[News] Why Is Brazil Such a Basket Case?—The Role of U.S. Covert Action

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Sat Mar 6 12:40:28 EST 2021

Is Brazil Such a Basket Case?—The Role of U.S. Covert Action
Aidan O’Brien - March 6, 2021
Jair Bolsonaro gives gun salute after signing law easing restrictions on
gun ownership. [Source: diggitmagazine.com]
<https://www.diggitmagazine.com/articles/bolsonaro-presidential-campaign> *Ten
U.S. presidents,[1] 20 CIA directors,[2] and 56 years of covert action[3]
screwed over Brazil’s poor and paved the way for the election of Jair

Covid-19, murder, evangelical Christianity, crime, environmental
destruction, drugs, shantytowns, inequality, corruption, doesn’t matter
what you pick, Brazil is a world leader in them all—and more.

With the Worker’s Party now waning, a tiny minority dominates the country’s
economy. About 1% of the population, i.e., 1.5 million people control 47%
of all real estat*e.*[4] Brazil’s poverty rate stands at around 20 percent
Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, has no problem with.

The perils of large-scale privatization initiatives under Bolsonaro were
evident when the Amazon city of Manaus ran out of oxygen to help COVID-19

Even when a private contractor informed the government that it could not
adequately supply the city, the government did nothing, stating—against all
scientific evidence—that early treatment for COVID-19 did not work
Gravesite for COVID-19 victims in Manaus, where Bolsonaro failed residents
by doing nothing when there was a shortage of oxygen. [Source: voanews.com]

Gun ownership meanwhile has risen considerably since Bolsonaro took office
in 2019, exploding in 2020.[5]
Lawmakers make finger-gun hand gestures as Brazilian President Jair
Bolsonaro signs a decree easing gun restrictions at Planalto presidential
palace in Brasília, May 7, 2019. [Source: apnews.com

It’s the law of the jungle, a jungle which Bolsonaro is busy burning down.
It’s tropical neoliberalism. Nothing is sacred, least of all the lives of
common people.
[Source: serbiananimalsvoice.com

Bolsonaro has put the economy in the hands of a team of “Chicago boys,”
disciples of so-called “free-market” theorist Milton Friedman.[6]

The leader of this team, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes—a former investment
banker—was a graduate of the University of Chicago where he studied under
Friedman. He has appointed other Chicago grads to top posts, including
Joaquim Levy to run a major state bank, Rubem Novaes another, and Roberto
Castello Branco to manage oil giant Petrorbras.[7]

Guedes himself lived in Augusto Pinochet’s Chile and liked what he saw. His
plan for Brazil is to cut taxes, cut pensions and cut government. In other
words, he wants the wealthy at the top to own even more of Brazil.
Paulo Guedes, Minister of Economy, investment banker and “Chicago boy,”
shakes hands with Bolsonaro. [Source: japantimes.co.jp
*It wasn’t meant to be like this*

Brazil began to modernize itself in 1930. The centralization of the
Brazilian state followed a “lieutenants rebellion.”

Building and strengthening the nation became the rule. This included the
mobilization of the masses. It meant industrialization and development. All
under the guiding eye of the Brazilian government.

The leader of this brave new Brazil was Getúlio Vargas (1882-1954). This
predominantly benevolent dictator unleashed the power of the state.

Breaking with the semi-feudalism of Brazil’s First Republic (1889-1930),
Vargas politicized Brazil’s working class. And therefore subverted the
traditional power of a tiny minority who owned everything.

And by developing Brazil’s natural resources for the good of Brazil (Vargas
created Petrobras—the government owned oil company—in 1953), he subverted
the “foreign markets and foreign investors,” which had dominated Brazil
since the 16th century.
Getúlio Vargas [Source: bbc.co.uk

How do we know that he subverted the local aristocracy and the global
imperialists? Because Vargas said as much in his 1954 suicide note:

Once more the forces and interests which work against the people have
organized themselves anew and break out against me…The underground campaign
of international groups joined that of national groups which were working
against the policy of full employment. The excess profits law was held up
in Congress. Hatreds were unleashed against the just revision of minimum
wages. I wished to bring national freedom in the use of our resources by
means of Petrobras; this had hardly begun to operate when the wave of
agitation swelled…*[8]*

How can we trust his words? Because the dynamic or dialectic he describes
explains perfectly the decades which followed his suicide. Time proved him

The presidents who succeeded Vargas, Juscelino Kubitschek (1956-61) and
João Goulart (1961-64), continued the project which Vargas started: the
construction of a popular state-led Brazilian economy. However,
an underground campaign of international groups and national groups brought
this project to a dramatic end in the infamous 1964 coup.
João Goulart [Source: jornaldocomercio.com

The national dimension of this coup that ended the vision of Vargas—known
as “the father of the poor”—involved the overt actions of the Brazilian
military. And the international dimension involved the covert activities of
the U.S. government, which was the main instigator of the coup.
Tanks roll through Rio de Janeiro as 1964 coup unfolds. [Source: bbc.com

Washington, D.C. had a code name for the removal of João Goulart—”Operation
Brother Sam”—and was prepared to invade if the coup did not go according to

U.S. warships (for example, the aircraft carrier *USS Forrestal*) were sent
to Brazil to assist if necessary. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was
the architect of the operation.

