1964 Brazilian coup d'état
The 1964 Brazilian coup d'état (Portuguese: Golpe de estado no Brasil em 1964 or, more colloquially, Golpe de 64) was a series of events in Brazil from March 31 to April 1 that led to the overthrow of President João Goulart by members of the Brazilian Armed Forces, supported by the United States government. The following day, with the military already in control of the country, the Brazilian Congress came out in support of the coup and endorsed it by declaring vacant the office of the presidency. The coup put an end to the government of Goulart, also known as Jango, a member of the Brazilian Labour Party, who had been democratically elected Vice President in the same election in which conservative Jânio Quadros, from the National Labor Party and backed by the National Democratic Union, won the presidency.
|1964 Brazilian coup d'état|
|Part of the Cold War|
A M41 Walker Bulldog tank in front of the National Congress during the coup
|Commanders and leaders|
Humberto Castelo Branco|
Artur da Costa e Silva
Quadros resigned in 1961, the same year of his inauguration, in a clumsy political maneuver to increase his popularity. Quadros anticipated that mass demonstrations would demand his return to office and strengthen his position, but he miscalculated. With the presidency vacate and according to the constitution then in force, enacted in 1946, Quadros should have automatically been replaced by Goulart. However, because Goulart was on a diplomatic trip to the People's Republic of China at the time, and because, although a moderate nationalist, Goulart was accused of being a communist by right-wing militants, he was unable to take office. After long negotiations, led mainly by Tancredo Neves, Goulart's supporters and the right-wing reached an agreement under which the parliamentary system would replace the presidential system in the country. Goulart would continue as head of state, although weakened, and Neves would be named prime minister.
In 1963, however, a referendum re-established the presidential system with Goulart as president. He took office with full powers, and during his rule several problems in Brazilian politics[clarification needed] became evident, as well as disputes in the context of the Cold War, which helped destabilize his government. The Basic Reforms Plan (Reformas de Base) proposed by Goulart had the potential to socialize the profits of large companies to ensure a better quality of life for most Brazilians, but was labelled as a "socialist threat" by right-wing sectors of society and of the military, which organized major demonstrations against the government in the Marches of the Family with God for Freedom (Marchas da Família com Deus pela Liberdade).
The coup brought to Brazil a military regime politically aligned to the interests of the United States government. This regime lasted until 1985, when Tancredo Neves was indirectly elected the first civilian president of Brazil since the 1960 elections.
Conspiracy against JangoEdit
Jânio Quadros resigned on August 25, 1961. At the time of his resignation, João Goulart was in the People's Republic of China on a foreign relations trip. On August 29, the Brazilian Congress heard and vetoed a motion to stop Goulart from being named president, brought by the heads of the three branches of the military and some politicians, who claimed Goulart's inauguration would put the country "on the road to civil war". A compromise was reached: Brazil would become a parliamentary democracy, with Goulart as president. As such, he would be head of state, but with limited powers of head of government. Tancredo Neves was named as the new prime minister. On January 6, 1963, Goulart successfully changed the system of government back to presidential democracy in a referendum he won by a large margin. Goulart found himself back in power with a rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation. During this period, Goulart was politically isolated, with a foreign policy which was independent of any alignment. He openly criticized the Bay of Pigs invasion by the US, but criticized the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The country's economic situation deteriorated rapidly. Attempts to stabilize the currency were financed by aid packages from the International Monetary Fund. His failure to secure foreign investment and curb domestic inflation put the country in a difficult situation which exacerbated social conflicts. On March 13, 1964, Goulart gave a speech where he promised to nationalize the country's oil refineries, as well as carry out "basic reforms" including rent control. This was followed by a large demonstration on March 19, where a conservative group marched on Praça da Sé, São Paulo, in a demonstration called "March of the Family with God for Freedom" against Goulart and his policies.
