Former Brazilian president's remains to be exhumed in death probe

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 July, 2013, 3:15am


The remains of former Brazilian president Joao Goulart will be exhumed to determine whether he was poisoned in the 1970s by right-wing rulers clamping down on dissent, an official said.

Goulart was president from 1961 to 1964 and was ousted in a military coup. He took refuge in Uruguay and Argentina, where he died in 1976.

The official account said it was a heart attack.

The ex-president's remains are now in a family mausoleum in Sao Borja in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.

They will be transferred to the headquarters of federal police in Brasilia where an examination will be carried out "probably by the end of the year", said an official at the National Truth Commission on Wednesday.

The panel investigating crimes perpetrated under the military dictatorship said the examination would help determine whether Goulart died following a swap of the heart medication he was taking, as alleged by former Uruguayan intelligence officer Mario Barreiro Neira.

The exhumation has long been requested by the former president's relatives.

"A number of documents point to an assassination attempt on Jango [Goulart's nickname]. He was under surveillance and intelligence agents entered his house," said the panel official.

"If they broke in to steal a letter or documents, they could have slipped poison in his medication or food," the official added.

After Goulart was overthrown in the coup, the military remained in power in Brazil from 1964 to 1985.

Two years ago, Chile exhumed the remains of former president Salvador Allende, hoping to determine whether he committed suicide or was murdered during a 1973 coup.

Chilean medical experts later concluded that Allende had killed himself on the day of the coup, confirming the official version of events.