It funded and linked the domestic opposition to Goulart’s popular
nationalism. One million dollars was provided to the AFL-CIO’s USAID funded
American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), which instructed
trade union leaders on how to organize strikes and demonstrations against

Afterwards, the CIA, under the cover of USAID’s Office of Public Safety
(OPS), ramped up training of the Brazilian police, who set up Operation
Bandeirantes, a forerunner of the Phoenix program whose focus was to round
up and torture leftist dissidents.[10]
New York Times (August 5, 1978) [Source: nytimes.com
See also pando.com]

Foreign automakers collaborated with the new military junta by helping to
identify “subversives” on their payrolls
who were arrested or detained as part of Bandeirantes.
A page from the blacklist. [Source: reuters.com

Lincoln Gordon, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil from 1961-1966, claimed that
the 1964 coup was “the single most decisive victory for freedom in the
mid-twentieth century.”*[11]*

Freedom for U.S. elite interests, that is—and that of U.S. corporations and
a minority of Brazilians who monopolized most of the wealth.

In the middle of the Cold War, Washington did not want another Cuba or
another China. It viewed the popular agenda of Vargas and his successors as
a threat to its global elitism as well as continued access to Brazil’s oil,
minerals, and other natural resources. By acting the way it did in Brazil,
the U.S., in effect, was directly conserving the semi-feudal social
relations which Vargas sought to modernize.

It was the signal foreign investors and foreign creditors were waiting for.
Foreign money flowed into Brazil after 1964—while Brazil’s workers and
peasants were once again trapped in their own country and forced to accept
the lowest wages and worst working conditions. In the eyes of the
U.S.-backed elite minority inside (and outside of) Brazil: It was an
“economic miracle.”
Brazilians hold up pictures of people “disappeared” by the military
dictatorship that ruled from 1964 to 1985. [Source: independent.co.uk

Never mind the fact that, according to the National Truth Commission, which
released a report in 2014, 8,000 indigenous people and at least 434
political dissidents were killed during the period of military rule
Gen. Emilio Garrastazu Medici, left, after being proclaimed Brazil’s new
president by military order in 1969. Brazilians would not have a chance to
directly elect their president until 1989. [Source: nytimes.com]

Today, when Jair Bolsonaro celebrates the coup of 1964, he is celebrating a
U.S. plutocratic version of Brazil. He is rejecting Brazilian sovereignty
and reviving a National Security Doctrine which the U.S. exported to Brazil
during the Cold War—a doctrine that highlights an “internal enemy” (working
class politics or environmental politics or landless politics or Indio

In short, he is celebrating a doctrine that criminalizes modern social
relations and institutionalizes semi-feudal social relations.
Bolsonaro holds up replica of Brazilian Air Force transport plane in
September 2019. [Source: apnews.com

After World War Two, this doctrine was transmitted from the U.S. to Brazil
via military colleges and the U.S. School of the Americas, now called the
Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. And its purpose was
anything but Brazil’s “national security.” On the contrary, it was designed
to secure the economic and geopolitical interests of the U.S. and its
constituency in Brazil—the tiny minority which owned everything.[12]

Washington, D.C.’s top Cold War planner, George F. Kennan, succinctly
summed up the idea behind the doctrine (and therefore outlined the future
of Brazil) in 1950—when writing about Latin America:

The final answer might be an unpleasant one, [a military dictatorship,
extreme inequality, but] we should not hesitate before police repression by
the local government. This is not shameful, since the communists [popular
and nationalistic politicians] are essentially traitors […] It is better to
have a strong regime in power than a liberal government if it is indulgent
and relaxed and penetrated by communists [socially progressive

Considering the 1964 coup a “triumphant strike against communism,”
Bolsonaro directly served the military government in Brazil in the late
1970s as an army captain.

His superior officers stated that he “had aggressive ambition”
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro> including for “financial and
economic gain,” <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro> a reference
to Bolsonaro’s attempt to mine gold in Bahia
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahia> state.
Bolsonaro in 1986 when he was an army captain. [Source: wikileaks.org

The Obama administration helped facilitate Bolsonaro’s rise by failing to
condemn the illegal impeachment in August 2016 of Dilma Rousseff of the
Brazilian Workers Party
who in her youth had been tortured by the Brazilian army.[14]

Rousseff was accused of illegally manipulating government accounts, but the
charges were heavily politicized.

