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Brazil investigates death of former president

Some officials have said they suspect that the death of Kubitschek was a set-up ordered by the military regime.

Sao Paulo: Brazil`s Truth Commission, which is investigating human rights abuses committed during the nation`s military dictatorship, said it`s looking into the death of former President Juscelino Kubitschek, who died in a 1976 car accident.

Over the years, some prominent Brazilian officials have said they suspect that the death of Kubitschek, who oversaw the creation of his nation`s new capital city, Brasilia, in the early 1960s, was a set-up ordered by the military regime.

A Truth Commission official said by telephone the investigation into Kubitschek`s death began late last year after the bar association of Minas Gerais state delivered a report saying his death was ordered by Brazil`s 1964-1985 military regime.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the press about the investigation, which surfaced in Brazil`s press yesterday. She said the commission will only provide further details after it concludes its investigation.

Kubitschek was a centrist who opposed the military coup and hoped to run again for president in 1965. He was president from 1956 to 1961, a time of economic expansion for the South American nation.
One of the leader`s slogans was "50 years of progress in five" and he hoped to quickly develop Brazil`s vast interior region by moving the capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, a city he had built from the ground up on Brazil`s central savannah.

In 2000, then-Rio de Janeiro state Gov Leonel Brizola said the crash that killed Kubitschek was a set up and part of Operation Condor, a continentwide campaign of political killings and torture.

Created last year, the Truth Commission does not specify who should be targeted by its investigations. It does not have powers to prosecute anyone because of a 1979 amnesty law that released civilians and the military from liability for politically motivated crimes committed during the dictatorship. It could, however, reveal the abuses and the names of those who committed them.

Unlike Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, which also had repressive military regimes, Brazil has never punished military officials accused of human rights abuses.

Separately yesterday, the Organization of American States said it has begun investigating the dictatorship-era death of noted journalist Brazilian Vladimir Herzog, who was tortured and killed while being held by the regime.