Startseite > Europa > Die Britten organisierten den Putsch in Brasilien 1964

Die Britten organisierten den Putsch in Brasilien 1964

Britain’s Hidden Hand in Brazil’s 1964 Coup

November 12, 2021 Merken

Newly released files show the U.K. had a role in ushering in the brutal 21-year military dictatorship, reports John McEvoy.

April 6, 1962: Brazilian President Joao Goulart, second from left, with UN Acting Secretary General U Thant. (UN, Marvin Bolotsky)

ByJohn McEvoyDeclassified UK

On March 31, 1964, a military coup was launched against Brazilian President João Goulart. Brazil’s democracy was already fragile, and Goulart’s attempt at an ambitious program of land reform while extending the vote to Brazil’s illiterate population incensed the country’s political, military and business elite.

The coup culminated on April 1, 1964, and ushered in a 21-year military dictatorship. During this time, over 400 individuals were killed by the Brazilian military, and many more were “disappeared,” tortured or imprisoned.

Washington’s hand in the coup is well known. After Goulart acceded to the presidency in 1961, the CIA began pouring money into the country, covertly supporting street rallies and inciting anti-communist sentiment. Once the coup was underway, President Lyndon Johnson instructed his aides to “do everything that we need to do” to support it.

President John F. Kennedy, left, and Brazilian President João Goulart, right, during a review of troops on April 3, 1962. (U.S. Army, Wikimedia Commons)

The Information Research Department (IRD), a unit of the Foreign Office that acted as Britain’s secret propaganda arm during the Cold War, was also active in Brazil. Though the U.S. clearly played a more prominent role, recently declassified files reveal Britain’s hidden hand in the coup through its support of key agitators.

‘Plenty of Use for IRD Material’

In 1962, a Brazilian engineer named Glycon de Paiva helped to found the Instituto de Pesquisas e Estudos Sociais (IPES). While IPES posed as an educational institute, its real aim was “organizing opposition to Goulart and maintaining dossiers on anyone de Paiva considered an enemy.”

IPES was closely connected to Brazil’s military, political and business elite. With General Golbery do Couto e Silva as its chief of staff, the organisation compiled 400,000 files on left-wing “enemies” of Brazil, cultivated an army of informants and propagandised against the government. 

After the coup, IPES grew into Brazil’s National Intelligence Service (SNI), which “served as the backbone of the military regime’s system of control and repression.”

Column of M41 Walker Bulldog tanks along the streets of Rio de Janeiro in April 1968. (Correio da Manhã, Wikimedia Commons)

Newly declassified files detail British support for IPES. On Feb. 6, 1962, IRD field officer Robert Evans described how “one of the most significant developments affecting my activities has been the formation of IPES.”

A week later, IRD official Geoffrey McWilliam received a letter about “Businessmen’s Anti-Communist Organisations” in Brazil. The sender remains classified, and appears to be the British security services.

The letter noted that “since IPES’s main task during the coming months will be to ensure that the Congress does not fall into Communist hands in the October elections, they will presumably have plenty of use for IRD material.”

It was noted with concern, however, that IPES was being too brazen about foreign support. The letter continued that

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