In Farewell Rio, Kate recounts violent street demonstrations in Rio de Janeiro in 1968 led by student radicals who hoped to provoke a popular uprising against the Brazilian military dictatorship. Although their hopes for a popular uprising were never fulfilled, some of the student radicals who resisted the military government in 1968 and succeeding years are now among the leaders of Brazilian government and society.
The most notable example, of course, is Dilma Rousseff, elected President of Brazil in 2010. By 1968, Dilma had joined COLINA, a radical left-wing organization in the state of Minas Gerais that participated in several bank robberies and, when it was raided by police, killed two policemen with machine guns. Following that incident, in which she denies having wielded a gun, Dilma went into hiding. In 1970, she was arrested, jailed and tortured. After her release in 1972, she graduated from university and remained active in politics. She rose through municipal government and state government as Secretary of Energy for the State of Rio Grande do Sul. She was appointed Minister of Energy in the national government under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and eventually became his chief of staff. Constitutionally barred from serving a third term, the popular President Lula supported Dilma as his chosen successor. She won election in October, 2010.
Dilma’s progression from student radical to national leader is hardly unique. Carlos Minc, Minister of the Environment in Lula’s administration, was a student leader who participated in the resistance against the military government. He was arrested in 1969 and exiled. Fernando Gabeira, who participated in the kidnapping of U.S. Ambassador Charles Burke Elbrick in 1969, has been a federal deputy since 1995.
In the scene in Farewell Rio where Nelson Claudio takes Kate to a party in David Bernardes’ apartment, Nelson Claudio remarks to Kate, “You held your ground with Walter. That’s impressive, too. He loves excess. Some so-called adults — in other words, members of our military—think he’s either puerile or dangerous. They aren’t sure
which.” In fact, the military viewed many young musicians in 1968 as dangerous, and thought that their song lyrics were subversive. One can imagine that many of these young musicians would have passed through the apartment Kate shared with Walter. The lyrics of Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, two of the founders of Tropicalismo, were seen as threatening by the military government. Both of these musicians were arrested in 1969 and exiled. From 2003 to 2008, Gilberto Gil served as Minister of Culture in the Lula Administration. Veloso is still a leader in the Brazilian musical world, having earned five Grammy awards — more than any other Brazilian performer. Chico Buarque de Hollanda is another leading Brazilian musician who was forced into exile by the military government.
Many of the students who resisted the military government in the 1960s and 1970s thought at the time that they were doing their patriotic duty. It is quite common to find that civic-minded Brazilians who were students in that era had played some part in the resistance. For example, one of Roa Lynn’s Brazilian friends robbed five banks at gunpoint to raise funds for the resistance. Eventually, he had to flee Brazil, but he returned after amnesty was declared with the return of civilian government. He now works for the Central Bank of Brazil, presumably putting his previous experience with banking to a more peaceful use.