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« on: April 08, 2004, 11:44:59 AM »

Papers on 1964 Brazil Coup Declassified

Filed at 4:44 a.m. ET

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

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

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

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

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 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.

Forward to a united Africa!
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