German automaker Volkswagen said on Wednesday it had signed an agreement with the courts to compensate former employees of its subsidiary in Brazil for human rights violations during the country’s military dictatorship.
Former employees and their families had already requested this compensation from Volkswagen five years ago, claiming that their security service in Brazil had collaborated with the military regime (1964-1985) to identify possible suspects, who were then arrested and tortured.
According to this agreement with the national and regional tax authorities of Brazil, Volkswagen will pay 36 million reais (5.5 million euros) in damages, including 16.8 million reais (2.5 million euros) to employees and their families, the company said in a statement. The funds will also be allocated to various projects, including a memorial to the victims of the military regime.
“We regret the violations that have taken place in the past. For Volkswagen, it is important to take responsibility for this negative chapter in Brazilian history and encourage transparency, ”said Volkswagen executive Hiltrud Werner, quoted in the automaker’s statement.
An independent report commissioned by the company in 2016 showed that Volkswagen security agents in Brazil had cooperated with the military regime (1964-1985).
This collaboration lasted from 1969 to 1979 and led to the arrest of “at least seven officials”, at a time when the use of torture by the political police was well known, according to this report. The Brazilian military regime is responsible for the deaths or disappearances of at least 434 people, according to the National Truth Commission, created to investigate the crimes of the dictatorship. Around 20,000 people were also tortured.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who was an army captain at the time, is an avowed admirer of the dictatorship. The Brazilian leader created controversy by declaring, while still a parliamentarian in 2016, that “the mistake of the dictatorship was to torture without killing” its opponents and ordered, now as head of the country, that the Barracks is organizing “the celebrations” for the 55 anniversary of the military coup, which was marked in 2019.