Welcome to Brazil, the land of football, the beloved Selecao, the Maracana, beaches, the infamous Rio de Janeiro, and a Latin American beacon of multicultarilism rife with its own identity, politics, and culture. My focus is on how different the Cold War was perceived in Brazil, as a Latin American nation. As such, Brazil’s story is intriguing in terms of : How global conflict shaped Brazilian political life, parallels between Cold War and democratic cycles, Brazil’s role in fighting the Cold War in South America, the position of its right-wing military dictatorship in terms of the United States of America (USA), and the impact of Marxist movements in the region.
BRAZIL HISTORICAL NARRATIVE :
Brazil as a Latin American Nation has a very interesting history that is separate from its Latin American neighbors; the fact is Brazil is distinct from its Latin American neighbors in terms of politics, culture, racial composition and diversity, geography, and above all else, language. Brazilians are the only Latin American nation that speaks portuguese as the official language as opposed to Spanish. Historian Leslie Bethel together with Julia Sweig from the Council on Foreign relations, during a seminar on Brazil’s ambivalence vis a vis Latin America, aptly stated :”the idea of Brazil as part of Latin America was never fully embraced either by Spanish Americans or Brazilians. And with Brazil’s emergence as regional leader in South America since the end of the Cold War the very notion of “Latin America” is being challenged.” Following the 20th century when the United States usurped Britain as the hub of their foreign policy nexus, the rest of the Spanish speaking countries became weary of Brazil due to their fear of so called “U.S. Imperialism”. Where Brazil shares parallels historically with its Latin neighbors lies in its populism, military rule, neoliberalism, and democracy.
REFLECTION COLD WAR PERSPECTIVE; HISTORICAL NARRATIVE:
.The United States and Brazil had little in terms of policy connections in the 1980s.
.Where Brazil wanted a solution to the debt crisis in the region, the United States prioritized the 1989 Brady plan and high interest rates opening its markets to more Brazilian exports.
. Brazil had no interest in global Cold War even though it actively coveted nuclear savvy, which the United States worked actively to subvert. These mismatched policy interests created an ongoing power disparity.
.From the 90’s onwards, Brazil favored conflict mediation, and asserted its global standing through soft power attributes favoring population, economic viability, and regional diplomacy. This transitioned to globalization under President Cardoso culminating in accommodation.
.Brazilian militia fought alongside the USA during World War II creating strong ties with each other. However, following American alarm to the Cuban Revolution, a sense of palpable alert and concern resonated, creating a confrontational political clime.
.From then, the military ruled Brazil undemocratically under strict junta for the next twenty years; on the surface, since Brazil never had military rule as traditional, there was a semblance of constitutional underpinnings; yet military decree overruled by amendments that dissolved legislative governance.
.The 70’s saw an economic oil boom, yet poverty still ran rampant with focus on the middle class crating a huge income disparity.
COLD WAR NARRATIVE AND ANALYSIS IN THE REGION:
Brazilian estimates of their international or transatlantic relations circa 1989 showed a mix of optimism and pessimism about the nation’s future. Unlike other Latin American contemporaries, Brazilian official history showed little in the way of heralding triumph and transcendence. In terms of the global Cold War, debates about the culmination of the War in Brazil dominated the nation’s governance strategy and outlook; the domestic climate favored the unity message set out by the toppling of the Berlin Wall in Germany. Fact is, Brazil was never a hot spot or area of focus in relation to the Cold War; this was because the Soviet Union and its socialist world view, never seemed a viable option for Brazilian national development and governance. Relationships between Brazil’s Communist Party and Moscow were pretty constrained. Unlike Latin American contemporaries in Cuba and Central Latin America, Brazilian national perspective was not bipolar as such. Political discourse and debates during the Cold War period in Brazil were more focused on how to align themselves with their neighbor in the United States, a major player against the Soviets. “For all the drama that marked historical clashes between the Right and the Left inside the country, the argument sometimes prevalent in Washington that “If Brazil were to be lost it would not be another Cuba. It would be another China”….” (P.230 The End of the Cold War and The Third World: New Perspectives on Regional ; Artemy Kalinovsky, Sergey Radchenko); However, this not to state the Cold War had little relevance to Brazil-on the contrary it did. Politically, the perspective of global confrontation was viewed domestically as tilting power from the local academia and elites towards the hard wing Right ideology of the military. The focus of Brazilian leaders was less on the threat of Soviet interventionism, and more a concern for national security. Although many Brazilians cherished the demise of the Soviet empire, their domestic ruling elite feared the rising power and the pre-eminence of an unchallenged United States.
