1964 Brazilian coup d'état

1964 Brazilian coup d'état
Part of the Cold War
1964 coup.jpg
A M41 Walker Bulldog tank in front of the National Congress during the coup
DateMarch 31 – April 1, 1964
ResultJoão Goulart government overthrown
Military Junta assumed power
Brazil Brazilian Government

Brazil Brazilian Armed Forces:

Supported by:

Commanders and leaders
Brazil João GoulartBrazil Humberto Castelo Branco
Brazil Artur da Costa e Silva

The 1964 Brazilian coup d'état (Portuguese: Golpe de estado no Brasil em 1964 or, more colloquially, golpe de 64) was a series of events in Brazil from March 31 to April 1 that led to the overthrow of President João Goulart by members of the Brazilian Armed Forces, supported by the United States government.[1][2] The following day, with the military already in control of the country, the Brazilian Congress came out in support of the coup and endorsed it by declaring vacant the office of the presidency.[3] The coup put an end to the government of Goulart, also known as Jango, a member of the Brazilian Labour Party, who had been democratically elected Vice President in the same election in which conservative Jânio Quadros, from the National Labor Party and backed by the National Democratic Union, won the presidency.

Quadros resigned in 1961, the same year of his inauguration, in a clumsy political maneuver to increase his popularity. Quadros anticipated that mass demonstrations would demand his return to office and strengthen his position, but he miscalculated. With the presidency vacant and according to the constitution then in force, enacted in 1946, Quadros should have automatically been replaced by Goulart. However, because Goulart was on a diplomatic trip to the People's Republic of China at the time, and because, although a moderate nationalist, Goulart was accused of being a communist by right-wing militants, he was unable to take office. After long negotiations, led mainly by Tancredo Neves, Goulart's supporters and the right-wing reached an agreement under which the parliamentary system would replace the presidential system in the country. Goulart would continue as head of state, although weakened, and Neves would be named prime minister.

In 1963, however, a referendum re-established the presidential system with Goulart as president. He took office with full powers, and during his rule several problems in Brazilian politics[clarification needed] became evident, as well as disputes in the context of the Cold War, which helped destabilize his government. The Basic Reforms Plan (Reformas de Base) proposed by Goulart had the potential to socialize the profits of large companies to ensure a better quality of life for most Brazilians, but was labelled as a "socialist threat" by right-wing sectors of society and of the military, which organized major demonstrations against the government in the Marches of the Family with God for Freedom (Marchas da Família com Deus pela Liberdade).[4]

The coup brought to Brazil a military regime politically aligned to the interests of the United States government.[5] This regime lasted until 1985, when Tancredo Neves was indirectly elected the first civilian president of Brazil since the 1960 elections.

Conspiracy against Jango

Jânio Quadros resigned on August 25, 1961.[6] At the time of his resignation, João Goulart was in the People's Republic of China on a foreign relations trip. On August 29, the Brazilian Congress heard and vetoed a motion to stop Goulart from being named president, brought by the heads of the three branches of the military and some politicians, who claimed Goulart's inauguration would put the country "on the road to civil war".[7] A compromise was reached: Brazil would become a parliamentary democracy, with Goulart as president. As such, he would be head of state, but with limited powers of head of government. Tancredo Neves was named as the new prime minister. On January 6, 1963, Goulart successfully changed the system of government back to presidential democracy in a referendum he won by a large margin. Goulart found himself back in power with a rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation.[7] During this period, Goulart was politically isolated, with a foreign policy which was independent of any alignment. He openly criticized the Bay of Pigs invasion by the US, but criticized the Cuban regime of Fidel Castro during the Cuban Missile Crisis.[4] The country's economic situation deteriorated rapidly. Attempts to stabilize the currency were financed by aid packages from the International Monetary Fund. His failure to secure foreign investment and curb domestic inflation put the country in a difficult situation which exacerbated social conflicts.[7] On March 13, 1964, Goulart gave a speech where he promised to nationalize the country's oil refineries, as well as carry out "basic reforms" including rent control. This was followed by a large demonstration on March 19, where a conservative group marched on Praça da Sé, São Paulo, in a demonstration called "March of the Family with God for Freedom" against Goulart and his policies.[8]

The Sailors' Revolt

The friction between the military and Goulart boiled over with his intervention in a revolt by sailors of the Brazilian Navy led by José Anselmo dos Santos, historically known as Cabo Anselmo, and later exposed as an agent provocateur. On March 25, 1964, nearly 2,000 sailors assembled in Rio de Janeiro, petitioning for better living conditions and pledging their support for Goulart's reforms. The Minister of the Navy, Sílvio Mota, ordered the arrest of the sailors leading the assembly. Mota sent a detachment of marines to arrest the leaders and break up the assembly, led by Rear Admiral Cândido Aragão. These marines ended up joining the assembly and remained with the other sailors.[9] Shortly after Aragão's refusal to arrest the leaders, Goulart issued orders prohibiting any invasion of the assembly location (the headquarters of the local metalworker's union), and sacked Sílvio Mota as Minister of the Navy. The following day, March 26, the Minister of Labor, Amauri Silva, negotiated a compromise, and the sailors agreed to leave the assembly building. They were promptly arrested for mutiny.[10] Goulart pardoned the sailors shortly after, creating a public rift with the military.[4] Soon after, on March 30, 1964, the day before the coup, Goulart gave a speech to a gathering of sergeants, where he asked for the military's support for his reforms.[4]