The Chargé in Brazil ( Daniels ) to the Secretary of State
[Received April 9.]
Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s telegrams No. 317 of March 7, 3 p.m., and No. 412 of March 22, 8 p.m., and to the last paragraph of the Embassy’s telegram No. 578 of March 27, 12 noon,24 regarding the possibility of disclosing the secret strategic air bases agreement of June 1944. The Embassy reported the desire of the Brazilian authorities, in which the senior American military and naval personnel in Rio de Janeiro concur, that no publicity be given this agreement for the time being.
From the very outset the high Brazilian officials concerned with the negotiation of the strategic air bases agreement or having cognizance of it have considered it of a highly secret character, having in mind that it has provoked a considerable degree of controversy in Brazilian official circles and at any time might be used to create embarrassment for the Government. This being the case, it is my view that it would be unwise to raise the question of publicity with the Brazilian Government [Page 440] at the very time when we are engaged in putting into practical effect the agreement. As reported in the Embassy’s telegram referred to above, the outlook at this stage is favorable for an early agreement being reached to the effect that the Air Section of the Joint Brazil-United States Military Commission will be considered as the “Technical Commission for the Conservation of Airports” referred to in the said agreement.25 Once this has been accomplished by formal agreement, such as an exchange of notes with the Foreign Office as is now contemplated, the Air Section can immediately proceed to take the necessary steps for proper maintenance and operation of the bases, both for military and civilian requirements. Once this has been accomplished and matters are proceeding in a more or less routine manner under the terms of the strategic air bases agreement, it will be easier to reconsider the question of publicizing its terms.
The entire matter is a delicate one here in Brazil at the present time because these bases are currently the object of strong attack from Communist quarters (see Embassy’s telegram No. 580 of March 27, 4 p.m.; and likewise Embassy’s despatch No. 4621 of March 27, 1946 on this subject26). Furthermore, the Brazilian Government is sensitive in regard to the entire subject, as witnessed by the reaction to a Reuters despatch from London dated March 21 reporting a statement by a Soviet radio commentator to the effect that “Great Britain and the United States are rapidly reaching an understanding regarding the proposed acquisition by the United States of permanent bases in Brazil, the Azores, Greenland, Iceland, Saudi Arabia and India.”
The publication of this press despatch in the local press of March 21 provoked immediate official reaction. In O Globo of March 23 the Minister of Air, Brigadeiro Armando Trompowsky, gave an interview which was featured by large first-page headlines, commenting on the above subject. Minister Trompowsky’s interview referred to the Soviet commentator’s statements as being nothing less than “misstatement and intrigue”. His interview was entirely friendly to the United States, pointing out that Americans have been loyally complying with their commitments, and that in the larger bases it is necessary to maintain technical American personnel pending such time as Brazilians have been trained and prepared for this purpose. A full translation of Minister Trompowsky’s interview is enclosed.
On March 25 O Globo sought and obtained a similar, though shorter, interview from the Minister of War, General Goes Monteiro. In response to the reporter’s question as to whether there was any possibility of proposals being made for negotiations between Brazil and the United States for the ceding (“cessão”) of bases in Brazilian [Page 441] territory, General Góes Monteiro was reported to have stated: “I believe not.”
Similarly, O Globo of March 26 carried an interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. João Neves da Fontoura. According to this account, the Foreign Minister said that the reports being spread regarding the ceding of Brazilian bases “are absolutely false”, adding “there does not exist, up to the moment, any thought in this direction on the part of any one of the United Nations with the Government of Brazil.”
A similar editorial was published by A Manhã of March 26, 1946, based on the interviews given by the Ministers of War and Air. A translation of this statement is enclosed.27
All of the aforesaid interviews and statements are couched in terms friendly to the United States and openly resentful of the efforts of the Moscow commentator to create misunderstandings with regard to the bases. It is worthy of note, however, that in no case was any mention made by any of the three Cabinet Ministers of the existence of the strategic air bases agreement of 1944 with the United States. The whole tone of the interviews was to stress the gradual withdrawal of the American military personnel so as to turn over in an orderly manner the bases to the Brazilian personnel. Although this procedure is consistent with the policy laid down in the strategic air bases agreement, it is significant that none of the three Ministers saw fit to refer to that agreement. In the circumstances it would seem advisable to avoid pressing the matter of publicizing the agreement with the Brazilian authorities, particularly if they are now prepared to implement the agreement and proceed with its execution. This need not preclude reconsideration of the matter at a future date, at such time as the Brazilian Government may find convenient the publication of the agreement.