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The actual American motivation in supporting the coup was something rather less
heroic than preserving democracy, even mundane as such matters go. American

opposition to Goulart, who became president in 1961, rested upon a familiar catalogue
of complaints:
US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara questioned Brazil's neutral stand in
foreign policy. The Brazilian ambassador in Washington, Roberto Campos, responded
that "neutralism" was an inadequate term and explained that "what was involved was
really a deep urge of the Brazilian people to assert their personality in world affairs. "4
American officials did not approve of some of the members of Goulart's cabinet,
and said so. Ambassador Campos pointed out to them that it was "quite inappropriate"
for the United States "to try to influence the composition of the cabinet."5
Attorney-General Robert Kennedy met with Goulart and expressed his uneasiness
about the Brazilian president allowing "communists" to hold positions in government
agencies. (Bobby was presumably acting on the old and very deep-seated American
belief that once you welcome one or two communists into your parlor, they take over
the whole house and sign the deed over to Moscow.) Goulart did not see this as a
danger. He replied that he was in full control of the situation, later remarking to Campos
that it was as if he had been told that he had no capacity for judging the men around
The American Defense Attache in Brazil, Col. Vernon Walters, reported that
Goulart showed favoritism towards "ultra-nationalist" military officers over "pro-U.S."
officers. Goulart saw it as promoting those officers who appeared to be most loyal to his
government. He was, as it happens, very concerned about American-encouraged
military coups and said so explicitly to President Kennedy.7
Goulart considered purchasing helicopters from Poland because Washington was
delaying on his request to purchase them from the United States. Ambassador Gordon
told him that he "could not expect the United States to like it".8
The Goulart administration, moreover, passed a law limiting the amount of profits
multinationals could transmit out of the country, and a subsidiary of ITT was
nationalized. Compensation for the takeover was slow in coming because of Brazil's
precarious financial position, but these were the only significant actions taken against
US corporate interests.
Inextricably woven into all these complaints, yet at the same time standing apart,
was Washington's dismay with Brazil's "drift to the left" ... the communist/leftist
influence in the labor movement ... leftist "infiltration" wherever one looked ..."anti-
Americanism" among students and others (the American Consul General in Sao Paulo
suggested to the State Department that the United States "found competing student
organizations") ... the general erosion of "U.S. influence and the power of people and
groups friendly to the United States"9... one might go so far as to suggest that
Washington officials felt unloved, were it not for the fact that the coup, as they well
knew from much past experience, could result only in intensified anti-Americanism all
over Latin America.
Goulart's predecessor, Janio da Silva Quadros, had also irritated Washington.
"Why should the United States trade with Russia and her satellites but insist that Brazil
trade only with the United States?" he asked, and proceeded to negotiate with the Soviet
Union and other Communist countries to (reestablish diplomatic and commercial
relations. He was, in a word, independent.10
Quadros was also more-or-less a conservative who clamped down hard on unions,
sent federal troops to the northeast hunger dens to squash protest, and jailed disobedient
students.11 But the American ambassador at the time, John Moors Cabot, saw fit to
question Brazil's taking part in a meeting of "uncommitted" (non-aligned! nations.
"Brazil has signed various obligations with the United States and American nations," he

said. "I am sure Brazil is not going to forget her obligations ... It is committed. It is a
fact. Brazil can uncommit itself if it wants."12 in early 1961, shortly after Quadros took
office, he was visited by Adolf Berle, Jr., President Kennedy's adviser on Latin
American affairs and formerly ambassador to Brazil. Berle had come as Kennedy's
special envoy to solicit Quadros's backing for the impending Bay of Pigs invasion.
Ambassador Cabot was present and some years later described the meeting to author
Peter Bell. Bell has written:

Ambassador Cabot remembers a "stormy conversation" in which Berle stated the
United States had $300 million in reserve for Brazil and in effect "offered it as a
bribe" for Brazilian cooperation ... Quadros became "visibly irritated" after Berle
refused to heed his third "no". No Brazilian official was at the airport the next day
to see the envoy off.13

