SPECIAL REPORT-Documents suggest multinationals aided Brazil military regime
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By Brian Winter
SAO PAULO Aug 5 (Reuters) - When João Paulo de Oliveira was fired in 1980 by Rapistan, a Michigan-based manufacturer of conveyor belts, his troubles were only beginning.
In ensuing years, the military dictatorship that ran Brazil arrested or detained him about 10 times. Police cars passed by his house in São Paulo's industrial suburbs, he said, and officers would make throat-slashing gestures or wave guns at him.
Oliveira's apparent offense: Being a union organizer during an era when the military considered strikes to be tantamount to communist subversion.
"I used to joke that my house was the safest in the neighborhood, with all the police," said Oliveira, now 63. "But it was tough, really scary, like psychological torture."
Worse, he said, local manufacturers refused to hire him for years afterward, vaguely citing his past. Other colleagues met the same fate. "We always suspected the companies were passing information on us to the police," he said. "But we never knew for sure."
Newly uncovered evidence suggests that Oliveira's suspicions were well-founded.
A government-appointed commission investigating abuses during Brazil's 1964-1985 dictatorship has found documents that it says show Rapistan and other companies secretly helped the military identify suspected "subversives" and union activists on their payrolls. Among those named is Oliveira. The official report isn't scheduled to be released until December, but the commission allowed Reuters to review the evidence involving companies as the investigation nears its end. Continuación...