Brazilian governance through the the Cold War era focused on growing its cache and alignment towards the USA; the reality was Washington had lots of geopolitical concerns, and Brazil economically was peaking in such a manner that the United States could not boss it around. Circa the 1940s and early 1950s, there was real Brazilian fear of US hegemony in the region. Brazil in this period it is worthy to note became the biggest benefactor of the “Alliance for Progress” funding between America and its Latin neighbors. Commencing in the 60’s, Brazil transitioned into a third world centric perspective as it looked to bolster alliances with former Communist satellite states. During this period, we saw the support in Brazil for the Portuguese relinquishment over African colonies; Brazil also started revising its political initiatives and agenda towards India and Indonesia and asserted itself more in its relationships therein. Although Brazil pushed back against signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it focused on advocating for economic security on a collective basis herein. The political focus was on stopping the colonial movement, and demanding a shift of global military expense towards its global economy and associated growth. (P.233 The End of the Cold War and The Third World: New Perspectives on Regional ; Artemy Kalinovsky, Sergey Radchenko). Brazil joined Third World pledge groups to create a new international economic world order; this saw it expand its territorial waters and reject IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank population censure measures. The 1970s brought about in Brazil a period of indifference towards the Cold War; to most Brazilians, the Cold War was nearing its end. Brazilian world view towards global Cold War detente (easing of strained relationships between hostile nations) was negative in tandem with some positive outlook. Brazilians viewed detente as the harbinger of neocolonialism and a Western alliance being formed. Brazilian leaders saw the this international coalition as opportunistic; the argument being that such alliances conferred unfair advantages to member states giving them greater autonomy. Brazilian views as such of the Cold War began to sour. President Carter picked up on this and sought to modulate the Brazilian world view by singling out the nation for reform; he admonished Henry Kissinger’s engagement with Brazil and his rhetoric towards the nation was particularly reprehensible. His White House seemed to look to curtail Brazilian proliferation capacity and to weaken its dictatorship. The USA aligned itself with guerrilla fighters and such revolutionaries as a means to undermine affairs while being kept distant from the rival proxy wars. Reagan’s administration was also met with even less fanfare by the Brazilian government which advocated from Brasilia a tough stance towards US political pressure. The problem that arose from the 1980s onwards between the USA and Brazil was frayed diplomacy; Brazilians felt Reagan’s administration was forcing change on their homeland that threatened their national sovereignty. During the Cold War, Brazil never sided with the US economic model of capitalism left unchecked, but ironically opportunistically benefited from the spoils of the model. Brazilian government decided as a reflective lesson not to copy Latin American neighbors like Chile and Argentina that followed American capitalism; on the contrary Brazil favored the Chinese or Russian independent models of seeking wider autonomy from the American economic system. From the 90s onwards, Brazil was shifting its policy assessment towards its Latin neighbors; Brazilian leaders looked towards regional integration with Latin America to offset US political pressure, control their global expansion, and protect their sovereignty. It is critical to understand that Brazil was not seeking to distance itself from Washington, but merely to reshape its political sphere of influence and consolidate its foreign policy strategy. (P. 242 The End of the Cold War and The Third World: New Perspectives on Regional ; Artemy Kalinovsky, Sergey Radchenko).
The startling reality in examining Brazil vis a vis the Cold War, is the harsh realization of the impact of the War on Latin American society, as well as other international partners across geopolitical borders; the impact was more than just subliminal as it affected perceptions, legitimations, institutions, and political dynamics. ““The effects of the cold war for Brazil were largely indirect and almost all are in the new impetus given to the economic globalization in regional and global scope. Namely, the enlarged cold war globalization spurred Brazil’s efforts towards regional integration and the integration of the Brazilian economy in major global flows of trade, investment, technology and other relevant circuits of world interdependence.”(Excerpt From: Reid, Jeremy. “Cold War in Brazil.” http://www.redjumper.net/bookcreator, 2015. iBook).
“For all the drama that marked historical clashes between the Right and the Left inside the country, the argument sometimes prevalent in Washington that “If Brazil were to be lost it would not be another Cuba. It would be another China”….” (P.230 The End of the Cold War and The Third World: New Perspectives on Regional ; Artemy Kalinovsky, Sergey Radchenko.
