The military dictatorship that ruled Brazil four decades ago maintained law and order through systematic brutality. Nearly 500 people were killed or simply disappeared. But at a political rally outside Sao Paulo last week, the air was thick with nostalgia for that era of terror.
Several hundred people in army camouflage and police T-shirts shouted their admiration for the soldiers who carried out the kidnappings and murders authorized by the regime.
“Thanks to you, Brazil did not become Cuba!” they chanted, some snapping salutes. “Brazil first, God above all.”
The dictatorship-era generals were also accused of deploying electric shocks, beatings and psychological torture in their two-decade-long effort to cement power and ward off communism. But as a crime wave rocks some of the country’s largest cities and a corruption scandal engulfs its political elite, some Brazilians see them as its last champions of public order.
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