Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro makes waves with dictatorship remarks
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has found himself in hot water over his latest comments on the country's brutal military dictatorship AFP/File / EVARISTO SA

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday questioned the credibility of a truth commission that investigated human rights abuses under the country's brutal military dictatorship, suggesting it was politically influenced by the left.

Bolsonaro's comments come a day after he taunted the head of the Brazilian Bar Association over his father, who disappeared during the 1964-85 military regime, saying he had information on what had happened to him.

Fernando Santa Cruz, a student militant, disappeared in 1974 after being arrested by the intelligence service in Rio de Janeiro, according to the National Truth Commission set up by leftist former president Dilma Rousseff.

"One day, if the president of the OAB wants to know how his father disappeared during the military period, I'll tell him. He won't want to know the truth," Bolsonaro said in remarks that have been widely criticized, including by the attorney general's office and even members of the far right.

A 2014 report published by the truth commission found that 434 assassinations were carried out in the years after the 1964 coup that established the 21-year dictatorship, as well as uncounted arbitrary detentions and cases of torture of political opponents.

But a 1979 amnesty gave immunity to those responsible for regime-era crimes, leaving the events of that dark period unresolved.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Bolsonaro said the debate about the contents of the truth commission documents was "hot air."

"Are you going to believe the truth commission?" he asked reporters.

"It was made up of seven people, appointed by who? By Dilma Rousseff."

Rousseff, a former guerrilla who was tortured under the military dictatorship, was impeached in 2016.

Bolsonaro, who was a congressman at the time, supported her removal and dedicated his vote to the former head of the military regime's intelligence services, who is accused of having killed at least six people under torture.

Bolsonaro, an unabashed admirer of the country's former dictators, sparked widespread anger and several street protests in March when he ordered the military to observe the 55th anniversary of the coup.

In the past, he has referred to military rule as a "glorious" time in Brazilian history. He was quoted in 2008 as saying that "the error of the dictatorship was that it tortured but did not kill."