Understand how the US participated in the 64 coup (and the


For more than a decade, talk about US involvement in the coup that brought the military to power in 1964 was considered mere conspiracy theory. Everything changed in 1976, when the content of a communication between the US ambassador to Brazil between 1961 and 66, Lincoln Gordon, and his government was revealed.

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“Both I and my advisors believe that our support should be given to the coup plotters to help prevent a major disaster here – which could turn Brazil into the China of the 1960s,” said the letter, dated March 27, 1964, four days before the coup.

This was the first thread in a skein that continues to unravel and that explains how our last dictatorship (1964-85) had the connivance and support of the United States. Gordon’s letter is evidence of the operation Brother Samwhich would use US military forces to support the overthrow of the João Goulart government in favor of coup plotters such as General Castelo Branco.

Discussed with US presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Gordon, the plans did not need to be put into practice – the Jango government fell without resistance, as explained by historians studying the subject heard by the Brazil in fact.

US strategies before 64

“It is possible to point to US actions in Brazil that preceded the coup and sought to rule out the possibility of the advancement of socialism”, explains Marcus Dezemone, from the University of Rio de Janeiro. “The first was the ‘Alliance for Progress’ of ’61.”

“The project injected money to carry out American propaganda, mainly in opposition state governments, such as Carlos Lacerda (Guanabara, current state of Rio de Janeiro), Magalhães Pinto (Minas Gerais) and Ademar de Barros (São Paulo). the opposition, so that Jango arrived at the 65 elections weak, unable to elect a successor”, he says.

“The second measure was to finance the Brazilian Institute of Democratic Action (IBAD), which produced anti-communist content, such as documentaries broadcast in cinemas before the main film, bringing themes such as The Cuba Problemwho sought to prevent the ‘Cubanization’ of our society”, he explains. IBAD produced, in addition to films, plays for radio, TV and soap operas.

“The money the US put into our 1962 parliamentary elections was greater than the amount spent on their presidential campaign the previous year, won by Kennedy. The idea was to elect pro-US legislators who would oppose João Goulart.”

The fourth front invested in the so-called soft power (power of influence): “Politicians and influential people in society such as Mário Covas and Ulysses Guimarães were invited to go to the USA with everything paid for, to see the institutions functioning, to build a mentality favorable to the country”, says Dezemone. The researcher recalls that the strategy was repeated at the beginning of the century, with members of the Judiciary as guests, including figures such as Sérgio Moro and Deltan Dallagnol.

He says that the last element was the rapprochement between the militaries of the two countries, after the Second World War, “when our Army abandoned the French model as an organizational reference, after all they had quickly succumbed to the Germans”.

“The Higher School of War was created in the 1940s, with great exchange with the USA, which trained the officers who took power in 1964”, says Dezemone.

American researcher James Green, one of the greatest authorities on the subject, told Brazil in fact that the US “misjudged Jango, thinking he would be interested in a socialist revolution, just because he knew how to deal with left-wing politicians”.

“It was then decided to support a coup, which would take place a little later, in April or May 64. But when events came to a head on March 31, Gordon [o embaixador no Brasil] intervened so that the then US president, Lyndon Johnson, immediately recognized the legitimacy of the new government,” he said.

“The US would send a military force to support the coup plotters if there was resistance, civil war. But it was not necessary and the country started to deny any involvement”, he explains.

The US then opened the financial taps for our military governments, helping with the construction of major projects, such as the Transamazônica highway and the Rio-Niterói bridge, and leading to an increase in our external debt.

Simultaneously, the US spy agency, the CIA, helped to depose countless governments in Latin America and improve repressive apparatuses in these countries, under the justification of combating communism.

Climate change

Denials continued until 1976, when the aforementioned first thread of the ball was pulled to light. But why at that time?

“For several reasons,” explains Green. “There was politicization because of the Vietnam war, the emergence of a new generation critical of US foreign policy and a moral crisis after the revelations of corruption by the Nixon administration in 1973, with Watergate.”

“Democratic deputies were elected who argue that the US should not support totalitarian governments in Latin America – there have been attempts in the US Congress to cut aid to Brazil since 1972 – and Jimmy Carter, elected president in 1976, says that one of the criteria for a country to be recognized is respect for human rights, which puts pressure on the Geisel government to ease repression in Brazil.”

The academic emphasizes that this movement was an exception in US foreign policy and “normality” would return in 1980, with the presidency of Republican Ronald Reagan.

But even under the administration of cowboy Reagan, Brazil’s opening towards democracy and the disclosure of American involvement in our affairs were unstoppable movements from the 1980s onwards.

End of the story?

Since then, thousands of documents have been revealed and there is pressure from US congressmen – such as Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – for more to be released by the country’s State Department. James Green is responsible for the program Opening Archives (Opening the Archives, in Portuguese), conducted in partnership by Brown and Maringá state universities (PR), which publishes in an organized way the documents that have already come to light.

“We have already made 55,000 documents available, there are still 20,000 to go and we are asking for the release of another 1,500”, explains the academic, who says he is, however, not very optimistic about bombshell revelations.

“I don’t think we’re going to discover anything very unexpected. Still, even if they don’t reveal anything major, it’s important in the name of transparency,” he says.

Dezemone goes the same way. “I don’t believe we have any more revelations that will change the general interpretation of historiography. But documents have begun to emerge, for example, that recognize that the US government was aware of torture as an institutionalized practice, and we may have more in the coming years documents in this regard”, he says.


The Brazilian historian makes the point that his profession is much better at interpreting the past than predicting the future. Still, he shows a certain optimism regarding the idea that the alliance between the military of Brazil and the United States is not something unbreakable, destined for eternity.

“This is just a historical construction, it wasn’t always like this and, consequently, there is no reason to continue forever. The Red Army defeated Nazism on the battlefield, the largest armies in the world are communist.”

“There is no natural incompatibility between armed forces and communism”, says Marcus Dezemone.

Editing: Nicolau Soares

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Understand participated coup



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