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Papers on 1964 brazil coup declassified { April 3 2004 }

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   http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-3935093,00.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-3935093,00.html

Papers on 1964 Brazil Coup Declassified
Saturday April 3, 2004 10:46 AM

By TOM MURPHY

Associated Press Writer

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - 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.

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 bloodless.

``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 last.''

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 military.

``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 bloodshed.''

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.

^---

On the Net:

National Security Archive: http://www.nsarchive.org


Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004


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