Grandin, “living in Revolutionary Time: coming to terms with the violence in Latin America’s Cold War”, in A Century of Revolution, 1. See also Joseph, “Latin America’s Long Cold War”, 397-98
Hemispheric Giants: The Misunderstood History of U.S.-Brazilian Relations By Britta H. Crandall
Lester D. Langley, America and the Americas: The United States in the Western hemisphere, second edition (Athens, Ga/London: The university of Georgia Press, 2010), 157 and Gilderhus, Second Century, 101-3.
Matias Spector, “Brazilian Assessments of the End of the Cold War,”in the End of the Cold War and the Third World, 231-32.
Mark T. Gilderhus, The Second Century: U.S. -Latin America Relations since 1989 (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources,2000), 62. See also, Joseph, “Latin America’s Long Cold War,” 404.
”Memo for secretary Miller from Assistant Secretary Bernstein,” Carter library, 31 january 1980.
Miller, Soviet Relationships with Latin America, 35.
”2 nuclear arms races in third world feared,” New York Times, 31 October 1984.
Myers, “Brazil: Reluctant pursuit of the Nuclear Option.”
Odd Arne Westad,”The Cold War and the International History of the Twentieth century,”in The Cambridge History of the Cold War, edited by Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010),10-11.
Reid, Jeremy. “Cold War in Brazil.” http://www.redjumper.net/bookcreator, 2015. iBook
Regional strategic plan for Latin America and the Caribbean, ” Latin America Bureau, U.S. Agency for International Development, December 1983.
The End of the Cold War and The Third World: New Perspectives on Regional ; Artemy Kalinovsky, Sergey Radchenko.
““The effects of the cold war for Brazil were largely indirect and almost all are in the new impetus given to the economic globalization in regional and global scope. Namely, the enlarged cold war globalization spurred Brazil’s efforts towards regional integration and the integration of the Brazilian economy in major global flows of trade, investment, technology and other relevant circuits of world interdependence.”(Excerpt From: Reid, Jeremy. “Cold War in Brazil.” http://www.redjumper.net/bookcreator, 2015. iBook)
Vanni Pettina “The Shadows of Cold War over Latin America: the U.S. reaction to Fidel Castro’s Nationalism, 1856-59, in Cold War History 11:3(2011).
FILM AND VIDEO:
“Historian Leslie Bethell provided a historical account of Brazil’s ambivalence vis-à-vis “Latin America” at a Brazil Institute seminar on March 2, joined by Eric Hershberg, director of Latin America Studies at American University, and Julia Sweig, director for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Bethell argued that, historically, the idea of Brazil as part of Latin America was never fully embraced either by Spanish Americans or Brazilians. And with Brazil’s emergence as regional leader in South America since the end of the Cold War the very notion of “Latin America” is being challenged.” (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/brazil-and-latin-america-historical-perspective). This is compelling video/film as it elaborates on the variation between Brazil and its Latin American neighbors in terms of its historicity, official history, and its ambivalence towards the politics of it’s Latin comtemporaries. It provides context to the politic clime in Brazil during the Cold War era and the associated relationships between it, the United States, and other other nations.
“Brazil at War Brazil at War is a 1943 propaganda short documentary film produced by the Office of War Information and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.
The 9-minute-long film starts by showing Brazil’s comparisons with the United States, such as its geographic size, population, and military history during World War I. And trumpets Brazil’s supposed “progressiveness” under Getúlio Vargas, noting that Rio de Janeiro is a “modern city” known for its arts and culture, and that Brazil’s constitution allows freedom for its workers and social services. Then shots of the Brazilian Army and Navy are shown, and we are told that 3 million conscripts are planned. (A Brazilian Expeditionary Force did later see action in the Italian Campaign.)” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazil_at_War). Even though propaganda, this film is immersive and relates to the geography of the Brazilian mainland; what propaganda has at its core is an agenda; herein that agenda is establishing the Brazilian political climate and setting a reference point for where the nation is heading into the Cold War era discourse.
“Brazil: The troubled Land” is a 1961 documentary or docudrama made by the ABC American broadcasting network. It is topical relevant as it delves into the struggle for land in Pernambuco and the Lisa’s Camponesas. The interviews within of Celso Furtada and Juliao even though officially censored by the government in Brasilia reveal the truth behind the military coup, document historical movements in the United States, in Brazil and the world, expand upon the cold War narrative; think the soviet communist bloc and the relationship to the status of Brazilian workers in terms of the communist propaganda prevalent at the time.