The Sailors' RevoltEdit
The friction between the military and Goulart boiled over with his intervention in a revolt by sailors of the Brazilian Navy led by José Anselmo dos Santos, historically known as Cabo Anselmo, and later exposed as an agent provocateur. On March 25, 1964, nearly 2,000 sailors assembled in Rio de Janeiro, petitioning for better living conditions and pledging their support for Goulart's reforms. The Minister of the Navy, Sílvio Mota, ordered the arrest of the sailors leading the assembly. Mota sent a detachment of marines to arrest the leaders and break up the assembly, led by Rear Admiral Cândido Aragão. These marines ended up joining the assembly and remained with the other sailors. Shortly after Aragão's refusal to arrest the leaders, Goulart issued orders prohibiting any invasion of the assembly location (the headquarters of the local metalworker's union), and sacked Sílvio Mota as Minister of the Navy. The following day, March 26, the Minister of Labor, Amauri Silva, negotiated a compromise, and the sailors agreed to leave the assembly building. They were promptly arrested for mutiny. Goulart pardoned the sailors shortly after, creating a public rift with the military. Soon after, on March 30, 1964, the day before the coup, Goulart gave a speech to a gathering of sergeants, where he asked for the military's support for his reforms.
In the United States, concerns over the state of the Brazilian President, Goulart, started as early as July 1962. A private meeting was set up between John F. Kennedy, Richard N. Goodwin, and Lincoln Gordon to discuss Goulart's activity in the military, and their concern over whether or not he was leading the country towards Communism. The discussion concluded that they would support paramilitary forces in opposition to Goulart, and that they would send a "fellow" who was fluent in Portuguese to be their contact within the military.
On December 11, 1962, the Executive Committee (EXCOMM) of the National Security Council met to evaluate three policy alternatives on Brazil: A. To do nothing and allow the present drift to continue; B. To collaborate with Brazilian elements hostile to Goulart who were in favor of a coup; C. To seek to change the political and economic orientation of Goulart and his government. At the time the U.S. felt that option C was the best selection and would be tried before shifting to alternative B. The attempt to reform Goulart's policy was selected as having the only feasible chance of success at the time. The choice to give support to the Goulart administration without political confrontation might be justified by the fact that there was an expectation that events in Brazil would lead to Goulart's early ouster or a change in his policies. At first, the U.S. attempted to work with President Goulart and convince him to change his political views and policies to a more pro-Western system of governance.
In December 1962, Bobby Kennedy flew to Brazil to meet with Goulart. Goulart and Kennedy spoke for three hours, with Kennedy outlining "the presence of Communists, ultranationalists (read nationalists), extreme leftists (read leftists) and anti-Americans in Goulart's government" as the main American objection to his government. In March 1963, the Kennedy administration gave Goulart a choice: either he could remove the anti-American politicians from political power in Brazil, or the United States would put economic pressure on Brazil.
During the finishing months of 1963, the Kennedy administration began to search for paramilitary forces capable of overthrowing the Goulart government. The coup was foreseen by both pro- and anti-Goulart forces. In Rio de Janeiro, Leonel Brizola, a Goulart ally (and brother-in-law), had organized as far back as October 1963 into so-called "Groups of Eleven", or groups of eleven people who would work in supporting Goulart's reforms, but could theoretically be converted to a form of militia in defense of Goulart's presidency.
