A young Dilma Rousseff, being interrogated by the Brazilian military junta in the 1970s. She looks pretty fearless and pugnacious, no? Here’s the story behind the picture, courtesy of Cubadebate:
This past Saturday, Brazilians saw the first photo from the guerrilla phase of Dilma Rousseff, during the military dictatorship of the 1970s. The current president of Brazil can be seen in it at age 22, during one of the interrogations she was subjected to by the military, after nearly a month of tortures.
In the image, Dilma Rousseff appears in the Military Auditorium in Rio de Janeiro. In the background are the officials who interrogated her over her participation in the revolutionary struggle. The photo, published by Época magazine, was part of the book titled Dilma: Life requires courage, by journalist Ricardo Amaral, which will soon be appearing in bookstores.
The interrogation in the picture took place after 22 days of torture of the young guerrilla.
Dilma Rousseff fought throughout the military dictatorship in various revolutionary groups. She has always maintained that she never shot or killed anyone. She said that she hid the weapons of her comrades under her bed, and that the only thing she knew how to do was “arm and disarm” rifles and pistols, which she never got to use.
During her two years in jail, she communicated with her fellow prisoners by concealing messages using a box of sand that served as a litterbox to a cat, which the female prisoners kept along with a pet turtle.
I don’t know what Dilma’s actual revolutionary duties entailed; only she knows these for certain. But it is quite possible that she never fired a gun. Her Cuban counterpart, Aleida March, who met Che Guevara (whom she would later marry) during the course of her own duties as a clandestine guerrilla courier in the late 1950s, probably never fired a gun either, but she did smuggle bombs under her wide 1950s poodle skirts.
Depending on where they operated, female Marxist guerrillas of Latin America might have seen a great deal of gunfire. One of these was Tamara “Tania” Bunke, an Argentine who worked in East German and Cuban intelligence, and fought alongside Che in Bolivia before becoming separated from his column and picked off by the Bolivian army at the Yeso Ford in late August, 1967. Others saw very little to none. Many served, as Dilma says she did, to conceal or pass weapons along clandestinely, since women were less likely to be searched, and, at least for a while in those machista cultures, were considered unlikely to be actual fighters. The fact that many of them were at least as brave as the men puts the lie to the very notion. The Marxist guerrilla movements were often the only places in Latin America where women came anywhere near to gender equality, and many of them did it long before their North American sisters ever heard of feminism.
And as Dilma’s defiant look in the picture above shows, many of them withstood terrible tortures for weeks on end without once betraying their comrades. And without a moment’s regret. It’s a potent lesson for us all now, as we come up against disaster capitalism. Do we have that kind of courage?