FICTIONAL LITERATURE PAGE:
“Hicok is highly successful in bringing together for the first time the threads of a discussion that has informed scholarly, biographical, and creative work on Bishop for decades: the importance of Brazil to the poet’s work. Hicok’s welcome contribution is to synthesize, integrate, and more fully develop that discussion than has been attempted to date.”;
(Neil Besner, University of Winnipeg, translator of Rare and Commonplace Flowers: The Story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares)” (Source: https://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Bishops-Brazil-Bethany-Hicok-ebook/dp/B017AC9QWI).
Bishop uses her connections to her aristocratic spouse to bring thematic fresh cultural perspective of living in Brazil; she uses prose grounded in domestic discourse to show the changing political climate as well as vascillating affectations of the local Brazilian scene; the prose is both evocative and illustrative of the vast cultural diversity of the region, and adds backdrop context to the historical scene.
This novel by renowned Brazilian author Jorge Amado was famous in the USA circa the 1950s; as a son of plantation owners, he delves into Brazilian historicity by touching on resonant themes of society, street view people and their perspective, superstitions and religion. It makes you comfortable with Brazilian culture and Latin American literature by putting you at ease in its natural setting. It provides atmospheric backdrop to the mainland allowing us context as to the historical evolution of the Brazilian Cold War historical narrative.
Voce Vai Voltar par Mim by Bernardo Kucinski(2014) is a personal story about Brazil’s dictatorship. He deliberates on his sister who is oppressed by the military regime and touches on the inherent maddening bureaucracy rife within the nation at the time. The gallery of characters have their lives impacted differently by the dictatorship providing alternate official historical narratives; even though Bernardo is retelling facts from his perspective it emphasizes the clamor for democracy which was restablished in Brazil post 1985. This work of fiction provides a cultural backdrop to the military history of the nation, its democratic foundations, and a context to reframe official history to make sense of Brazil when viewed through its political evolution through the Cold War era.
TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION :
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff cries during a speech at the launching ceremony of the National Truth Commission Report, at the Planalto Presidential Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Dec. 10, 2014.
The National Truth Commission (Comissao Nacional da Verdade) was approved by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies september 21st 2011 to investigate human rights violations spanning its military dictatorship circa 1946 to 1988.
On December 10th 2014, the Commission’s findings highlighted numerous Brazilian government agent violations: Over 400 people were killed or made to disappear by brutal military action. Subsequent Truth and Justice projects like the Nunca Mais in Brazil supported by the World Council of Churches and headed by Cardinal Paulo Evaristo, highlighted military torture of citizens spanning from 1979 to 1982. The report surmised that the military obfuscated the judicial process by utilizing torture techniques to get confessions. In 2007, during the second term of President Luis da Silva, “Direito a memoria e a verdade (Right to Memory and truth) was published; it was conclusively a Brazilian State report of military abuse crimes like rape, murder, and decapitation. Following this, memorials dubbed “Indispensible People” have been constructed around the mainland as vestiges/monuments of the real history, not the official history, of political activists who were murdered by the military regime. March 2012 saw federal prosecutors charge Colonel Carlos Alberto Ustra and Police commandant Dirceau for the abduction of union leader Aluzio Ferreira in 1971. The Comissao Naciomnal da Verdade comprised of 7 commissioners and 14 other employees, utilized public testimonies and documents as well as public hearings to reconcile truth, and promote justice. In 2001, Fernando Cardoso passed a bill for financial restitution to those whose livelihoods were curtailed by the military regime. “” However, offering reparations to 44 Brazilian farmers does not even begin to compensate for the human rights violations perpetrated by the military dictatorship. In 1996, the Dossier on the Missing and Assassinated originally published in 1984 by the Brazilian Committee for Amnesty, Rio Grande do Sul section, was updated referring to 217 victims of assassination and 152 victims of forced disappearance by state agents.( Sibaja, Marco. “Brazil apologizes, offers reparations for torture of poor farmers during dictatorship”. Startribune.com. Retrieved 27 April 2012.) In 2012, the Sao Pablo state assemble created an independent truth commission to bypass the partisan gridlock of the national truth commission; the focus was to investigate human rights abuses under military totalitarianism; In december 2013 Carlos Alberto Ustra and Carlos Augusto, both state security personnel, became the first criminally prosecuted officials following their abduction/kidnapping charge. “On January 11, 2013, the Comissão Nacional da Verdade (CNV) released its first torture allegation from outside the military dictatorship, during the government of Getúlio Vargas. Eighty-four-year-old Boris Tabacof, former Secretary of Finance of Bahia, former director of the Safra Group and current president of the Board of Directors of Suzano, denounced the torture he suffered in November 2012 to several members of the commission: Maria Rita Kehl, José Carlos Dias and Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. Tabacof’s testimony covered his torture, illustrating his arrest on October 20, 1952 and subsequent 400-day imprisonment. “(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Truth_Commission).
