129. Telegram 517 From the Embassy in Brazil to the Department of State1 2

[Page 1]


  • Meeting With Foreign Minister

1. Foreign Minister Mario Gibson received me today for presentation copies my credentials. In this initial meeting Gibson was extremely cordial and set forth at some length his views on U.S.-Brazilian relations. While little that is new was covered, I am reporting at some length in view context in which his remarks made. He obviously made great effort, as did I, to establish good basis for our association.

2. At outset, Gibson spoke with sincerity of his appreciation, as well as President’s, of my decision to come directly to Brasilia and establish principal residence here. He was frank in saying that government hoped my decision would have early and constructive influence upon other diplomatic missions. After reviewing history of Brasilia, he said failure to meet objectives of move would constitute major tragedy for Brazil and GOB determined that move would be completed as soon as possible. Foreign Office representatives in Rio now served as little more than post office and staff of 22 soon to be substantially reduced. [Page 2] Gibson’s reaction to my comments reasons for U.S. Government decision was warm indeed.

3. I summarized U.S. views on relations with Brazil and importance which we attached to President Nixon’s concept of mature, friendly relationship based upon wide range of interests which we have in common. I expressed pleasure that number of problems, particularly re trade, had recently been resolved to our mutual benefit. There remained several specific issues which I felt confident could also be resolved in same spirit, although not without difficulty. Among these were Soluce Coffee and GOB’s claim to 200-mile territorial limit. Speaking frankly, I alluded to U.S. and world reactions to allegations of excesses by Brazilian police in coping with problem of subversion. As Minister knew, Senator Church had, in course of committee hearing on my confirmation, announced intention of holding subcommittee hearings early next year on U.S.-Brazilian relations: question of brazil’s image abroad, and particularly in the U.S., was an important element, and all of us earnestly hoped that whatever could be done to improve image would be done.

4. Gibson reiterated on several occasions desire of GOB to work out problems in reasonable and satisfactory manner and expressed confidence this could be done; assuring me of his and President Medici’s desire to remain in close contact with me. On subject of Brazil’s image abroad, he was pessimistic, and at the same time determined that Brazil’s internal affairs must be dealt with in manner required by the situation. He, as realistic man, could not state categorically that there had been no excesses; this sort of thing happened in any country. Yet he could say with confidence that any excesses were without sanction of the government and were very few compared with press allegations. He found it annoying and discouraging that so many people, including [Page 3] many honest and well-motivated people, had been so easily persuaded that Brazil was the type of nation with which it was not proper to have good relations, this despite the background of Brazil’s past.

5. Gibson then recalled statement he had made to the business international incorporated meeting in Rio to effect that international campaign against Brazil was focused upon financial and economic centers which could be helpful in providing investment capital needed by Brazil. These campaigns were thus carried out primarily in the United States and Western Europe. There were no campaigns against Brazil in communist countries or in Africa. [Page 4] He saw in this confirmation of his belief that “communist and leftist” elements hostile to Brazil were extremely disturbed over the remarkable progress which Brazil was making under the free enterprise, capitalist system. Success here would have profound effect upon other countries, particularly in Latin America, which have chosen or tend toward socialist or communist systems. His thesis was that there are four elements to greatness: territory, natural resources, population, and capital. Brazil clearly had first thesis and was succeeding in gaining large-scale assistance in fourth. This was disturbing to hostile elements, and major campaign understand for this reason. Every weapon was used, and susceptibility of public to stories of political excesses, regardless of truth, was important in campaign.

6. Foreign Minister appealed to me for understanding of reasons for attacks against Brazil, at same time stating that he constantly seeking means of improving public image. He mentioned, for example, Brazilian Council for Human Rights under presidency of Minister of Justice consisting of nine members of whom six not connected with government or in fact opposed to government. Council had investigated many [Page 5] cases of alleged excesses and had taken action in some of them. Question of so-called death squads had been raised in Council and strong action has been taken, including imprisonment of several people responsible. He said that, unfortunately from public relations viewpoint, proceedings in Council were not published, but in view of importance to nation he was currently engaged in conversations with Minister of Justice to see if this policy might not be changed. (In our lengthy talk, Foreign Minister mentioned several specific cases of gross misrepresentation of facts by persons who had been questioned concerning subversive activities. One of these was Brazilian diplomat who confessed to Foreign Office colleagues without police interrogation, fled country and now employed by Catholic youth workers in Belgium. He now claimed he was tortured by police, and his main present activity was making propaganda against Brazil.)

In conclusion, Foreign Minister reiterated that good and constructive relations with U.S. were cornerstone of Brazilian foreign policy. He realized that U.S. was far more important to Brazil than Brazil was to U.S. Nevertheless he regarded Brazil’s success as large, dynamic, and successful country with economy based on free enterprise system, and serving as important counter to trends in certain other Latin American countries, to be important to U.S. and free world. He was grateful for my comments concerning our desire to work with Brazil in building on areas of agreement. I could count on his fullest cooperation in achieving the objectives of my mission. I responded appropriately.

Ceremony for presentation of my credentials to President Medici now scheduled for Monday, November 16, having been postponed from November 12 due to national mourning for General de Gaulle.

Comments: I believe meeting constituted useful and constructive beginning of relationship with Gibson. This was reinforced by his personal gratitude for decision to [Page 6] establish confidence in Brasilia. This decision obviously of importance to him because of his irresponsible commitment, his being first Ministry to be located virtually in toto in Brasilia. Favorable reaction is not confined to Foreign Office however. Press coverage of my arrival has included highly favorable news and editorial comment on Brasilia move, and Embassy has received many expressions of gratitude on part of individual Brazilians.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 768, Country Files, Latin America, Argentina, 1969–August 31, 1971. Confidential. Repeated to Rio de Janeiro. Although the United States maintained an office in Brasilia since 1960, when the city was made the capital of Brazil, Rountree was the first U.S. Ambassador to maintain his Embassy there rather than in Rio de Janeiro. This telegram was attached to Document 31.
  2. Ambassador Rountree reported a conversation with Brazilian Foreign Minister Gibson on the 200-mile limit, soluble coffee issues, and allegations of excesses by the Brazilian police.