211. Telegram From the Embassy in Brazil to the Department of State1
Rio de Janeiro, April 10, 1964, 2 p.m.
2235. References: Embtels 2230 and 2231.2
- I must confess to considerable dismay at Thursday’s3 course of events, leading to the promulgation last night of the institutional act as a fait accompli on the exclusive authority of the military ministers. The juridical rationalization of the revolution as containing its own inherent constituent power is a wordy statement that might makes right (or makes law). Until yesterday morning, we had understood that congressional coverage and a plausible dress of legitimate continuity would be achieved, but apparently the congressional leaders would not accept certain of the demands insisted upon by the military leadership, who in turn were pressed by some of the more radical younger officers. The latter were concerned that maneuverings by Kubitschek and PTB might prevent the removal from key power centers of many active participants in Goulart’s extreme left conspiracy. We should be [Page 462]able secure more details on the failure of Wednesday’s negotiation during the course of the day.
- Mitigating aspects of the development are that: (a) Congress not being closed, although presidency much strengthened in relation to Congress; (b) six-month time limit on suspension of certain constitutional guarantees; (c) confirmation of next year’s presidential election on dates provided by 1946 constitution; (d) limitation of application of whole institutional act to period ending January 31, 1966; and (e) conservation intact of federal system with state autonomy and constitutional arrangements.
- Greatest hope for avoidance of undemocratic excesses rests in character and convictions of Castello Branco, who this morning appears almost certain of election, Dutra having withdrawn and Kruel possibly doing likewise. We are planning communicate to Castello by one means or another the signal importance from viewpoint foreign opinion and future collaboration of his reaffirmation devotion to democratic procedures, respect for individual liberties, and reestablishment of harmonious collaboration among the three constituted branches of government in the national interest.
- Meanwhile we are faced with difficult problem USG public stance over coming few days. We take as basic premise the absolute necessity that the new government succeed both politically and economically. They will need our cordial and generous support to do so. At same time, we do not see how we can pretend to approve of way in which institutional act was issued. After reviewing various alternatives, I have concluded that our best stance until Castello’s inauguration (which is now expected on Sunday) is the closest possible approximation to golden silence.
- Specifically, we recommend that any USG spokesman say in response to questions substantially as follows: “The Brazilian Congress is scheduled to elect a president and a vice president on Saturday afternoon to serve for the remainder of the five-year presidential term ending January 31, 1966. They are expected to take office shortly thereafter. In these circumstances, we prefer to withhold any comment regarding the institutional act and its implications until the new president has taken office and made the policies of his government known.”
- As additional unattributed background for press, we suggest you point out that only since revolution has depth and breadth of subversive activity become clear, affecting many government agencies, both military and civilian, trade unions, journalism, teachers, transport and communications, etc., all systematically aided and abetted by Goulart regime. Accumulating evidence points to a Goulart plan to complete a left-wing coup d’état prior to May 1, which would have involved the closing of Congress and either a Peronista type or outright [Page 463]Communist-dominated dictatorship with no respect for democratic forms or constitutional liberties and no mercy for opponents. Steps in this included planned violence against Rio April 2 democratic rally, to be followed by intervention in Guanabara, other announced Goulart left wing rallies throughout April, and CGT ultimatum to Congress to accept all reforms by April 20 under penalty general strike which Goulart had said publicly he would not oppose. It appears that May 1 was to have been a victory celebration under Communist sponsorship. Country was in process becoming armed camp, with grave danger massive bloodshed. Starting with March 13 rally, Communist backing of Goulart became open and total. Goulart’s collaboration with Communists and associates had become so close in final weeks that he was becoming their virtual prisoner. Kruel and others tried almost desperately as late as March 31 to get Goulart to disavow the CGT and the Communists but without avail. As to the congressmen whose mandates were revoked this morning the majority were demonstrably implicated in direct subversive activities, such as instigating NCO and enlisted men rebellions, fomenting rural violence and land invasions, distributing arms and organizing guerrilla forces. Others were implicated in Goulart plans for abolishing constitutional order. Some half dozen were known CP members masquerading under other party labels. While we do not seek to justify extra-legal processes adopted by revolutionary leaders to carry out “operation clean-up”, a substantial purge was clearly in order.
- We are not making any announcements on aid projects during this interim, pending inauguration and policy declarations by new president.
- Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 15–3 BRAZ. Confidential; Immediate; Limdis. Repeated to the White House, OSD, JCS, CINCLANT, CINCSTRIKE, CIA, and CINCSO.↩
- Telegrams 2230 and 2231 from Rio de Janeiro, both April 10, forwarded the translated texts of the Institutional Act and its preamble. (Ibid.) The act was signed on April 9 by three military ministers: Artur Costa e Silva (Army), Francisco de Assis↩
- April 9.↩