Her successor, Michel Temer, was later arrested on more substantiated
charges that included accepting a $1 million bribe in exchange for awarding
three companies a construction contract for a nuclear power plant.[15]
Brazilians protest 2016 Brazil coup that was again backed by the U.S.
[Source: thenation.com

The day after Rousseff’s impeachment, the leader of Brazil’s Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, Aloysio Nunes, came to the U.S. and met with Thomas
Shannon, the Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, which signaled
backing for the de facto coup that brought an end to what the World Bank
called Brazil’s “golden decade” under Workers Party rule, during which
millions were lifted out of poverty.[16]
Aloysio Nunes and Brazilian Ambassador Sergei Amaral present the Grand
Cross of the Rio Branco order to U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon in 2018.
[Source: twitter.com

Bolsonaro has continued Brazil’s great reversal, never hiding his
allegiance to the U.S.

Nor is he hiding his contempt for the Brazil which Vargas and his
successors tried to build. In March 2019, after becoming Brazilian
President in January—in an act of homage and an act of obedience—he visited
the U.S. headquarters of the CIA—the architects of the 1964 coup.
[Source: brasilwire.com

In August 2019, Bolsonaro declared that it is his intention, by 2022, to
completely privatize Vargas’s greatest legacy—Petrobras—the state-owned oil
Bolsonaro presents Trump with soccer jersey at the White House. [Source:

There is one more U.S. doctrine which encapsulates post-1964 Brazil and
particularly the Brazil of Bolsonaro: the Low-Intensity Conflict doctrine.
This is “characterized by the military taking on police roles and the
police acting more like the military.”[17]
[Source: borgenproject.org

When a minority owns a disproportionate share of the wealth, the tendency
is to criminalize the majority poor. The class war begins to feel like a
low-intensity war.

Since the U.S.-made coup of 1964, Brazil has been caught up in a
low-intensity conflict in which—to paraphrase President Bolsonaro—people
die like cockroaches. Since the beginning of the 21st century—more than
1,000,000 people have been murdered in Brazil.[18] It is safe to say that
almost all were poor people—“the children of Vargas.”

[1] Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush1 Clinton, Bush2, Obama,

[2] Dulles, McCone, Raborn, Helms, Schlesinger, Colby, Bush, Turner, Casey,
Webster, Gates, Woolsey, Deutch, Tenet, Goss, Hayden, Panetta, Petraeus,
Brennan, Pompeo.

[3] Allen Dulles and John McCone, 1964-2018.

[4] Lulu Garcia-Navarro, “For Brazil’s 1 Percenters The Land Stays In The
Family Forever,” August 25, 2015,

[5] Alicia Prager and Laís Martins, “Firearms exports to Brazil surge as
gun ownership increases under Bolsonaro,” July 31, 2020,

[6] David Biller and Raymond Colitt, “Milton Friedman’s Brazil Moment: Band
of Disciplines Take Charge,”
News*, December 12, 2018.

[7] Biller and Colitt, “Milton Friedman’s Brazil Moment.”

[8] Getúlio Vargas “suicide note,” August 24, 1954, quoted in Thayer
Watkins, “Getulio Vargas and the Estado Nôvo,” San José State University
Department of Economics, https://www.sjsu.edu

[9] Stephen G. Rabe, *The Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy
Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America *(Chapel Hill: The
University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 69.

[10] Jeremy Kuzmarov, *Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation
Building in the American Century* (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts
Press, 2012), 225; Martha K. Huggins, *Political Policing: The United
States and Latin America* (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998).

[11] David Binder, “U.S. Assembled a Force in 1964 For Possible Use in
Brazil Coup,” December 30, 1976, https://www.nytimes.com; The Dominion news
from the grassroots, “US Role in 1964 Brazilian Military Coup Revealed:
National Security Archive,” April 6, 2004, https://www.dominionpaper.ca;
James G. Hershberg and Peter Kornbluh, “Brazil Marks 50th Anniversary of
Military Coup,” April 2, 2014, The National Security Archive,
https://www.nsarchive2.gwu.edu;  Wright, Thomas C., *Latin America in the
Era of the Cuban Revolution* (Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2001).

[12] Eduardo Munhoz Svartman, “Brazil-United States Military Relations
during the Cold War: Political Dynamic and Arms Transfers,” January 2011,
brazilianpoliticssciencereview, https://www.oaji.net

[13] George F. Kennan, 1950, quoted in Anthony W. Pereira, “The US Role in
the 1964 Coup in Brazil: A Reassessment,” *Bulletin of Latin American
Research*, 2016, https://doi.org/10.1111/blar.12518

[14] Jeremy Kuzmarov, *Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy
of the Permanent Warfare State* (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2019), 303.

[15] Anna Jean Kaier, “Brazil’s Former President Michel Temer Arrested in
Corruption Investigation,” *The Guardian*, March 21, 2019,

[16] Kuzmarov, *Obama’s Unending Wars*, 303, 304.

[17] Joseph Nevins and Timothy Dunn, “Conflict of a Different Sort,”
October 31, 2008, NACLA Report, https://www.nacla.org

[18] Robert Muggah, “Brazil’s Murder Rate Finally Fell – and by a Lot,”
April 22, 2019, https://www.foreignpolicy.com
About the Author

Aidan O’Brien is a hospital worker in Dublin, Ireland.

On break last year, he visited Brazil and conducted in-country research.

Aidan can be reached at: ado1968 at hotmail.com.
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