Portuguese and Brazilian slave-traders shipped at least four million slaves to Brazil—in contrast to the five hundred thousand slaves that English vessels brought to the Americas. Controlling the vast number of slaves in Brazil became of primary importance. The Unpast: Elite Violence and Social Control in Brazil, 1954–2000 documents the ways in which the brutal methods used on plantations led directly to the phenomenon of Brazilian death squads.
The Unpast examines how and why, after the abolition of slavery, elites in Brazil imported new methods of killing, torturing, or disfiguring dissidents and the poor to maintain dominance. Bringing a critical-historical analysis to events following the 1954 suicide of President Getúlio Vargas, R. S. Rose takes the reader along a fifty-year path that helped to shape a nation’s morals. He covers the misunderstood presidency of João Goulart; the overthrow of his government by a U.S.-assisted military; the appalling dictatorship that followed; the efforts to rid the countryside of troublemakers; and the ongoing attempt to cleanse the urban environment of the needy, an endeavor that produced 32,675 victims in just two Brazilian states between 1954 and 2000.
The largest and most comprehensive documentation of suspected death-squad victims ever undertaken, The Unpast is an exposé of practices and attitudes toward the poor in Latin America’s largest country.