7 May 2008, Palácio do Congresso Nacional, Brasilia, Brazil
This was an answer from Brazilian left-wing politician (later to become president) Dilma Rousseff, in response to a question made by senator Agripino Maia, a former member of the authoritarian military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to the late 80s. Maia questioned the honesty of Rousseff's statements. It was asked over 15 years after those dark days had passed, but it sought to compare Rousseff's current political predicaments with her behaviour as a victim of that regime's brutal policies. Rousseff delivered this famous smack down.
Senator José Agripino Maia (DEM): You have lied to the dictatorship; are you going to lie here?
Dilma Rousseff: ny comparison between the military dictatorship and Brazilian democracy can only come from those who do not value the Brazilian democracy.
I was 19, I spent three years in jail and was brutally tortured, senator. And anyone who dares to tell the truth to his interrogators, compromises the life of their equal and gives people away to be killed. I am very proud to have lied, senator, because lying in torture is not easy. Now, in democracy, truth is spoken; on the face of torture, the ones who have courage, dignity, they lie. And that (applause), and that, senator, is part of, and integrates my biography; I'm very proud, and I'm not talking about heroes.
Happy is the people who does not have such heroes, senator, because to endure torture is something very difficult, because we are all very fragile, all of us. We are humans, we feel pain, and the seduction, the temptation to talk about what happened and tell the truth is immense senator, the pain is unbearable, you can not imagine how unbearable it is.
So I am proud to have lied, I pride myself immensely in having lied, because I saved companions of their own torture and death. I have no commitment to the dictatorship in terms of telling the truth. I was in a field and they were in another, and what was at stake was my life and that of my companions.
And this country, which has gone through everything it did, which built democracy, which allows me to be here today, which allows me to speak to you, has no similarity to that; this dialogue here is of the democratic kind. The opposition can ask me questions, I'll be able to answer. We're on equal human and material conditions.
We are not in a dialogue between my neck and the gallows, senator. I'm here in a democratic, civilized dialogue, and so I believe and respect this moment. Because of that, at every time, I've come here before this committee. So I start my speech by saying that, because that is the rescue of the process that took place in Brazil. I will repeat again:
There is no room for truth, and that's what kills in the dictatorship. What kills in the dictatorship is that there is no room for the truth because there is no room for life, Senator. Because some truths, even the most trivial, can lead to death. All that’s needed is to just “botch the cooking” while in the interrogation.
And I believe, senator, that we were at different times of our lives in ’70.
I assure to you, I was between 19 and 21 years old and, in fact, I fought the military dictatorship, and of that I'm very proud.