219. Memorandum From William G. Bowdler of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Storm Clouds in Brazil

In the past few days the political-military crisis in Brazil, resulting from the October 3 gubernatorial elections and the return of President Kubitschek on October 4, has become more serious. Former Ambassador Juracy Magalhaes, who recently returned to Brazil,2 reportedly believes that the Castello Branco Government has lost considerable ground since October 3.

[Page 485]

The “hard line” supporters of the April 1964 Revolution interpreted the recent elections as a defeat for the Revolution. They fear a return to power of pre-revolutionary elements associated with subversion and corruption. Governor Carlos Lacerda is in the forefront of the “hard line” movement.

On October 13 President Castello Branco sent to the Congress special measures to forestall the anti-revolutionary implications of the election results and of Kubitschek’s return. These measures were designed in large part to mollify the “hard-liners.” The measures have run into trouble in the Congress. The Castello Branco Government, lacking the necessary votes to put them through, has been placing the heaviest possible pressure on the Congress and has indicated that the Congress must either vote with the Government or risk losing its right to participate in the nation’s political decisions.

The Congressional vote was originally scheduled for today. As indicated in recent cable traffic,3 there has been considerable speculation that the government, anticipating defeat, was prepared to declare a state of siege or to issue a new Institutional Act to counter anticipated coup action by the “hard-liners.” Embassy Rio reports that the vote has been postponed until tomorrow.4 This probably indicates that the government is hopeful of being able to put together enough votes by then to pass the legislation.

Ambassador Gordon left for Brazil this morning.5 He will be in Rio by this evening.

ARA has recommended to Secretary Rusk that we take a position of complete neutrality in word and deed on this one.6 I think this is the wisest course to follow for the time being.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Brazil, Vol. V, 9/64–11/65. Secret.
  2. Magalhães was appointed Minister of Justice and the Interior on October 7.
  3. The principal cable is telegram 885 from Rio de Janeiro, October 25. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–5 BRAZ)
  4. In telegram 891 from Rio de Janeiro, October 26; ibid.
  5. Gordon was in Washington, October 11–26, for consultations on economic assistance to Brazil.
  6. The Department instructed the Embassy as follows: “During current crisis in Brazil, Department believes that best posture for US is one of complete neutrality both in word and deed. Given extreme sensitivity of issues involved, U.S. officials should refrain from making any public statements at this time.” (Telegram 655 to Rio de Janeiro, October 26; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–BRAZ)