206. Summary Record of the 525th Meeting of the National Security Council1

U.S. Policy Toward Brazil and Other General Topics

CIA Director McCone gave a briefing from prepared notes2 on the following items:

[Omitted here is discussion of unrelated items.]

e. BrazilColonel King was asked to review the latest information from Brazil. Most of his facts came from a teleconference between the State Department and Ambassador Gordon in Rio (copy attached).3 He reported that Goulart and his brother-in-law, Brizola, had left Rio for Porto Alegre. Military resistance has ended everywhere except in Porto Alegre, where there may be fighting later if Goulart’s supporters choose to resist Brazilian forces now moving on the city. Secretary Ball reported that last night’s action by a minority of the Members of the Brazilian Congress who declared the office of the Presidency vacant and named the President of the Congress, Mazzilli, as President was of doubtful legality. This doubt will remain as long as Goulart is in Brazil or until he formally resigns. The Brazilian Constitution contains no provision to oust a President. While we do not wish to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Mazzilli as President, we do not wish formally to accept a government which the Brazilian courts may later decide is illegal. Mazzilli can hold office for thirty days during which time the Congress elects a President to hold office until the national election scheduled for 1965.

The President pointed out that Mazzilli was not in a very strong position if only 150 out of over 450 Congressmen voted him into office. Under Secretary Ball replied that while it was true that a minority of Congressmen had acted to put Mazzilli in office, the legal situation would be improved as soon as Goulart resigned or went into exile.

The President asked whether there were any pockets of resistance remaining. General Wheeler said that Goulart has relatively little military force loyal to him. One regiment and possibly a cavalry unit have not yet given up to the rebels.

[Page 454]

The President asked what happens next. General Wheeler replied that the Brazilian army would move on the pockets of resistance and clear them out. He indicated that the Second Army would move into Porto Alegre to overcome any units still supporting Goulart.

Secretary Rusk commented that it was more important to the Brazilians than to us to achieve a legitimate transfer of power. The domestic situation in Brazil would be improved if a new government could be legitimized quickly.

The President asked why the Congress shouldn’t meet to make Mazzilli the legal President pro tem. Secretary Rusk replied that Ambassador Gordon was using the resources available to him to encourage Brazilian legislators to do just this. Under Secretary Ball noted that there would be no problem of U.S. recognition of the new government because we would merely continue our relations with the President.

Secretary Rusk said that all we could do today would be to sit and wait. He said that the U.S. Navy task force proceeding toward Brazil should continue until we receive further information from Brazil.

Secretary McNamara recommended that the task force continue southward. It is now near Antigua and can be turned around tomorrow if the situation continues to improve. It will still be a long way from Brazil.4

[Omitted here is discussion of unrelated items.]

The President asked what we were doing in Cuba to make it “just a nuisance.” Following the laughter, Secretary Rusk commented that if Brazil turned out the way it appears to be going, there would be a beneficial effect on the Cuban problem and on the political situation in Chile.

Bromley Smith 5
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC Meetings File, Vol. I, Tab 6, 4/2/64, US Policy Toward Brazil. Secret. Drafted by Bromley Smith.
  2. McCone’s record of the meeting, including the notes for his briefing on Brazil, is in the Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files, Job 80–B01285A, Meetings with President Johnson.
  3. Document 205.
  4. In a telephone conversation the next morning, McNamara and Rusk agreed that it was time to “turn that task force around.” McNamara said that he would do so “after talking to the President.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Calls 3/20/64–4/9/64) The JCS issued the instructions recalling the task force at 11:30 a.m. (Telegram 5644 from JCS to CINCLANT, April 3; ibid., Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 BRAZ)
  5. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.