A declassified CIA Secret report describes how the agency strong-armed Brazilian President Joao Goulart from power.
Then Vice President-Goulart became president in 1961 upon the resignation of President Janio Quadros.
Goulart, who was on a visit to the People’s Republic of China when Quadros resigned, set about to strengthen Brazil’s relations with the Communist and non-aligned blocs.
Goulart was also a driving force behind the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which declared Latin America to be a nuclear-free zone.
All this was too much for the CIA, which immediately ramped up a military coup to oust the progressive leader.
A formerly Secret October 1, 1963 “Current Intelligence Memorandum” prepared by the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, referred to the Goulart government as “inept” and “corrupt” in beginning to lay the groundwork for U.S. backing for a military coup the following year.
It is doubtful that President John F. Kennedy, who crafted the Alliance for Progress for Latin America, would have authorized the coup.
One of the benefits to the CIA of the assassination of Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, was the green light from President Lyndon Johnson for an anti-Goulart coup on April 1, 1964.
The CIA memo called for Goulart to be checked.
It states that the “instability” in Brazil and “the strong positions being won by extreme leftists, if not checked, will tend to push the country toward more radical departures in domestic and foreign policies.”
The memo also states that Goulart “is most at home on the left.” The CIA falsely accused the democratically-elected Goulart of wanting to extend his presidency after his term expired in 1966, “establishing at best a Peron-like regime.”
The CIA memo veered off further into fantasy land by claiming that Goulart’s “actions could ultimately lead to a subsequent takeover by a coalition of ultranationalists and Communists.”
Much of the input for the CIA memo came from U.S. ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon, who, like Kennedy advisers McGeorge Bundy and CIA director John McCone, were working to undermine Kennedy’s foreign policy programs while swearing loyalty to the president.
The CIA memo considered a “military/conservative preemptive coup” was inevitable.
The CIA raised warning flags on Goulart in reporting that “Goulart has appointed some Communists and Communist sympathizers to key administration posts and has removed a number of pro-US and anti-Communists from office.”
The memo adds, “[Goulart] is relying increasingly on extreme leftists, such as pro-Communist Governor Miguel Arraes of Pernambuco, for counsel on major problems.”
Another politician who came in for heavy criticism in the CIA memo was Goulart’s brother-in-law Leonel Brizola, described as “anti-US” and “radical fringe.”
Under pressure from Gordon and the Labor Attaché at the U.S. embassy — likely a CIA agent, Goulart was forced to fire his Labor Minister, the allegedly “pro-Communist” Almino Afonso.
The CIA memo indicates that Langley was alarmed by the 1963 visit to Brazil of Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito, the opening of diplomatic relations with Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and a five-year trade and payments agreement with the USSR. Nor did Brazil’s plans to seek a moratorium on debt payments to foreign banks sit well with with the CIA and its Wall Street masters.
The CIA, in 1963, began to cobble together Goulart’s opponents in the military and the right-wing to depose the president in a coup.
The agency’s chief political ally was Governor Carlos Lacerda of Guanabara State, where Rio de Janeiro is located.
The CIA also sought to unite various Brazilian generals and admirals against “Communist” generals promoted by Goulart, including Argemiro de Assis Brasil.
On September 18, 1963, an abrotive rightist plot against Goulart staged in Rio de Janeiro by retired Admiral Sylvio Heck was put down by Goulart’s War Minister Jair Ribeiro.
No sooner had that rebellion been quashed, another began brewing in Sao Paulo led by the right-wing Commander of the Second Army, General Peri Bevilacqua.
After the 1964 coup, Goulart and Brizola fled to Uruguay.
Brizola eventually fled to the United States during the Jimmy Carter presidency and received asylum thanks to the fforts of Senator Edward Kennedy.
Goulart died from a sudden heart attack in Argentina in 1976.
In 2000, Brizola claimed that Goulart and former President Juscelino Kubitschek were assassinated in 1976, Goulart by poison and Kubitschek in an auto accident, on the orders of the CIA in Operation Condor.
In 1996, Brizola unsuccessfully ran as vice president on the presidential ticket of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula won the presidency in 2002 with Brizola’s support.
Brizola was planning to run to succeed Lula in 2006 but in 2004 he died suddenly from a heart attack the day after meeting two campaign assistants.
Lula was eventually succeeded by Dilma Rousseff, who counted Brizola as one of her mentors.
In 2015, Rousseff honored Brizola by inscribing his name in the Book of Heroes of the Motherland reserved for those Brazilians “who offered their lives to the Motherland, her defense and building, with exceptional commitment and heroism.”
In 2016, the very same CIA that overthrew Goulart and tried to kill Brizola presided over a constitutional coup against Rousseff and behind a political operation that has seen trumped-up criminal charges being brought against ex-President Lula and his wife.
This is a gambit to prevent Lula from running again for president.
The leadership of the CIA may have changed over the years but the agenda of the agency differs little from the 1950s and 60s.
The rumors that President-elect Donald Trump might select the CIA’s torture architect, Jose Rodriguez, as his CIA director is a stark example of how the CIA never learns from its past abuses and crimes.
The CIA’s jaded history in Brazil is but one of in a series of dubious operations abroad in pursuit of American political, military, and economic hegemony.