[Marxism] The Long US History of Interventionism in South America
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Sat Apr 3 09:26:05 MST 2004
Papers on 1964 Brazil Coup Declassified
Sat Apr 3
By TOM MURPHY, Associated Press Writer
SAO PAULO, Brazil - Newly declassified U.S. documents show the extent of
American willingness to provide aid to Brazil's generals during the 1964
coup that ushered in 21 years of often bloody military rule.
The National Security Archive, a non-governmental Washington-based research
group, posted the documents on its Web site this week to coincide with
Wednesday's 40th anniversary of the coup.
Figuring prominently in the records is Lincoln Gordon, the U.S. ambassador
to Brazil at the time and now a resident expert in Latin American affairs at
the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"We were working at a frenzied pace in those days to get Washington ready
for whatever might happen," Gordon, 90, said in a telephone interview with
The Associated Press. "It was the height of the Cold War and Brazil was a
major country in Latin America."
The documents show members of Lyndon B. Johnson's administration actively
preparing to aid the coup plotters.
In a March 27, 1964, cable to the State Department, Gordon requested a naval
task force and deliveries of fuel and arms to the coup plotters "to help
avert a major disaster here."
Gordon said in the cable that Brazil could fall under the spell of a
communist-style regime led by President Joao Goulart, "which might make
Brazil the China of the 1960s." Mainland China turned communist in 1949
under Mao Zedong.
The documents also reveal what some experts say was a major miscalculation
by the CIA (news - web sites).
A CIA cable from Brazil, dated March 30, predicted a military coup "within
the next few days." It added, "The revolution will not be resolved quickly
and will be bloody."
In fact, the coup was put in motion the next day, March 31, and was over by
April 4, when Goulart fled to exile in Uruguay. The entire episode was
"The CIA was probably harking back to events in 1961, when the military was
deeply divided over the issue of Goulart assuming power," said American
political scientist David Fleischer, who teaches at the University of
Brasilia. "But, just as there was no violence in 1961, there was none in
1964. It was a CIA miscalculation, not for the first time and not for the
A Brazilian historian, Gaudenico Torquato of the University of Sao Paulo,
said, "They (the CIA) got it wrong. At that time, the U.S. was involved in
the feverish competition against communism known as the Cold War. That
colored their judgment."
In a March 31 reply to Gordon, Secretary of State Dean Rusk said the
administration had decided to "immediately mobilize" a naval task force. He
also promised fuel, ammunition and tear gas shipments to the Brazilian
"These new documents serve to reinforce what is now a well-known tale," said
Fleischer. "The U.S. organized its support for the coup in an operation
called Brother Sam. The task force ended up steaming toward the South
Atlantic, but the aid was never needed. The coup ended quickly and without
Gordon said Rusk made it clear that the U.S. would only intervene under
certain circumstances. "He wanted to make sure there was broad political
support in Brazil for the military before advising any intervention."
The documents show President Johnson was keenly following events in Brazil.
In one instance, Johnson instructs aides "to take every step that we can" to
aid Brazilian military forces opposed to Goulart.
The audiotape presents a briefing between Johnson and national security
aides. In it, Johnson says, "I'd get right on top of it and stick my neck
out a little."
But Gordon said: "People like Rusk were cautious. I think they were
influenced by the Bay of Pigs and didn't want a repeat of that experience."
In 1961, anti-Castro rebels, supported and armed by the U.S., were defeated
by Castro when they attempted to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
>From 1964 to 1985, Brazil was ruled by a string of five colorless military
presidents chosen by their fellow officers. The dictatorship ended in 1985
when a democracy movement swept the country.
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