204. Editorial Note

On April 2, 1964 (12:25 a.m. EST), the Embassy Office in Brasilia reported that President Goulart had left Brasilia by airplane. Although he might land first in Porto Alegre, reliable congressional sources indicated that Goulart was flying to Montevideo. Meanwhile a special joint session of Congress was meeting to declare that Goulart had fled the country, that the presidency was vacant, and that Paschoal Ranieri Mazzilli, formerly President of the Chamber of Deputies, was now [Page 448] Acting President of Brazil. (Telegram 137 from Brasilia; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15–1 BRAZ) At 3:05 a.m. EST, the Embassy Office reported that the President of the Senate, Auro de Moura Andrade, had declared that the presidency was vacant—in spite of an official statement that Goulart was merely “absent in Rio Grande do Sul.” Shortly thereafter, Mazzilli took the oath of office at Planalto, the presidential palace in Brasilia. (Telegram 138 from Brasilia, April 2; ibid.)

Under Secretary of State Ball, who was monitoring the situation from Washington, described his role in subsequent events:

“At three o’clock in the morning I was down at the Department, which was normal in any crisis. Rusk was away somewhere. As I mentioned, crises always seemed to occur when I was Acting Secretary. I don’t know why. Finally, on the strong urging of our ambassador down there who was [Lincoln Gordon], I sent a telegram which had the effect of, in effect, recognizing the new government. Goulart wasn’t quite out of the country, and I was taking a chance. But it worked out beautifully and was very effective. It was the kind of thing that marked a period to the end of Mr. Goulart. But the President was furious with me, the only time he was ever really angry with me, I think. Why hadn’t I let him know? Why did I do this without letting him know? I said, ‘It was three o’clock in the morning, Mr. President.’ He said, ‘Don’t ever do that again. I don’t care what hour of the morning it is, I want to know. I’m not saying what you did wasn’t right, but after this I want to know.’ Thereafter I never hesitated.” (Johnson Library, Transcript, George W. Ball Oral History Interview #2, July 9, 1971, pages 39–40; see also George W. Ball, The Past Has Another Pattern, page 429)

The telegram described by Ball has not been found.