Brazil's president remembers coup victims 50 years on

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a ceremony in Brasilia, March 17, 2014 President Dilma Rousseff herself spent two years in jail for opposing the military government

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Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff has said the atrocities committed during 21 years of military dictatorship in the country must never be forgotten.

A day before the 50th anniversary of the 1964 coup, she said Brazil was able to bear the wounds it had suffered because it was now a "solid democracy".

Her government also issued an apology to the victims of military rule.

Some 500 people disappeared or were killed after the coup. Thousands more were detained, including Ms Rousseff.

She spent two years in jail for opposing the military government which was established after the overthrow of President Joao Goulart.

'Democratic reality'

At a news conference in the capital Brasilia on Monday, Ms Rousseff said: "Our present day requires that we remember and speak about what happened."

Joao Goulart waves as he is sworn in on 7 September 1961 in Brasilia Joao Goulart was deposed in a coup in 1964

"We owe this to those who died and disappeared, owe it to those who were tortured and persecuted, owe it to their families. We owe it to all Brazilians," she added. "Today we look at this period and learn from it, because we've overcome it."

Separately, Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo issued an official apology to the victims of the military government.

"[Previous] ministers of justice said for a long time that they had nothing to declare, [but] today the minister of justice apologises on behalf of the Brazilian government, of the Brazilian people, for what was done during the dictatorship, for the deaths, for the torture," Mr Cardozo said.

He added that the gesture showed that Brazil could today "feel proud to have conquered" a new "democratic reality".

In 2012, President Rousseff established a truth commission to investigate abuses, including those committed during military rule.

The commission has started examining the period from 1946 to 1988, and is due to report back in December, but a military-era amnesty upheld by the Supreme Court in 2010 means there will be no trials.

According to a poll by the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, 46% of Brazilians want the amnesty to be repealed, while 37% would rather it remained in place.

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