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Brazil to exhume ex-president Goulart

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Photo released by the Public Archive of Brasilia's Federal Distric of Brazilian former president (1956-1961) Juscelino Kubitschek (C) next to his vice president Joao Goulart on April 21, 1960. The remains of Goulart, who later became president, will be exhumed to determine whether he was poisoned in the 1970s by rightwing rulers clamping on dissent.Distrito Federal/AFP/File

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

Goulart served as president from 1961-1964 and was ousted in a military coup. He took refuge in Uruguay and Argentina, where he died in 1976. The official account says it was a heart attack.

The military went on to rule in Brazil from 1964-1985.

Goulart's remains are currently 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.

The panel, tasked with probing 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, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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

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.