Ambassador to Brazil
Ambassador to Brazil
Gordon arrives in Brazil in late 1961 under inauspicious circumstances for what will be his most controversial stint in public service. The Latin American presidents have voiced support for the Alliance for Progress, but many do so in tepid terms and with expectations that they will receive large amounts of new economic aid under the Alliance. Many, further, are hostile or indifferent to the US desire to isolate Castro and Cuba. Brazil’s president suddenly resigns in an ill-conceived scheme to get the Brazilian military to return him to power with enhanced executive powers but fails in this attempt. His move produces a constitutional crisis when the military attempt to block the accession to power of Vice President “Jango” Goulart, whom they regard as a dangerous radical. Goulart and his brother-in-law, a major politician from the south of Brazil, outmaneuver the generals and gain power, but under a compromise agreement that changes the nature of the system from a presidential structure to a parliamentary one that temporarily limits Goulart’s power. Gordon realizes at once that many Alliance goals, such as land reform, will be impossible to achieve in the short term. Dire economic conditions force him into the position of trying to arrange short-term US assistance for economic stabilization. After the several tumultuous years of the Goulart presidency, and alternating moods of hope and despair for Gordon as US ambassador, the Brazilian military stages a coup that removes Goulart from power at the end of March 1964. Gordon initially welcomes the stability brought by the nearly bloodless coup but gradually grows disillusioned with the military government. The military rulers become more repressive as the “moderate” factions lose out to more hardline military leaders who stage a coup within the coup.
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