HOW WE INVENT COMMUNISTS THREATS
TO SCARE OURSELVES
(1) Another overwhelmingly popular government, only mildly reformist, seeks "nonaligned" status (i.e., independence), predictably angering the self-appointed overlord to the north.
(2) After the predictable US-supported military takeover, death squads make their debut in Latin America.
The gory details …
In 1960 Jânio da Silva Quadros is elected President by a record majority. Although mildly conservative and anti-union, he incurs the wrath of the US by pursuing a neutralist, nonaligned course in the cold war between the US and the USSR. He asks: "Why should the United States trade with Russia and her satellites but insist that Brazil trade only with the United States?"
Quadros refuses a US demand for support of the impending Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, $300 million "offered as a bribe" by Kennedy’s advisor on Latin American affairs — John Moors Cabot, US Ambassador to Brazil
After seven months in office, Quadros suddenly resigns, apparently under military threat, blaming his predicament on "reactionaries" and "the ambitions of groups of individuals, some of whom are foreigners … the terrible forces that arose against me." A few months later, Quadros delivers a speech naming the US officials who contributed to his downfall. He also announces his intention to lead a "people’s crusade" against the "reactionaries, the corrupt and the Communists." New York Times 3/16/62
Quadros is succeeded by Vice President João Goulart, despite further military violence, thanks to last-minute efforts of military supporters of the constitutional process. Like Quadros, Goulart is no communist; he is a millionaire land-owner and a Catholic who wears a medal of the Virgin around his neck. He recives a ticker-tape parade in New York City in April 1962. He toasts the US Ambassador, "To the Yankee Victory!", after the "Cuban Missile Crisis" of October 1962.
However, Goulart’s "crime" is to try to continue Quadros’ independent foreign policy, strongly opposed to the US sanctions against Cuba [a continual act of war now condemned internationally, nearly unamimously with the exception of the US and Israel]. "[Brazil identies itself] with the democratic principles which unite the peoples of the West" but is "not part of any politico-military bloc". — speech to US Congress, New York Times 4/5/62.
He further angers the US by populist social reforms, although these are pitifully mild. As Goulart pointed out, General Douglas MacArthur had carried out a more radical distribution of land in Japan after WW II than anything planned in Brazil. He is labeled "dictatorial" for his appeals to the population over the heads of a hostile Congress and state governors (something Reagan later did on several occasions).
Inconveniently, the US can point to nothing even remotely threatening done by the Brazilian Communist Party, and early in 1964, Russian leader Khrushchev refuses even token financial aid to Goulart, not wishing to tangle with the US over the country. — Brazil Herald, 3/6/64
The American overthrow of Goulart …
In 1964, with US Ambassador Lincoln Gordon’s promises of immediate recognition and petroleum support, and with a US Navy task force—an aircraft carrier, destroyers, guided missiles—in Brazilian coastal waters, US-armed elements in the military advance upon Rio with troops and tanks. Not wanting to be responsible for bloodshed among Brazilians, Goulart refuses to call on loyalist forces and flees to Uruguay. — Washington Post, 4/3/64
In the usual hysterical tone, the coup is called "a great victory for the free world" without which there could have been a "total loss to the West of all South American Republics", and "the only unfortunate note was the obviously limited participation in the [celebration] march of the lower classes". — cables to Washington from Gordon
"The movement which overthrew President Goulart was a purely, 100 percent—not 99.44—but 100 percent purely Brazilian movement. Neither the American Embassy nor I personally played any part in the process whatsoever." — Gordon’s lies to Senate during his confirmation hearings for Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, 2/7/66
"Well, Goulart got what was coming to him. Too bad he didn’t follow the advice we gave him when I was there." — Robert Kennedy, Attorney General
"Seldom has a major nation come closer to the brink of disaster and yet recovered than did Brazil in its recent triumph over Red subversion. The communist drive for domination—marked by propaganda, infiltration, terror—was moving in high gear. Total surrender seemed imminent—and then the people said No!" — Reader’s Digest (the largest-circulation magazine in the US after TV Guide), "The Country That Saved Itself", 10/66.
Life after the coup …
In a few days after the coup, "several thousand" Brazilians are arrested, "communist and suspected communist all" [New York Times, 4/6/64], and over the next few years the resulting military dictatorship of General Castelo Branco conducts what it calls "moral rehabilitation": it shuts down Congress, virtually extinguishes political opposition, suspends habeas corpus for "political crimes", forbids by law criticism of the dictator, takes over labor unions, institutes police and military firing into protesting crowds, burns down peasant homes, brutalizes priests, …. — US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 12/11/74
And it is under this regime that Latin America first sees torture and death squads, largely undertakings of the police and the military, both underwritten by the US. — Chomsky and Herman, The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism.
Dan Mitrione (see URUGUAY) begins his career in Brazil, his organization the "Office of Public Safety" training over 100,000 policemen, in addition to 523 receiving more advanced instruction in the US. — US Agency for International Development, 1971 report
Tortures range from simple but brutal blows from a truncheon to electric shocks. Often the torture is more refined: the end of a reed is placed in the anus of a naked man hanging suspended downwards on the pau de arara [parrot’s perch] and a piece of cotton soaked in petrol is lit at the other end of the reed. Pregnant women are forced to watch their husbands being tortured. Other wives are hung naked beside their husbands and given electric shocks on the sexual parts of their body, while subjected to the worst kind of obscenities. Children are tortured before their parents and vice versa. At least one child, the three month old baby of Vergilio Gomes da Silva is reported to have died under police torture. The length of sessions depends upon the resistance capacity of the victims and have sometimes continued for days at a time. — Amnesty International, 1974
"Judge Agamemnon Duarte indicates that the CCC [Commandos to Hunt Communists, a death squad armed and aided by the police] and the CIA are implicated in the murder of Father Henrique Neto. He admits that … the American Secret Service (CIA) is behind the CCC." — Jornal do Brazil, 5/25/72
"The enemy is undefined … it adapts to any environment and uses every means, both licit and illicit, to achieve its aims. It disguises itself as a priest, a student or a campesino, as a defender of democracy or an advanced intellectual, as a pious soul or as an extremist protestor; it goes into the fields and the schools, the factories and the churches, the universities and the magistracy; if necessary, it will wear a uniform or civil garb; in sum, it will take on any role that it considers appropriate to deceive, to lie, and to take in the good faith of Western peoples." — General Breno Borges Forte, Brazilian Army Chief of Staff, 1973
Footnote: extending into the 1980s, the military dictatorship has much more intensive trade, economic cooperation, and diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union (billions of dollars per year, state visits, etc.) than the elected nonaligned Quadros/Goulart government did.