RealNews

When Revolt Hit Rio

Their job titles are what you’d expect of a group of successful, middle-aged professionals — congressman, pundit, professor, publicist. But 35 years ago, they shared a very different occupation: kidnapper. It was September 1969, and they were radical young leftists out to rock Brazil’s repressive military dictatorship. They succeeded with a stunning feat: They abducted the U.S. ambassador off the streets of Rio, held him hostage for four days and forced the Brazilian government to release 15 political prisoners. The act shocked the world. It humiliated Brazil’s U.S.-backed rulers and triggered a wave of copycat kidnappings. Most of the dozen or so conspirators landed in jail, where at least one was tortured to death. Today, the participants have matured, mellowed and gone mainstream after returning to society from prison or exile. Brazil also has changed: Politics here has moved from rule by bullet to rule by ballot, and the nation is a democracy in progress. Full Story

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