218. Letter From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (Williams) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Woodward)1

Dear Mr. Woodward: Since the resignation of President Quadros and the ensuing politico-military crisis of September, the trend of events [Page 451] in Brazil has caused increasing concern in this Department. The immediate and most obvious result of the crisis was the psychological and political defeat suffered by anti-Communist leaders in the Brazilian Armed Forces. At the same time, the emergence of Governor Brizzola2 of Rio Grande do Sul as a potential national leader, the steps taken by him in forming paramilitary nuclei with Communist assistance, and his activities in connection with Communist leaders in other regions of the country since the crisis are disquieting.

According to our Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, the new Government of Brazil so far appears to have functioned in essence as a presidential system, with President Goulart executing full powers and the cabinet in effect by-passed. For several years there have been recurring and reliable intelligence reports that the Communist Party of Brazil regards Goulart as “their man”, and it is known that the party attempted to obtain his nomination for the presidency in the Labor Party conventions prior to the presidential elections of both 1955 and 1960. At the same time, Goulart’s considerable influence in the Brazilian labor movement has been marked by increasing Communist infiltration of labor organizations and by the removal, with government cognizance and at times connivance, of anti-Communist trade union leaders.

Since Goulart’s accession to the Presidency an extensive shake-up has occurred in the Brazilian armed forces. Those officers best known as enemies of the Communist movement have been scattered and demoralized, either by retirement or by reassignment to positions where they can exercise little influence on military or political affairs. These officers have been replaced by others who are in most instances without experience in or proven capacity for their new posts and who in some instances are suspected of being Communist sympathizers or even secret agents. The appointment of an officer in this category to head the Federal Public Security Department in Brazilia seems cause for alarm. While this process has occurred in the military services, a parallel infiltration of the civilian branches of the government is reportedly taking place. In this connection, the appointment as Attorney General of an individual who seems best described as a Communist sympathizer appears significant.

In the field of foreign policy, while there has been relatively little opportunity so far to assess the long range orientation and objectives of the present government, there are initial indications that these may not be compatible with the national interests and security of the United States. We have already observed the efforts of the Brazilian Ambassador in Buenos Aires to strengthen the determination of President Frondizi and the Argentine Foreign Office to resist pressure from the Argentine [Page 452] military and press to break relations with Cuba. The Brazilians also rallied the opposition to the recent Peruvian initiative on Cuba in the Organization of American States.

From these and other indications, it would seem that we may be faced in Brazil with a foreign policy oriented increasingly toward the Soviet Bloc in world affairs and toward the Castro regime in inter-American affairs. At the same time, we must reckon with the domestic policies of the Vargas elements who have ruled Brazil almost without interruption since 1930, whose economic and political irresponsibility is notorious, and whose collaboration with the Communists is amply documented.3 In the present case, these elements have produced a government in which Communist infiltration and influence exceed anything of the sort previously known in the country. They apparently plan to force the U.S. to finance this inimical regime. This is occurring at a time when the basis for paramilitary uprisings exist in both north and south, and when the nation’s financial straits are critical. Meanwhile, the power and influence of the anti-Communist and largely pro-U.S. armed forces are at their lowest point.

In these circumstances, the Department of Defense has serious misgivings as to the trend and possible effects of the current situation in Brazil on U.S. strategy for the security of the Western Hemisphere. In our judgment, this trend is serious enough to require the coordinated use of all available U.S. assets.

It would therefore be greatly appreciated if the Departments of State and Defense could review together the policies, programs, and actions contemplated with respect to Brazil and how the resources available to the Department of Defense could be employed in conjunction with the plans of the Department of State to assist in meeting an increasingly dangerous situation. We should particularly like to explore the value of maintaining and strengthening the relationship between the Brazilian and U.S. Armed Forces as a factor of equilibrium, and to consider such questions as the effects on the solidarity and defensibility of the hemisphere of Brazil’s neutralist policy.


  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 732.00/11-761. Secret. Woodward replied to Williams’ letter on November 15. (Ibid., 732.00/11-1361) He welcomed the offer of the Department of Defense to consult with the State Department on the Brazilian situation. He hoped to do so after consultation with the Embassy in Rio de Janeiro and following the completion of a new Special National Intelligence Estimate on Brazil (Document 219). Ambassador Gordon, in telegram 1280 from Rio de Janeiro, November 25, wrote, “Embassy greatly disturbed at evident breakdown in communication among agencies US Government implicit in Williams’ letter.” The Embassy, he continued, was aware of the developments in Brazil described in the Defense Department letter. (Department of State, Central Files, 732.00/11-2561)
  2. Reference is to Leonel Brizzola, brother-in-law of President Goulart.
  3. Reference is to the followers of Getulio Dornelles Vargas, who was President 1930-1945 and 1951-1954.