^ Sibaja, Marco. “Brazil apologizes, offers reparations for torture of poor farmers during dictatorship”. Startribune.com. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
^ De Greiff, Pablo (2006). The Handbook or Reparations. New York: Oxford University press. p. 106.
^ De Greiff, Pablo (2006). The Handbook of Reparations. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 113.
^ “The Beginnings of Accountability”. ICTJ.org. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
^ a b Cabral, Paulo. “Brazil Truth Commission Begins Rights Abuse Controversies”. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
^ a b c d e f g h Atencio, Rebecca. “Transitional Justice In Brazil Blog”. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
^ a b Rocha, Jan (February 13, 2012). “Brazil’s Truth Commission”. Latin America Bureau. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
^ Steps, Najla. “Parliament Enforces Installation of the Truth Commission”. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
^ Bateman, Joe. “Recent Corruption and Human Rights Trials in Brazil Could Signal Shift Toward Justice”. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
^ Johnson, Hilary. “Interpretation of the Amnesty Law”. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
^ [“Empresário Relata Tortura Sob Vargas à Comissão Da Verdade.” Estadao. N.p., 12 Jan. 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2014. <http://www.estadao.com.br/noticias/impresso,empresario-relata–tortura-sob-vargas-a–comissao-da-verdade-,983360,0.htm>.]
^ [Mendes, Priscilla. “Comissão Analisa Primeiro Caso De Tortura Fora Do Período Militar.” G1 O Portal De Noticias Da Globo. N.p., 11 Jan. 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2014. <http://g1.globo.com/politica/noticia/2013/01/comissao-analisa-primeiro-caso-de-tortura-fora-do-periodo-militar.html>.]
Brazil’s official history of a progressive Latin American nation with a unique language and multiculturalism is anything but; in studying the region the reality is that Brazil’s historicity is rife with contradictions of racism and the scars of brutal military dictatorship. In Rebecca Atencio’s book Atencio, Rebecca J. (2014). Memory’s Turn. Reckoning with Dictatorship in Brazil. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press. 170 pp.; as a cultural scholar, she presents cycles of cultural memory as she posits it. These resonated with me because Brazilian political history is rife with discourse wherein the focal points of intersection are institutional practice, and a problematic military past. I respect her book “Memory’s Turn” because it challenges official history by providing cultural context. Her main argument is revelatory in that Brazil has not yet come to terms with the reality of its brutal dictatorial past, or as she posits it, ambiguity. “”in Atencio’s words, “ambiguity”, fosters ongoing public debates regarding the past which take the form of mnemonic cycles reviving former remembrances: “these individual cycles are not closed loops but rather form part of a larger system by feeding into one another in myriad ways” (p. 125). “(http://historicaldialogues.org/2016/07/21/book-review-memorys-turn-reckoning-with-dictatorship-in-brazil/). From a socio political context, she presents Brazilian society as comprised of innocent bystanders amidst a persistent totalitarian military regime. In reading her book, I could not help but reflect on the reality that the populace at large, struggled to conform with confrontation methods by the military regime; they felt culpable in a way as it meant acknowledging their complicity in the guilt ridden past and aforementioned atrocities; ” “the willed ignorance, the ‘hav[ing] no idea’ persisted well into the political opening, at which point its most………to be tacit acceptance (of what was going on) and evolved into tacit denial (of what had happened)” (p. 49).”(http://historicaldialogues.org/2016/07/21/book-review-memorys-turn-reckoning-with-dictatorship-in-brazil/). The revelation of a neoliberalism emerges when one reads Atencio’s book; there is a celebration of a sort of mass hysteria for an urban renewal of the middle class. In terms of coming to terms with the past in lieu of personal reflection, Brazil’s reconciliation with the reality of its history as opposed to its official history is ongoing and challenging. It continues as a strained unfinished cognitive process. What emerges is a realization that Latin America is the bi-product of the intransigence of a culturally diverse people as is the case in Brazil; what it means to be Brazilian is different from what it means to be Guatemalan or Mexican or Cuban; Latin American historicity is a discourse of public debates of the past, cyclical as Atencio puts it; not closed loops but part of a “larger system feeding into one another in a myriad of ways(Atencio P. 125).