183. Telegram From the Embassy in Brazil to the Department of State 1

1761. 1. Goulart received me Thursday2 afternoon for one hour responding my request early in week for renewal contact after my recent Washington trip. He was in good mood, appearing pleased with generally favorable reaction his Wednesday night speech.

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2. I handed him original and translation Mrs. Kennedy letter of thanks,3 which he said would publish. He then questioned me at some length about U.S. political scene, expressing great interest in strength of President Johnson’s position and expressing hope he might at some time meet President Johnson informally. Said he was still thinking of European trip in April or May and wondered whether he might pass through Texas on way back. This was in tone vague conversation rather than a pointed inquiry, and he emphasized that no definite travel plans yet made, since they would require Congressional leave.

3. He then asked about prospects for early OECD response.4 I replied hoped not later than Monday5 and possibly sooner. I expressed concern that statement his Wednesday speech had over anticipated successful results when negotiation not yet started, to which he replied had to put best foot forward and had had personal message from De Gaulle indicating latter’s disposition cooperate. I also remarked that he had singled out reference to prospective fifty million dollar German aid projects, which were much less than we had done in recent years, to which he replied that structure of speech intended show recent actions to strengthen relations with various countries, beginning with December exchange of letters with President Johnson.6

4. Apropos of De Gaulle, I mentioned with some asperity reported statements visiting French Gaullist deputies on General’s ideas building up economic relations with LA to help “free LA from excessive dependence on U.S.” I left with Goulart memorandum7 showing Brazilian trade with U.S. ten times that with France, relative amounts of Brazilian coffee bought by two countries, absence of tariffs and taxes on our part. Also pointed out that Brazil is receiving half its wheat from U.S. practically as gift. This led to general discussion De Gaulle’s motivations and notions world leadership, during which I emphasized costliness world leadership under present conditions, weakness French resource base, and tendency to exploit nuisance value with being able back up by positive acts. I said that if De Gaulle would lead Common Market to abandon taxes and discriminations against LA trade, this would really mean something, but vague talk of blocs based on Latin affinities should be viewed skeptically. This seemed to leave considerable impression on Goulart.

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5. He asked me about Guantanamo and Panama problems, on which I gave him straight forward factual background.

6. Cuba–Venezuela dispute reported separately.8

7. AMFORP problem reported separately.9

8. He said looking forward to McCloy visit and thought Hanna case could have constructive solution.10

9. I then remarked on growing Washington concern at increasingly open and favored Communist influence in Brazil, saying this now much greater even than when Attorney General saw him December 1962. He replied with defense legalization PCB, saying he genuinely believed this would reduce their infiltration in and influence in other parties and would demonstrate their small real strength in contrast highly organized noise they were able to make. I asked how he could justify idea legalizing. Replied Prestes’11 trip excellent way reducing receptivity PCB in Brazil, comparable to Prestes’ Senate statement in 1946 that he would side with Russia if Russia and Brazil in opposite sides of a war. Moreover, he said, Communists and allies are now divided into three groups. There is the Brizola group, largest in popular support but very radical in policies, wanting violent overthrow regime now. There was the Chinese-Cuban group, also violent but relatively small. Then there was the orthodox Moscow group, by far the best disciplined, which was taking a very moderate line corresponding within Brazil to Khrushchev’s moderate international line in relation to U.S.

10. I said that Washington preoccupation went beyond question legalization PCB, and was especially great at Communist strength in Petrobras, communications, key labor unions, Ministry of Education, etc. Long-term strategy was to get power, and if short-term tactics change from moderation to violence, was there not a most serious danger [Page 404] of paralyzing country unless concessions were made to Communist taste. He replied you may stop worrying about that. There was a test when Petrobras unions wanted to launch general strike when two Petrobras directors were discharged, but Goulart had opposed them and they had not struck. (If price of this was Osvino’s appointment as President Petrobras, I remain dubious as to who won.) He went on to say, however, that he thought it was good for reactionary elite of country to believe that left had such power, since this might prove only way of getting them to accept basic reforms. He then launched into lengthy disquisition on reforms, saying they were indispensable and that blindness of Brazilian elite to their necessity was incredible. Said eight thousand peasants wanting land had appeared in Governador Valadares in Minas, and even if half of these Communists and other outsiders, other half remained a serious problem for which practical solution must be found and efforts to suppress through arming land owners or police or army action would not do. Moreover, he said, no reforms can be considered basic unless they amend constitution. A basic reform must be reflected in revision of nation’s basic constitutional document. He intended to keep on with his fight, and the reactionaries would see that he would win. He ended the disquisition by saying “they will give— they will give”.

