006 that left 200 people dead, including police, prison guards, suspected criminals, jail inmates and bystanders.

Raids in slums of the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro are common but violence in Sao Paulo's slums is relatively rare.

Source: Agencies

Brazil puts dictatorship files on the web

BRASILIA (AFP) — Brazil has shone a light into one of the most troubled periods of its recent past, as the government published documents dating from the country's 20 years of dictatorship.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva launched a website on Wednesday containing information dating from 1964 to 1985, when the country was under the sway of the military.

"We are doing Brazilian democracy a service when we unveil some of the mysteries that persist about our past," Lula said at the website's launch.

The portal, which is part of the national archives, includes documents held by state governments and universities.

Dilma Rousseff, the head of Lula's cabinet and the person tipped to succeed him, said the initiative would help end "the culture of state secrets."

But non-governmental groups and families of the victims of the dictatorship called for the government to do more to open the archives of Armed Forces, which they say could cast light on the unknown fate of 140 people who disappeared.

"The website... is a step forward" said Jair Krikchke from the Justice and Human Rights group. "What we are really interested in are the military archives. Brazilians want to know."

Victoria Grabois, of the No More Torture group, said it would also be necessary to open up police files to families of the disappeared.

"Brazil is the furthest behind (in opening its archives)," Grabois said. "Every other country has done more."

The opening of the website comes at a time when the country's top court prepares to review a 1979 amnesty law that allowed the return of dissidents and freed from prosecution some of those responsible for crackdowns.

The military has strongly opposed any reinterpretation of the law.

President Lula, himself a former political prisoner, has so far has tried not to polemicize the issue.

But he is coming under pressure from those close to the 400 militants who disappeared or died during the dictatorship.

After Years of Pressure, Brazilian Government Sends Information Access Bill to Congress

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will send Congress a bill this week that guarantees access to public information, the Forum for the Right to Public Information reports. The law would affect all levels of public administration (federal, state, and municipal), and is more comprehensive than those of countries like Mexico and the United States, which involve only the federal executive power, a Forum post says.

However, important aspects of the bill are still not addressed, such as a way for citizens to appeal quickly in case their requests are denied, the post says. It will be up to Congress to make any corrections to the text.

The government initiative is the result of almost seven years of pressure by authorities in favor of freedom of expression and free access to public information in Brazil, the Forum emphasizes.

In another topic related to greater transparency in the Brazilian government, the Chamber of Deputies has approved a bill, that if signed by President Lula, would oblige all government agencies to place on the Internet, in real time, all data related to budgets, such as expenditures, income, and transfers, Folha Online reports.

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