John & João

JFK and Brazil’s Military
Coup, Set in His Own Words

When we wrote in November about the exhumation of João Goulart, the Brazilian president deposed by a 1964 military coup, and the spooky coincidence of that happening on the 50th year anniversary of John Kennedy’s assassination, we didn’t know half of it.
But now the audio of a meeting at the White House with Ambassador to Brazil Lincoln Gordon, on Oct. 7, 1963, confirms what has already been suspected for years: that JFK had openly considered the possibility of supporting a military intervention in Brazil.
The audio containing the bombshell revelation was released recently, without transcript, by the Kennedy Library, and became part of Italian-born Brazilian journalist Elio Gaspari‘s 4-volume exposé of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for 20-odd years.
The U.S.’s likely role is pivot to A Ditadura Envergonhada (The Ashamed Dictatorship in free Portuguese translation), and permeates Gaspari’s Archives of the Dictatorship, an extensive documentation and analysis of the time, now on the Internet and slated to be published next month.
In a wider context, the books join the effort of segments of the Brazilian society to understand and come to terms with this dark period of its history, still relatively untapped by historians and, not surprisingly, mostly ignored by the majority of the country’s citizenry.

Kennedy did not plan the military coup, which happened mainly due to internal political pressures and power struggles within the Brazilian government at the time. But by the tone of the conversation, captured on tape by JFK himself, the option had clearly been on the table since at least 1961.
That’s because Jango, as Goulart was known, was a populist with leftist inclinations and ties to labor unions, and his ascendency to power, although rigorously democratic and constitutional, had had the quality of uniting powerful right wing leaderships in the country, both political and military.
While our November story called attention to mainly circumstantial coincidences of JFK and Jango, both ‘Johns’ who got elected in 1961 and shared a charismatic youthfulness that captivated their nations, Gaspari’s uncovered a more sinister link between the two, one that would lead to terrible consequences.

While Kennedy’s murder just a month after meeting Gordon has become the textbook for every political conspiracy before or after, and remains all but an opened criminal investigation, Jango’s fall from power had a well known cast of conspirators, who actually got to comfortably rule the nation with an iron fist for years afterwards.
Such conspirators may now be the focus of a probe to determine if anyone can be implicated in Jango’s 1976 death in exile in Uruguay, officially of a heart attack. The thorough forensic analysis of his remains may put to rest long standing rumors that the president was actually poisoned. Results are not expected for months.
While in Brasilia last month, Jango finally received the proper sendoff from Brazil’s government that he’d been denied for almost four decades: a full honor ceremony as chief of state. Regardless of the results of his exhumation, Jango’s repositioning at the center of Brazil’s public debate is a step the country had to take sooner rather than later.
The powerful symbolism of investigating what happened to the last democratically elected president before the dictatorship can’t be amiss, as Brazil starts showing a stronger resolve into pursuing the forensics of its own past, crucial condition to establish a clear stake into its future.
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* Dead Presidents

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