Quadros, who had been elected by a record margin, was, like Goularr, accused of
seeking to set up a dictatorship because he sought to put teeth into measures unpopular
with the oligarchy, the military, and/or the United States, as well as pursuing a "pro-
communist" foreign policy. After but seven months in office he suddenly resigned,
reportedly under military pressure, if not outright threat. In his letter of resignation, he
blamed his predicament on "reactionaries" and "the ambitions of groups of individuals,
some of whom are foreigners ... the terrible forces that arose against me."14
A few months later, Quadros reappeared, to deliver a speech in which he named
Berle, Cabot, and US Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon as being among those who had
contributed to his downfall. Dillon, he said, sought to mix foreign policy with Brazil's
needs for foreign credits.15 (Both Berle and Cabot had been advocates of the 1954
overthrow of Guatemalan President Arbenz, whose sins, in Washington's eyes, were
much the same as those Goulart was now guilty of.)16 At the same time, Quadros
announced his intention to lead a "people's crusade" against the "reactionaries, the
corrupt and the Communists".17
As Quadros's vice president, Goulart succeeded to the presidency in August 1961
despite a virtual coup and civil war initiated by segments of the military to block him
because he was seen as some sort of dangerous radical. Only the intervention of loyalist
military units and other supporters of the constitutional process allowed Goulart to take
office.18 The military opposition to Goulart arose, it should be noted, before he had the
opportunity to exhibit his alleged tendencies toward dictatorship. Indeed, as early as
1954, the military had demonstrated its antipathy toward him by forcing President
Vargas to fire him from his position as Minister of Labor.19 The American doubts about
Goulart also predated his presidency. In 1960, when Goulart was elected vice president,
"concern at the State Department and the Pentagon turned to panic" according to an
American official who served in Brazil.20
Goulart tried to continue Quadros's independent foreign policy. His government
went ahead with resumption of relations with socialist countries, and at a meeting of the
Organization of American States in December 1961 Brazil abstained on a vote to hold a
special session aimed at discussing "the Cuban problem", and stood strongly opposed to
sanctions against the Castro government.21 A few months later, speaking before the US
Congress, Goulart affirmed Brazil's right to take its own stand on some of the cold-war
issues. He declared that Brazil identified itself "with the democratic principles which
unite the peoples of the West", but was "not part of any politico-military bloc".22
Time magazine, in common with most US media, had (has) a difficult time
understanding the concept and practice of independence amongst America's allies. In
November 1961, the magazine wrote that Brazil's domestic politics were "confused" and

that the country was "also adrift in foreign affairs. Goulart is trying to play the old
Quadros game of international 'independence', which means wooing the East while
panhandling from the West." Time was critical of Goulart in that he had sought an
invitation to visit Washington and on the same day he received it he "called in
Communist Poland's visiting Foreign Minister, Adam Rapacki, [and] awarded him the
Order of the Southern Cross”the same decoration that Quadros hung on Cuba's
Marxist mastermind, Che Guevara".23
Former Time editor and Latin America correspondent, John Gerassi, commented
that every visiting foreign dignitary received this medal, the Cruzeiro do Sul, as part of
protocol. He added:

Apparently Time thinks that any President who wants to visit us must necessarily hate our
enemies as a consequence, and is "confused" whenever this does not occur. But, of course,
Time magazine is so unused to the word "independent" that an independent foreign policy
must be very confusing indeed. In South America, where everyone would like to follow an
independent foreign policy but where only Brazil has, at times, the courage, no one was

Goulart, a millionaire land-owner and a Catholic who wore a medal of the Virgin
around his neck, was no more a communist than was Quadros, and he strongly
supported the United Stares during the "Cuban Missile Crisis" of October 1962. He
offered Ambassador Gordon a toast "To the Yankee Victory!",25 perhaps unaware that
only three weeks earlier, during federal and state elections in Brazil, CIA money had
been liberally expended in support of anti-Goulart candidates. Former CIA officer
Philip Agee has stated that the Agency spent between 12 and 20 million dollars on
behalf of hundreds of candidates.26 Lincoln Gordon says the funding came to no more
than 5 million.27
In addition to the direct campaign contributions, the CIA dipped into its bag of
dirty tricks to torment the campaigns of leftist candidates.28 At the same time, the
Agency for International Development (AID), at the express request of President
Kennedy, was allocating monies to projects aimed at benefiting chosen gubernatorial
candidates.29 (While Goulart was president, no new US economic assistance was given
to the central government, while regional assistance was provided on a markedly
ideological basis. When the military took power, this pattern was sharply altered.)30
Agee adds that the CIA carried out a consistent propaganda campaign against
Goulart which dated from at least the 1962 election operation and which included the
financing of mass urban demonstrations, "proving the old themes of God, country,
family and liberty to be as effective as ever" in undermining a government.31
CIA money also found its way to a chain of right-wing newspapers, Diarias
Associades, to promote anti-communism; for the distribution of 50 thousand books of
similar politics to high school and college students; and for the formation of women's
groups with their special Latin mother's emphasis on the godlessness of the communist
enemy. The women and other CIA operatives also went into the rumor-mongering
business, spreading stories about outrages Goulart and his cronies were supposed to be
planning, such as altering the constitution so as to extend his term, and gossip about
Goulart being a cuckold and a wife-beater.32
All this to overthrow a man who, in April 1962, had received a ticker-tape parade
in New York City, was warmly welcomed at the White House by President Kennedy,
and had addressed a joint session of Congress.