On the other side, on March 20, 1964, some 10 days before the coup, Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, chief of staff for the army, circulated a letter to the highest echelons of the military warning of the dangers of communism. Two cables from the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon reveal his suspicions of President Goulart's communist sympathies, and his urging of the CIA to prepare to aid the revolt. The first, dated March 27, 1964, accuses Goulart of actively working with the Brazilian Communist Party, and recommends that the U.S. prepare to support anti-Goulart forces with arms and fuel, especially the General Castello Branco. In the same cable, Gordon mentions that several anti-Goulart groups had approached him in the past two years about the U.S. supporting a coup. He says that, out of all of them, General Branco was easily the best. In Gordon's opinion, he was the one that the U.S. should put their weight behind. He is very urgent in his message, saying that he is afraid of Brazil becoming, "The China of the 1960s". Finally, he urges for arms to be sent via an unmarked submarine (at night) as soon as possible. In a second cable, sent two days later on March 29, takes a more urgent tone as Ambassador Gordon reports that the situation had "worsened" and "possibly shortened time factors," and advised that "earliest possible action would achieve optimum results." Retired Marshal Odylio Denys was Minister of War during president Janio Quadros' term and was a leader of the anti- Goulart's group was in charge of the developed plan to overthrow Goulart. Denys and many Brazilian military were strongly against Goulart, however would not initiate a revolutionary plan unless Goulart started any "attacks" that would win him support. The whole purpose was to protect their constitution, which they felt that Goulart disobeyed.
On March 30, the American military attaché in Brazil, Colonel Vernon A. Walters, telegraphed the State Department. In that telegraph, he confirmed that Brazilian army generals had committed themselves to acting against Goulart within a week of the meeting, but no date was set. An Intelligence Information Cable from the same day reiterates the likelihood of a revolution "probably within the next few days," and outlines the movement of troops from São Paulo and Minas Gerais towards Rio de Janeiro once the revolt begins. They felt there would be no problems in Minas Gerais. The cable reports anticipation of problems in São Paulo, and warns that the revolution will be long and bloody, noting that "the position of the navy is uncertain and could add to the difficulties of the anti-Goulart forces." The air force base in Belo Horizonte had little to offer, they believed there would be no resistance or bloodshed. However, the cable also cites the division of the air force as beneficial to the aid of anti-Goulart forces this included the commander Col. Afranio Aguiar who usually favored Goulart. These two documents reflect the planning and premeditation for the coup by both the CIA and Brazilian anti-Goulart body.
In the early hours of March 31, 1964, General Olímpio Mourão Filho, Commander of the 4th Military Region, headquartered in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, ordered his troops to start moving towards Rio de Janeiro. The move was not coordinated with the other main generals in the plot, namely General Amaury Kruel of the 2nd Army (based in São Paulo) and Castello Branco, the deposed army chief of staff. The troop movement took them by surprise, as they felt it was too soon for a successful coup. Less than two hours after receiving news of Mourão's march, Kruel was reported saying "This is nothing more than a quartelada (military adventure, from quartel, the Portuguese for "barracks") by General Mourão, and I will not join it." In the morning, Castello Branco would twice try to stop Mourão's march on Rio. At the same time, news of the march had reached General Argemiro Assis Brasil, João Goulart's military aide, who felt confident he could put the rebellion down. As the day progressed, minor revolts and military actions ensued, such as Castello Branco's barricades at the Ministry of War building, and at the Escola de Comando do Estado Maior, in Rio de Janeiro. Despite this, the crucial support needed for the coup (that of General Kruel's 2nd Army) had not yet been implemented. At around 10:00PM, General Kruel called João Goulart. In the call, Kruel asked the president to break with the left-wing by sacking his Minister of Justice and Chief of Staff and outlaw the Comando Geral dos Trabalhadores (Worker's General Command), a major workers' organization. Goulart replied that doing so would be a humiliating defeat for him, making him a "decorative president". Goulart told Kruel: "General, I don't abandon my friends. (...) I would rather stick with my grassroots. You should stick to your convictions. Put your troops out on the street and betray me, publicly."
After the 10:00PM call, Kruel called Goulart two more times, repeating his demands, and receiving the same answer from Goulart. Goulart's attempt to countermand the Generals was disastrous. Two of his three military chiefs of staff were out of action for various reasons. His personal military aide was a newly promoted Brigadier General, General Assis Brasil. His greatest base of military support was located in his native Southern Brazil. His reaction, orchestrated by Assis Brasil, consisted of shifting a general from the southern 3rd Army to the southeast, to replace Castello Branco (he never arrived). Of his other generals, in the states of Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul, four were on vacation, while two others were returning to their posts in Curitiba when they were forced to land in Porto Alegre due to bad weather, and thus away from their commands.