11. As conversation was ending, he said he noted that I was probably going to Washington in March for Ambassadors meeting on Alliance for Progress widely reported in morning press. I said this not yet definite, but purpose would be consideration how make AFP more effective. I said Washington perplexed at his apparent prejudice against AFP. He replied had no prejudice, but felt reformulation was essential. Said best way of doing this would be meeting of all Western Hemisphere Presidents, in which new ideas would not come simply from U.S. but as common ideas to which all LA countries would be committed because they had participated in formulation.

12. Comment: General tone conversation, including apparent desire reasonable settlement Vitoria problem, more forthcoming attitude on AMFORP in general, welcome for McCloy’s prospective visit beginning March, and enthusiastic appreciation our role on debt rescheduling problem, appeared reflect real change his attitude toward U.S. over last few months, giving me impression that idea radical break in favor line-up with Russia which he had entertained last August was now abandoned. This is quite likely reflection Russian indications that they are in no position to assume heavy commitments to Brazil. On domestic front, on other hand, I read both in and between lines disposition to take extreme risks, through stimulation sporadic violence in countryside, mass meetings, strikes, etc. to force constitutional amendments for basic reforms. I increasingly suspect that major reform he is seeking is vote for illiterates in hope this will spell death knell for [Page 405] Lacerda candidacy. This bodes very ill for domestic tranquillity here in coming months.12

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, FN 14 BRAZ. Confidential; Limdis.
  2. February 20.
  3. Not found.
  4. Reference is to the negotiations to reschedule Brazil’s foreign debt coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. Documentation on the negotiations is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, FN 14 BRAZ.
  5. February 24.
  6. For text of the letters, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963–64, Book I, pp. 81–83.
  7. Not found.
  8. Goulart questioned how “a small boatload of arms” could be considered an “invasion” and recommended that the OAS consider “some form of mild sanction proportional to the crime.” (Telegram 1759 from Rio de Janeiro, February 21; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 12 CUBA)
  9. Reference is to ongoing negotiations to expropriate holdings of the American and Foreign Power Company (AMFORP) in Brazil. In his conversation with Gordon, Goulart raised specific problems associated with the AMFORP subsidiary in Vitória, suggesting that responsibility for its management be transferred to the state. (Telegram 1760 from Rio de Janeiro, February 21; ibid., FSE 12 BRAZ)
  10. On February 29 John J. McCloy, then a partner at the New York law firm of Mil-bank, Tweed, Hadley, and McCloy, met Goulart in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the status of the M.A. Hanna Mining Company. For a secondary account of the meeting, see Kai Bird, The Chairman: John J. McCloy, the Making of the American Establishment, pp. 550–553.
  11. Luís Carlos Prestes, leader of the Moscow-oriented Partido Comunista Brasileiro (PCB). A PCB delegation met Soviet officials at the Kremlin on February 9. (New York Times, February 10, 1964)
  12. On February 19 Gordon discussed the situation in Brazil with Lacerda, who reportedly felt “slighted because of very long interval since our last talk.” Gordon told Lacerda that some distance was necessary to avoid “so obvious a public relationship as to make him appear a favorite son of U.S.” Lacerda believed that the chances of a coup d’état, either for or against Goulart, were “negligible.” He feared, however, that Goulart would “register millions of illiterates under guise of adult illiteracy,” thereby throwing the presidential election in October 1965. (Telegram 1773 from Rio de Janeiro, February 24; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15 BRAZ)