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Marinho and the Generals

Screenshot from 2015-02-22 14:26:54

Sources: Rede Brasil Atual | R7

On August 14, 1965, a year after the coup in Brazil, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, Lincoln Gordon, transmitted a highly classified telegram to his superiors — a document since declassified.

The message narrates an encounter at the Embassy between Gordon and Roberto Marinho, owner of the Globo Organizations[, the broadcasting and publishing group]. The conversation dealt with the presidential succession under the dictatorship. According to Gordon, Marinho was “working behind the scenes,” with a group comprising, among other senior officers, General Ernesto Geisel, Military Chief of Staff; General Golbery do Couto e Silva, head of the National Intelligence Service (SNI); and Luis Vianna, head of the Casa Civil, on whether to prolong or to terminate the mandate of the dictator, Castelo Branco.

In July 1965, at the request of this group, Roberto Marinho had an audience with Castelo to try to persuade him to prolong or renew his mandate. The general resisted the idea, according to Gordon. During the encounter, the Globo executive also sounded out the idea of summoning Juracy Magalhães, Brazil’s ambassador to Washington at the time, to serve as Minister of Justice. Castelo accepted the nomination, which, as it happened, was officialized after the October gubernatorial elections. The idea was to keep Magalhães close by as an alternative to the dictator Castelo, and to strengthen the hand of hard liners, for whom Minister Milton Campos was considered too docile for the post, as described in the telegram. Magalhães did in fact accept the offer to assume command of Justice, where he tightened censorship of the media and demanded the heads of leftist journalists working in their newsrooms. On July 31, 1965 a new encounter was held. Roberto Marinho explains that if Castelo Branco were to restore direct elections for his successor, the politicians with the best chances would be members of the opposition. Marinho once again tries to persuade the president-general to prolong his mandate or hold a reelection without the risking direct elections. Marinho said he was satisfied by the meeting: he had found the dictator more receptive. During the conversation, Marinho also related that the group of which he was a member proposed a constitutional amendment that permitted the reelection Castelo by indirect election, given that the composition of the current Congress presented no political risk. … Lincoln Gordon wrote back to the Department of State that the confidentiality of the source was essential; that is, the the names of the Ambassador and Roberto Marinho were to be kept secret.