A telegram dated March 31, 1964 details some decisions the United States made in response to the coup being underway: a dispatch of the US Navy tankers from Aruba, immediate dispatch of a naval task force to go to Brazil, an initiation of a shipment of 110 tons of ammunition, but also states that the actual deployment of these resources requires more discussion. The first tanker off Santos between April 8 and 13, following three tankers at one day intervals. An aircraft carrier, the USS Forrestal (CVN-59) arriving April 10 four destroyers, two destroyer escorts, task force tankers all to arrive four days later.
On April 1, at 12:45PM, João Goulart left Rio for the capital, Brasília, in an attempt to stop the coup. At the same time, General Kruel and the 2nd Army began to march towards the Vale do Paraíba, between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In the southeast, only the 1st Army, commanded by General Âncora and based in Rio de Janeiro, had not enlisted in the coup. General Artur da Costa e Silva called Âncora and demanded his surrender. Âncora replied he would honor a promise to Jango and first meet to discuss the situation with General Kruel, who was marching in his direction. The meeting would take place later in the day at the Academia Militar de Agulhas Negras, in Resende, between Rio and São Paulo. At that meeting, Âncora surrendered the 1st Army. Goulart had no military support outside of the south. When he reached Brasília, Goulart realized he lacked any political support. The Senate president, Auro Moura Andrade, was already articulating for congressional support of the coup. Goulart stayed for a short time in Brasília, gathering his wife and two children, and flying to Porto Alegre in an Air Force Avro 748 aircraft. Soon after Goulart departed, Auro Moura Andrade declared the position of President of Brazil "vacant". Altogether seven people would die during the events of April 1. Casualties included two students who were shot amidst a demonstration against the troops encircling the Governor's palace in Recife, three in Rio and two in Minas Gerais. A telegram from the CIA on April 1 states that "the national council of government on 1 April approved a resolution to receive Goulart as president unless he had resigned before leaving Brazil." The telegram also reports that President Goulart had fled Brazil for Uruguay.
In the early hours of April 2 the National Congress declared the presidency to be vacant and Senate president Auro de Moura Andrade, along with the president of the Supreme Federal Tribunal, swore in Pascoal Ranieri Mazzilli, the speaker of the house, as president. This move was arguably unconstitutional at the time, as João Goulart was still in the country. At the same time Goulart, now in the headquarters of the 3rd Army in Porto Alegre (which was still loyal to him at the time), contemplated resistance and counter-moves with Leonel Brizola, who argued for armed resistance. In the morning General Floriano Machado informed the president that troops loyal to the coup were moving from Curitiba to Porto Alegre, and that he had to leave the country, risking arrest otherwise. At 11:45AM Jango boarded a Douglas C-47 transport for his farm bordering Uruguay. Goulart would stay at his farm until April 4, when he finally boarded the plane for the last time, heading for Montevideo. Mazzilli would continue as president while the generals jockeyed for power. On April 11, 1964, General Humberto de Alencar Castello Branco was elected President by the National Congress. Upon taking power, Castello Branco promised to "deliver, in 1966, to my successor legitimately elected by the people, a united nation." In 1967, he delivered what journalist Elio Gaspari dubbed "a fractured nation" to a president elected by 295 people.
Within two years, in accord with concessions promised to the U.S. government for its financial support of the overthrow, foreign companies gained control of about half of Brazilian industry. This was often accomplished through combined fiscal and monetary measures, "constructive bankruptcy" that caused the choice of selling out or going broke. By 1971, of the 19 of Brazil's 27 largest companies that were not state owned, 14 were foreign-owned.
