It is well known that João Goulart, the popular left-liberal president of Brazil, was overthrown in a military coup that ushered in twenty-one years of fascist military dictatorship, replete with political prisoners (among them, the current president of Brazil, who was a Marxist guerrilla at the time), exiles, murders, tortures and mysterious disappearances. And it’s also well known that he died in exile a dozen years later. But HOW he died has been under dispute ever since. The official version is that he died of cardiac arrest, no doubt despondent over his misfortune, and that was that. But now, we finally see hints that his death, which occurred in the same year that another military coup put generals in charge of Argentina, was no coincidence after all:
For the first time, a Brazilian government has admitted the possibility that the former president, João Goulart, who was deposed by a military coup in 1964, might have been assassinated during his exile in Argentina as part of Operation Condor, the co-ordinated repression by South American dictatorships.
So says the minister of Human Rights for Brazil, Maria do Rosario Nunes, during a public audience of the Truth Commission, which was created by president Dilma Rousseff to investigate the crimes of the military dictatorship (1964-1985).
“There are indications which must not go unrecognized of the responsibility of Operation Condor in something to which we must not close our eyes, which is the very clear possibility that President João Goulart was assassinated,” said the minister of human rights.
Officially, Goulart was declared dead of a heart failure on December 6, 1976, during his exile in the Argentine province of Corrientes, but his family has always maintained that the death had to do with a military conspiracy.
“The case must be investigated in depth,” said Nunes.
The Truth Commission has heightened interest in the mystery surrounding the death of the leftist president Goulart, who was ousted on March 31, 1964, by a military coup.
In 2007 and 2012, a Uruguayan former intelligence agent, Mario Barreiro, said that he had been ordered to spy for four years on Goulart in his exile, and that the Brazilian dictator, Ernesto Geisel, considered Goulart a threat to his reign.
Attorney Rosa Cardoso, a member of the truth commission, affirmed that there is “a conjunction of conclusive indicators” which favor the likelihood of a crime.
Senator Pedro Simon, of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), informed that there had never been an autopsy on the body of Goulart.
Goulart, a “threat to the reign” of a dictator? Certainly. After all, he was only living a little way across the Argentine border; Corrientes is a northern province, largely devoted to agriculture, but also home to a great deal of leftist campesino agitation. Goulart owned land not only there, but in Uruguay as well, where he was agitating as early as 1966 for Brazil’s return to democratic rule. And after the military seized power in Argentina, copying the “success” of the fascists in its big neighbor to the north, that campesino agitation would have increased exponentially…as would “anticommunist” efforts to snuff it out. The presence of a leftist like Goulart, who was popular with Brazilian workers and peasants particularly, would have been intolerable to the junta.
But it wouldn’t do to ship Goulart back to whence he came; the Brazilian generals wouldn’t have that. The reasons could hardly have been clearer: Goulart, the people’s choice, back on home soil, would have spelled mass revolt against a régime the people’s enemies had worked more than a decade to prop up with violence and bloodshed. So Goulart had to be disposed of in some other manner, one that could be passed off as natural causes. (And of course, without any pesky autopsy.)
And since there was plenty of Operation Condor activity afoot in Uruguay too, and Uruguay lay conveniently wedged between Argentina and Brazil, it’s not so far-fetched to assume that the same Uruguayan intelligence agent sent to spy on Goulart for the last four years of his life would have been privy to a thing or two about his death.
In short, a lot of old Condor guano is about to be severely disturbed.