Monday, August 17, 2009

The U.S. and Brazil in 1971

Anyone interested in U.S.-Latin American relations should definitely take a look at the National Security Archive website, which has posted declassified documents about cooperation between Brazil and the U.S. to destabilize the government of Salvador Allende. These were declassified as part of the State Department's Foreign Relations of the United States series, much of which is now online. FRUS is a very cool resource--I was introduced to it in a U.S.-Latin America class while doing my M.A., and plan to do the same when I teach a Latin American Studies graduate seminar next spring.

Presidents Richard Nixon and Emilio Médici met in December 1971 (Allende assumed office in November 1971). When you hear a dictator say that his visit "had been far above anything he had expected" you pretty much understand the Nixon/Kissinger approach to anti-communist governments. Médici also clearly felt superior to his fellow Latin Americans: "He saw how much difficulty he had in dealing with and understanding the Spanish-American mentality" and figured it was even harder for Nixon.

Regarding Chile more specifically, Médici assured Nixon that he had Brazilian officers working to cultivate Chileans to overthrow Allende, and was willing to disburse aid or money. Brazil is rarely mentioned in studies of the Chilean coup, so this is an interesting revelation. Someone needs to do some digging in Brazilian archives, just as Patrice McSherry did a lot of successful digging about Operation Condor for her book Predatory States.

At the same time, however, Brazilian officials were no dummies, and noted that it seemed the Nixon administration wanted them to do the "dirty work" and this might have negative consequences for the Brazilian military.


Nell 12:47 PM  

Ah, the culture of impunity.

Henry Kissinger is still a free man, not only able to go out in public without being spat on or shunned, but getting warm appreciation from his successor, currently busy tolerating a turning-point coup herself.

Anonymous,  1:51 PM  

Pinochet was a brutal dictator but in the universe of brutal dictators he was among the best. He eventually left and left behind a well organized country. The left wing governments that followed kept the core of his economic policies and today Chile is the envy of the region.

Compare him to Fidel, who is still in power and whose signature economic accomplishment is producing the world's best educated prostitutes.

Nell 4:16 PM  

FRUS is indeed a cool resource, but would be more so if the U.S. government were not continuing to play revisionist games with the history: Steven Aftergood reports on the bizarre back-and-forth moves wrt the Uruguay history of this same period.

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