Lyndon B. Johnson receiving briefing on events in Brazil on March 31, 1964, on his Texas ranch with Undersecretary of State George Ball and Assistant Secretary for Latin America, Thomas C. Mann. Ball briefs Johnson on the status of military moves in Brazil to overthrow the government of João Goulart.
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The US ambassador at the time, Lincoln Gordon, and the military attaché, Colonel Vernon A. Walters, kept in constant contact with President Lyndon B. Johnson as the crisis progressed. Johnson urged taking action to support the overthrow of João Goulart by the military, as action against the "left-wing" Jango government.
Operation Brother SamEdit
Operation Brother Sam was the codename given to Kennedy's plan to "prevent Brazil from becoming another China or Cuba". Kennedy believed Goulart was getting too friendly with anti-American Radicalists in the Brazilian government. Declassified transcripts of communications between Lincoln Gordon and the US government show that, predicting an all-out civil war, and with the opportunity to get rid of a left wing government in Brazil, Johnson authorized logistical materials to be in place and a US Navy fleet led by an aircraft carrier to support the coup against Goulart. These included ammunition, motor oil, gasoline, aviation gasoline and other materials to help in a potential civil war in US Navy tankers sailing from Aruba. About 110 tons of ammunition and CS gas were made ready in New Jersey for a potential airlift to Viracopos Airport in Campinas. Potential support was also made available in the form of an "aircraft carrier (USS Forrestal) and two guided missile destroyers (expected arrive in area by April 10), (and) four destroyers", which sailed to Brazil under the guise of a military exercise.
In the telegraphs, Gordon also acknowledges US involvement in "covert support for pro-democracy street rallies…and encouragement [of] democratic and anti-communist sentiment in Congress, armed forces, friendly labor and student groups, church, and business" and that he "may be requesting modest supplementary funds for other covert action programs in the near future.". The actual operational files of the CIA remain classified, preventing historians from accurately gauging the CIA's direct involvement in the coup.
March 31, 1964Edit
A Department of the State telegram to US Ambassador to Brazil, Lincoln Gordon, in Rio shows the US preparing to aid anti-Goulart forces. The US informs Lincoln that three things have occurred. (1.) Four American Navy tankers were directed to Brazil and expected between April 8 and the 13th. (2.) The US dispatched a naval task force to Brazil which included: an aircraft carrier, four destroyers, two destroyer escorts, and task force tankers. This was later corrected to one aircraft carrier, two guided missile destroyers, four destroyers, and task force tankers. (3.) The US assembled 110 tons of ammunition and sent it to São Paulo via airlift, as well as tear gas (later corrected to CS Agent). This airlift would incorporate ten cargo planes, six tankers, six fighters. Later, the number of cargo planes was reduced to six. The airlift would take 24–25 hours to occur upon request while involving 10 cargo planes.
At the bottom of the document, the reports claims "Dispatch of tankers from Aruba and of naval task force does not immediately involve us in Brazilian situation and is regarded by us as normal naval exercise." Clearly, the CIA did intend to involve themselves in the Brazilian coup, but wanted to do so in secrecy until it was necessary.
April 1, 1964Edit
At a White House Meeting on April 1, 1964 Secretary of State Dean Rusk claimed that the Ambassador to Brazil, Lincoln Gordon was not advising that the United States should support Brazil at the time. Despite the proclamation, the two men had previously agreed to provide Brazil support. Instead this declaration was intended to signal that the United States would not overtly support Brazil. This was due to the fact that Rusk was concerned that if the United States intervened in Brazil, that would provide Goulart with a reason to become opposed to the United States. However the rebel residents of São Paulo - referred to as the Paulistas - had asked the United States for aid, but had not requested specific items or funds.
