Cold Wind from the East

  • Frank D. McCann


The Americans wanted to keep the wartime bases and negotiated an agreement for a ten-year continuance. Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes wanted to prevent Pan American Airways and its subsidiary Panair do Brasil from getting sway over the air fields that they had been so instrumental in establishing. Gomes especially long harbored a dislike of PAA and Panair. Even before the war ended in Europe, opposition to the Vargas government included resistance to continued foreign troops on Brazilian soil. Washington seemed to want both a strong bilateral relationship with Brazil and a multilateral relationship with all of Latin America. This contradiction resulted from a deep divide in the American government between the State Department, which favored multilateralism, and the War Department that was more, if not completely, inclined toward a bilateral relationship with Brazil. As a result, the messages the Brazilians received from Americans were often confusing.

 The Brazilians wanted a relationship of equals that enhanced rather than diminished their nationalism. After the war the United States did not provide the arms the Brazilians expected, and, more worrisome from the perspective of Rio de Janeiro, it sought a rapprochement with Argentina. Oil was a central issue that was viewed differently in the two countries. The United States’ position was that Brazil should allow American companies to search for, develop, and basically to own the resulting oil. Free trade and free investment were the American mantras of the era. The Brazilian military was divided as to the best way to develop the crucial resource.

 Those officers who opposed American involvement in petroleum tended to blame the United States for the Korean crisis and, hence, opposed any suggestion that Brazil should send troops. The elections of October 3, 1950, returned former dictator Getúlio Vargas to the presidency. He wanted positive relations with Washington, but could not agree to send troops to Korea. The Brazilians wanted assistance signed and delivered before they made a decision about sending troops.

 In the United States, the McCarthy anti-communist campaign was on, and in Brazil suspicion of American “imperialism” infected politics and discussions of foreign affairs. Calm and reason were often absent. Remarkably, it was in this tense climate that the two governments successfully negotiated a military accord along the lines of their 1942 agreement. Its purpose was to keep the military alliance alive by promising the supply of arms and training, but it muddied that intent by committing Brazil to export monazite and radio-active sands to the United States for its atomic program. In the midst of an emotional political crisis in 1954, Vargas committed suicide. Vargas to Geisel years brought shifts that ultimately led to unilateral renouncement of the alliance. Even so the two militaries sought to maintain ties where possible.

The chapter follows the relationship down to 2017.

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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank D. McCann
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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