Brazil: Trump Ally Celebrates Coup

Against the Current, No. 200, May/June 2019

Eric Toussaint

FIFTY-FIVE YEARS after the overthrow of democratically elected President Joao Goulart, the new far-right President, Jair Bolsonaro has announced a celebration of the 1964 military coup.

There can be no doubt about the active support provided by the U.S. government, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. On 2 April 2014, a U.S. NGO, the National Security Archive publicized an impressive amount of declassified official documents that testify to Washington aiding and abetting the Brazilian army officers who had overthrown Joao Goulart’s democratic government (see

President Goulart’s government was overthrown by the military in April 1964. World Bank  and IMF loans, suspended for three years,resumed very soon afterwards.

A brief time line: in 1958, Brazilian president Kubitschek was about to undertake negotiations with the IMF to gain access to a loan of $300 million from the United States. At the end, Kubitschek refused the IMF-imposed conditions and did without the U.S. loan. This earned him wide popularity.

His successor, Goulart, announced that he would implement a radical land reform program and proceed to nationalize petroleum refineries. He was overthrown by the military. The United States recognized the new military regime one day after the coup.

Not long afterwards, the World Bank and IMF resumed their lending policy. As for the military, they rescinded the economic measures the United States and IMF had criticized. International financial institutions were of the view that the military regime was taking sound economic measures.

The regime organized harsh repression, outlawed strikes, caused a dramatic drop in real wages, and eliminated direct ballot voting, disbanded trade unions and made systematic use of torture.

The public reports of the World Bank systematically praised the policies of the dictatorship. Nevertheless, inside the World Bank the discussions took a bitter turn.

When Bernard Chadenet, Vice-President of Projects declared that the bank’s image would degrade following the support to the repressive government of Brazil, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamarar recognized that there was a tremendous amount of repression — but added that it “is not necessarily a great deal different from what it had been under previous governments, and did not seem to be a lot worse than in some other member countries of the WB. Is Brazil worse than Thailand?”

Some days later McNamara followed up: “No viable alternative to the Government by generals seemed open.”

The IMF and World Bank did not hesitate to support dictatorships when they (and other major capitalist powers) found it opportune. The author of the World Report on Human Development says so in black and white: “But rhetoric is running far ahead of reality, as a companrison of the per capita ODA (official development assistance) received by democratic and authoritarian regimes shows. Indeed, for the United States [aid given] in the 1980s, the relationship between aid and human rights has been perverse….”

May-June 2019, ATC 200