194. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Brazil1

1296. For Ambassador from Secretary.

US policy toward Brazil is based upon our determination to support in every possible way maintenance of representative and constitutional government in Brazil free from continuing threat of dictatorship from the left erected through a Goulart/Brizzola manipulation. It is of great importance that there be a preemption of the position of legitimacy by those who will oppose communist and other extremist influences. It is highly desirable, therefore, that if action is taken by the armed forces such action be preceded or accompanied by a clear demonstration of unconstitutional actions on the part of Goulart or his colleagues or that legitimacy be confirmed by acts of the Congress (if it is free to act) or by expressions of the key governors or by some other means which gives substantial claim to legitimacy.

With respect to US support capabilities, we can act promptly on financial and economic measures. With regard to military assistance logistic factors are important. Surface vessels loaded with arms and ammunition could not reach southern Brazil before at least ten days. [Page 430] Airlift could be provided promptly if an intermediate field at Recife, or other airfields in northeast Brazil capable of handling large jet transports, is secure and made available. In ambiguous situation it may be difficult for us to obtain permission for intermediate stops from other countries such as Peru.

You should ask your own service attachés, without consulting Brazilian authorities just yet, to prepare recommendations on types of arms and ammunition most likely to be required in light of their knowledge of the situation.

In fast moving situation we are asking all of our posts in Brazil to feed Washington continual flow of information on significant developments their areas and to stay on 24-hour alert.

At this particular moment it is important that US Government not put itself in position which would be deeply embarrassing if Goulart, Mazzilli, Congressional leaders and armed forces leadership reach accommodation in next few hours which would leave us branded with an awkward attempt at intervention. However, every disposition here is to be ready to support those elements who would move to prevent Brazil from falling under an authentic dictatorship of the left heavily infiltrated or controlled by the communists. Obviously, in a country of over 75 million people, larger than continental United States, this is not a job for a handful of United States Marines. A major determination by the authentic leadership of Brazil and a preemption of the position of legitimacy are the greatest possible importance. We will not, however, be paralyzed by theoretical niceties if the options are clearly between the genuinely democratic forces of Brazil and a communist dominated dictatorship.

As we see problem tonight, the greatest danger may well be that Goulart will be able to pull back enough within next day or two to confuse situation, blunt edge of key incipient conservative military action, and gain more time to paralyze those elements who could resist a Communist infiltrated authoritarian regime. Fragmentary reports reaching here tonight suggest that anti-Goulart forces may be developing a certain momentum. Our big problem is to determine whether this presents an opportunity which might not be repeated. In this case we would wish to make a major decision as to whether and by what means we might give additional impetus to forces now in motion consistent with considerations expressed above. No judgment you have been required to make will compare to this in earning the pay of an underpaid Ambassador.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 BRAZ. Top Secret; Flash; Nodis. Drafted and approved by Rusk.