At the same meeting Secretary of Defense, Robert Strange McNamara reported that the United States had military aid waiting for the proper Brazilian request. McNamara noted the existence of arms and ammunition waiting to be airlifted to Brazil from New Jersey, a Navy tanker that was being diverted from Aruba to Brazil, and American financed Norwegian tanker that was headed to Buenos Aires with aviation fuel. This demonstrates the United States' tacit willingness to support the Brazilian cause despite Rusk's desire to keep this secret.
April and May 1964Edit
A Washington Daily News article, titled "Castro Plots in Brazil Confirmed", asserts that "Brazil's new anticommunist regime has discovered hard evidence that Castro's Cuba was aiding subversion in their country." The article's premise is that this news firmly classifies Brazil as newly anti-Castro/Cuba. The author of the piece, Virginia Prewett, does not detail how this information was obtained, nor how (or whether) it was independently verified. Rather, the piece extrapolates from this initial statement implications for other Organization of American States (OAS: the world’s oldest regional organization, dating back to ... 1948 ... established in order to achieve among its member states ... "an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence") member states. Prewett mentions two upcoming OAS meetings; the first was slated to deal with a "showdown over Cuban subversion," the second dealing with "the problem of coups." The article goes on to describe Venezuela as being highly involved in OAS proceedings. Confusingly, though, the article says that Venezuela does not recognize the governments of Haiti, Guatemala, Ecuador, or the Dominican Republic, as they were the products of coups; the new Brazilian government, however, was likely to be deemed as legitimate by Venezuela. The article concludes by commenting on other OAS member states' reactions to Brazil's anti-Cuban stance: Bolivia, Chile, and Mexico will look to Brazil for leadership, rather than listening to the United States or Venezuela; Argentina and Uruguay, though fence-straddlers, were expected to back Brazil and its new government (rather than Cuba or Venezuela), too.
By May 1964, Brazil's break with Cuba was being recognized on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Representative Paul G. Rogers of Florida addressed the Speaker of the House on May 14, 1964, saying that "credit is due the new Government of Brazil for ending diplomatic relations with the Communist regime of Cuba." His speech says that "the fall of leftist Joao Goulart's regime" helped Brazil reverse its course, "which seemed to be taking it away from the democratic community of the hemisphere." His remarks seem to collaborate the aforementioned Washington Daily News article, which considers the reaction of other countries. Specifically, Rogers predicts that Brazil will become a leader in "our sister continent," disregarding Cuba. Rogers calls out four other countries as being Cuba supporters—Chile, Bolivia, Mexico, and Uruguay—and publicly asks the OAS to utilize "stepped-up measures...to isolate Communist Cuba in this hemisphere."
Arrests and interrogationEdit
A number of reports reveal the numbers of suspects arrested in Brazil and the different techniques used to torture suspects during the process of interrogation. A report written in April 16, 1973 to the U.S. Department of State titled “Widespread Arrests And Psychophysical Interrogation Of Suspected Subversive” gave specific details that accounted for what happened in Brazil. According to the report, there had been dramatically increased in arrests in 1973, with a specific week period. The majority of suspects were university students. These students were arrested within several week period in the Rio area. When arrested and interrogated, the suspects were “submitted to the old methods of physical violence, which sometimes cause death.” The increased in number of suspects stemmed from police report, especially on individual who were jailed before.
Another report, dated April 18, 1973, highlighted that over 300 individuals were arrested for subversive activities. Though the report listed students as the largest portion of the arrests, individuals such as university professors, journalists and physicians were also detained. The methods for torture included the subject being stripped naked and either subjected to darkness, sound-based, temperature or electrical torture and other methods like hanging the subject by their arms and legs. Though the document references trials by military tribunals and arrests made by members of the military, the document also makes note of the use of the Brazilian police in the interrogation and torture process. Individuals labeled as hardened terrorists or known radical subversives usually faced an expedited execution process. A common practice for executions was to utilize a technique known as “the shootout technique”, in which the executed subject was deemed to have died in a “shootout” with the police.
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- Declassified documents from US Department of State and CIA about the 1964 coup (National Security Archive)
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