The intraservice confrontation which had attended Goulart's accession to power
apparently kept a rein on coup-minded officers until 1963. In March of that year the
CIA informed Washington, but not Goulart, of a plot by conservative officers.33 During
the course of the following year, the plots thickened. Brazilian military officers could
not abide by Goulart's attempts at populist social reforms, though his program was
timid, his rhetoric generally mild, and his actions seldom matched either. (He himself
pointed out that Genera! Douglas MacArthur had carried out a more radical distribution
of land in Japan after the Second World War than anything planned by the Brazilian
Government.) The military men were particularly incensed at Goulart's support of a
weakening of military discipline and his attempts to build up a following among non-
commissioned officers.34 This the president was genuinely serious about because of his
"paranoia" about a coup.
Goulart's wooing of NCOs and his appeals to the population over the heads of a
hostile Congress and state governors (something President Reagan later did on several
occasions) were the kind of tactics his enemies labeled as dictatorial.
In early 1964, disclosed Fortune magazine after the coup, an emissary was sent
by some of the military plotters "to ask U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon what the U.S.
position would be if civil war broke out". The emissary "reported back that Gordon was
cautious and diplomatic, but he left the impression that if the [plotters] could hold out
for forty-eight hours they would get U.S. recognition and help."35
The primary American contact with the conspirators was Defense Attache Vernon
Walters who arrived in Brazil after having been apprised that President Kennedy would
not be averse to the overthrow of Joao Goulart.36 Walters, who later became Deputy
Director of the CIA, had an intimacy with leading Brazilian military officers,
particularly General Castelo Branco, going back to World War II when Walters had
served as interpreter for the Brazilian Expeditionary Force then fighting in Italy with the
Allies. Brazil was the only Latin American country to send ground combat troops to the
war, and it allowed the United States to build huge aircraft staging bases on its
territory.37 The relationship between US and Brazilian officers was continued and
enhanced after the war by the creation of the Higher War College (Escola Superior de
Guerra) in Rio de Janeiro in 1949. Latin America historian Thomas E. Skidmore has

Under the U.S.-Brazilian military agreements of the early 1950s, the U.S. Army
received exclusive rights to render assistance in the organization and operation of
the college, which had been modeled on the National War College in Washington.
In view of the fact that the Brazilian War College became a rallying point for
leading military opponents of civilian populist politicians, it would be worm
examining the extent to which the strongly anti-Communist ideology”bordering
on an anti-political attitude”(of certain officers) was reinforced (or moderated?)
by their frequent contacts with United States officers.38

There was, moreover, the ongoing US Military Assistance Program, which
Ambassador Gordon described as a "major vehicle for establishing close relationships
with personnel of the armed forces" and "a highly important factor in influencing [the
Brazilian] military to be pro-US."39
A week before the coup, Castelo Branco, who emerged as the leader of the
conspirators, gave Walters a copy of a paper he had written which was in effect a
justification for a military coup, another variation on the theme of upholding the
constitution by preventing Goulart from instituting a dictatorship.40

To Lincoln Gordon and other American officials, civil war appeared a real
possibility as the result of a coup attempt. As the scheduled day approached,
contingency plans were set up.
A large quantity of petroleum would be sent to Brazil and made available to the
insurgent officers, an especially vital commodity if Goulart supporters in the state oil
union were to blow up or control the refineries.41
A US Navy task force would be dispatched to Brazilian coastal waters, the
presence of which would deliver an obvious message to opponents of the coup.42
Arms and ammunition would be sent to Branco's forces to meet their fighting
Concerned that the coup attempt might be met by a general strike, Washington
discussed with Gordon the possible need "for the U.S. to mount a large material
program to assure the success of the takeover."44 The conspirators had already requested
economic aid from the United States, in the event of their success, to get the
government and economy moving again, and had received a generally favorable
At the same time, Gordon sent word to some anti-Goulart state governors
emphasizing the necessity, from the American point of view, that the new regime has a
claim to legitimacy. The ambassador also met with former president Juscelino
Kubitschek to urge him to take a stronger position against Goulart and to use his
considerable influence to "swing a large congressional group and thereby influence the
legitimacy issue".46
Of the American contingency measures, indications are that it was the naval show
of force”which, it turned out, included an aircraft carrier, destroyers, and guided
missiles” which most encouraged the Brazilian military plotters or convinced those
still wavering in their commitment.47
Another actor in the unfolding drama was the American Institute for Free Labor
Development. The AIFLD came formally into being in 1961 and was technically under
the direction of the American labor movement (AFL-CIO), but was soon being funded
almost exclusively by the US government (AID) and serving consistently as a CIA
instrument in most countries of Latin America. In May 1963, the AIFLD founded the
Instituto Cultural Trabalho in Brazil which, over the next few years, gave courses to
more than 7,000 union leaders and members.48 Other Brazilians went to the United
States for training. When they returned to Brazil, said AIFLD executive William
Doherty, Jr., some of them:

became intimately involved in some of the clandestine operations of the revolution
before it took place on April 1. What happened in Brazil on April 1 did not just
happen”it was planned”and planned months in advance. Many of the trade union
leaders-”some of whom were actually trained in our institute”were involved in
the revolution, and in the overthrow of the Goularr regime.49

Doherty did not spell out any details of the AIFLD role in the coup (or revolution
as he called it), although Reader's Digest later reported that one of the AIFLD-trained
labor leaders set up courses for communication workers in combatting communism in
the labor movement in Brazil, and "After every- class he quietly warned key workers of
coming trouble and urged them to keep communications going no matter what
happened."50 Additionally, Richard Martinez, an unwitting CIA contract employee who


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