For background, see the Weis reading from last class.


March 30, 1964, President Johnson and Dean Rusk, 8:35 PM

Rusk: . . . Tom Mann and a group here, including CIA, on this Brazilian situation. The crisis is coming to a head in the next day or two, perhaps even overnight.

Thereís a snowballing of opposition to [Jo„o] Goulart, and therefore the thing may break at any moment. The armed forces, the governors, particularly in the populated states of the east coast, seem to be building up real resistance there.

I would like to send a message to Linc Gordon, and Iíd like to read it to you if I may, and then also indicate that Iíve asked Bob McNamara to get some tankers ready for some POL supplies, things of that sort.

"U.S. policy toward Brazil is based on our determination to support in every possible way the maintenance of representative and constitutional government in Brazil, free from the continuing threat of dictatorship from the left erected through a Goulart-Brizola manipulation. It is of great importance that there be a preemption of the position of legitimacy of those that will oppose the communist and other extremist influences.

"It is highly desirable, therefore, that if action is taken by the armed forces, such action be preceded or accompanied buy a clear demonstration of unconstitutional actions on the part of Goulart or his colleagues, or that legitimacy be confirmed by acts of the Congress, if it is free to act, or by expressions of the key governors, or by some other means which gives substantial claims to legitimacy.

"With respect to U.S. support capabilities, we could act promptly on financial and economic measures. With regard to military assistance, logistic factors are important. Surface vessels loaded with arms and ammunition could not reach southern Brazil before at least 10 days. Airlifts could be provided promptly if an intermediate field at Recife or other airfields in northeast Brazil, capable of handling large jet transports, is secure and made available. In an ambiguous situation, it may be difficult for us to obtain permission for intermediate stops from other countries, such as Peru.

"In a fast-moving station, weíre asking all of our posts in Brazil to feed Washington a continual flow of information on significant developments in their areas and to stay on 24-hour alert. At this particular moment, it is important that U.S. Government not put itself in position which would be deeply embarrassing if Goulart and Mazzilióhe is the next in line of successionócongressional leaders, and armed forces leadership reach an accommodation in the next few hours which would leave us branded with an awkward attempt at intervention.

"However, every disposition here is to support those elements which would move to prevent Brazil from falling under an authentic dictatorship of the left heavily infiltrated or controlled by the communists. Obviously, in a country of over 75 million people, larger than the continental United States, this is not a job for a handful of United States Marines. A major determination by the leadership of Brazil, and a preemption of the position of legitimacy are of the greatest possible importance.

"We will not, however, be paralyzed by theoretical niceties if the options are clearly between the genuinely democratic forces of Brazil and a communist-dominated dictatorship. As we see the problem tonight, the greatest danger may well be that Goulart will be able to pull back enough within the next day or two to confuse the situation, blunt the edge of key conservative military action, and gain more time to resist those elements who would resist a communist-infiltrated authoritarian regime.

"Fragmentary reports reaching here tonight suggest that anti-Goulart forces may be developing a certain momentum. Our big problem is to determine whether this presents an opportunity which might be repeated. In this case, we wish to make a major decision as to whether and by what means we might give additional impetus to forces now in motion consistent with what Iíve said above."

Now, the situation is tható

President Johnson: Now, youíre through with the message?

Rusk: Yes.

President Johnson: What youó

Rusk: The situation basically is that there is a very substantial buildup of resistance to Goulart. Now, if the governors of the key states of the east coast, such as Minas Gerais, and Sao Paulo, and all those heavily populated states of the east coast, who are anti-Goulart, should join together with the armed forces who are stationed in those key states, then I think this may be something that weíll have to go along with, and get in touch with. And we need to get Linc Gordonís fundamental judgment. Iíll tell him that this is the principal judgment he will make for which he will earn his pay. Heís got to tell us his best judgment as to whether this is an opportunity which will not be repeated, and which, if not taken now, will give Goulart a chance to undermine his opposition and take Brazil down the road to a communist dictatorship.

This message that Iíve read to you does not commit you in any way. Itís simply, basically, asking him for information and give him a certain atmosphere of our attitude here.

President Johnson: In effect, though, what it says is, "Get somebody legitimate and get them substantial and donít let it go communist."

Rusk: Thatís right. And Iíve talked to Bob McNamara to lay on some takers to get some POL supplies and other things on the way, and also General OíMeara has been ordered by Bob McNamara to come to Washington tonight to talk about contingency plans that might be needed in this situation.

President Johnson: Hm.

Rusk: So I would like just to send off this, in effect, advisory telegram to Linc Gordon, our ambassador, to see whether by morning, or during the day tomorrow, we might want to make a decision here as to how we move in this situation.

President Johnson: Sure.

Rusk: All right?

President Johnson: Thatís good. Thatís fine.

Rusk: Now, I have alsoówe had an unfortunate accident today. The House Foreign Affairs committee put out a report that included some references to Brazil, a report that was prepared last January, that included a reference to the fact that we did not expect an early communist takeover in Brazil.

President Johnson: Was it prepared January í64?

Rusk: Thatís right. Now, I backgrounded some press people tonight to have them say that a high State Department official said that the situation in Brazil had deteriorated in the meantime, since that report was issued, that we are deeply concerned about the prospects for representative and constitutional democracy in Brazil. Because if this report goes down to Brazil without some sort of a correction, Goulart might take this as a blessing for the things heís trying to do.

So without any direct quote of you or me, I did do some backgrounding to kind of counteract one or two sentences in this report because of its impact in Brazil tomorrow morning.

President Johnson: Mm-hmm. All right.

Now, I had a cable from Mac [Bundy], a wire, on Panama that heís suggesting that [Ellsworth] Bunker propose tomorrow that he said had yours and [Thomas] Mannís approval. Are you familiar with it?

Rusk: Yes. Yes, I saw that, the text of tható

President Johnson: Yes. I think thatís what weíve been saying all the time.
Rusk: It seems to me that that particular one is all right.

President Johnson: Yes.

Rusk: I donít think the Panamanians will buy it at the momentó

President Johnson: No.

Rusk: Ėpartly because of Bill Fulbrightís speech.

President Johnson: yes.

Rusk: But, nevertheless, I think we ought to try it out. And if we donít do that, then I think we can simply state our position to the OAS and let them take it up from there.

President Johnson: Fine. Well, tell Mac and Mann to go ahead on that basis.

Rusk: Oh, fine. Fine. Iím delighted.

President Johnson: I havenít talked to them . . .

Rusk: Right. Except for this Brazilian matter, I can call you early in the morningóthereís nothing here other than Brazil that would pull you back to Washington tomorrow rather than Wednesday. But I think this Brazilian matter just could blow overnight, and Iíll be in touch with you about itó

President Johnson: Fine.

Rusk: Ėso you can make your plans.

President Johnson: Fine. Call me. If not, Iíll be coming back Wednesday, but Iíll come anytime I need to.

Rusk: Oh, fine. Thank you, Mr. President.

President Johnson: All right.

Rusk: Bye.