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Brazil looks at brutality

A report details past government abuses.

RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil took its most significant step yet to address the human-rights violations of its military dictatorship on Wednesday, releasing an exhaustive report that documents nearly two decades of government-approved political killings and torture.

After 30 years of impunity for crimes of the state, the National Truth Commission report names 377 people allegedly responsible for 434 deaths and disappearances, and thousands of acts of torture. The list includes top regime figures who instituted policies of persecution, and lowly soldiers who carried them out.

The nearly 2,000-page report describes crimes against humanity in excruciating detail, and calls for the perpetrators to be prosecuted.

But while the commission's work has renewed debate on how Brazil has handled its dirty-war legacy, there's little political will for overturning a 1979 amnesty law that has protected both military figures and leftists ever since the 1964-1985 dictatorship. Only 46 percent of Brazilians said they want to scrap the amnesty while 37 percent supported it and an additional 17 percent said they were unsure in a survey published in March by the respected Datafolha polling group.

Even President Dilma Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla who was savagely tortured in the 1970s, seems unwilling to push for prosecutions.

"Truth doesn't mean vengeance. Truth mustn't be the source of hatred or score-settling," Rousseff said in an emotional ceremony as the report was released. "Truth frees us all from that which went unsaid. It frees us from what remained hidden.

Created by Congress in 2011, the seven-member commission researched government and corporate archives and hospital and morgue records.

In all, the report documents 224 killings and 210 disappearances. These were not rare exceptions, but rather the result of a "systematic practice" by the military, it said.