Brazil’s Truth Commission said yesterday that it planned to investigate the death of former Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek, a centrist politician popularly known as “JK,” who died in a car accident in 1976.
According to a report released late last year by the Minas Gerais chapter of the Ordem de Advogados do Brasil (OAB), a branch of the national bar association, Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime likely ordered Kubitschek’s death. In 2000, former Rio de Janeiro Governor Leonel Brizola alleged that the car crash that killed Kubitschek was arranged as part of Operation Condor, a secret hemispheric campaign of state terror responsible for the death and disappearance of thousands of people during a wave of Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s.
Kubitschek governed Brazil from 1956 to 1961, and was well known for his role in overseeing the creation of the city of Brasilia to develop the country’s interior. He opposed the military coup and had ambitions to run for president again. Both Kubitschek and his driver, Geraldo Ribeiro, died on August 22, 1976. The OAB says that Ribeiro was shot in the head by an unknown assailant and the car crashed into a truck on a highway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, killing both men.
Brazil’s seven-member Truth Commission was approved in 2011 and began work last year to investigate the country’s dictatorship-era human rights abuses. The commission does not have the legal authority to put defendants on trial, due to Brazil’s 1979 amnesty law that shields civilians and military from prosecution for crimes against humanity. However, the commission may reveal the names of those responsible for Kubitschek and Ribeiro’s deaths and provide evidence that could be used in a criminal trial.