213. Editorial Note

President Janio Quadros abruptly resigned on August 25, 1961, declaring that his government had been “overcome by the forces of reaction.” Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Ranieri Mazzili was sworn in as interim President.

Vice President Joao Goulart was in transit to Brazil from a trade mission to the People’s Republic of China when Quadros resigned. Goulart was an unpopular figure with both the military and the conservative political leadership, and it was not certain whether he would be allowed to assume the presidency in accordance with the Brazilian constitution. On August 28, Mazzili announced that the military would not accept a Goulart presidency “for reasons of national security.”

In an August 30 press conference, President Kennedy said of the crisis, “I think it’s a matter which should be left to the people of Brazil. It is their country, their constitution, their decisions, and their government.” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1961, page 578)

A compromise solution to the crisis was reached on September 2, when the Brazilian Congress passed a constitutional amendment curbing the power of the presidency and establishing a parliamentary form of government with a strong Prime Minister. Goulart was sworn in as President on September 7, and fiscal conservative Tancredo Neves was named Prime Minister the same day.