Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

The Alliance for Progress: Economic Warfare in Brazil (1962-1964)

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

The Alliance for Progress: Economic Warfare in Brazil (1962-1964)

Article excerpt


The Alliance for Progress was the crown jewel of President John F. Kennedy's Latin American policy. Press releases and speeches trumpeted that the Alliance would promote economic development and democratic government. But fear of communism conquered programs for democracy. The conviction that Americans knew better than Brazilians what was best for Brazil persuaded American policy makers to collaborate with civilian and military conspirators to destroy the democratic, constitutional government of President Joao "Jango" Goulart. A program designed to further development and democracy was used as an economic warfare tool in the development of a coup climate that led to a twenty-year military dictatorship.


John Kennedy set up a working group to develop what became known as the Alliance for Progress before he was inaugurated. Adolf A. Berle, Ambassador to Brazil under President Getulio Vargas and an old New Dealer converted to Cold War warrior, was head of the Latin American Task Force. Lincoln Gordon wrote the economic section of the report. Appointed Ambassador to Brazil while Janio Quadros was still in office, Gordon arrived in Brazil in October 1961 after Quadros had resigned and Joao Goulart became president. His overseas postings with the Marshall Plan were in Paris and London. He did not speak Portuguese or Spanish.

The drafting officer of the final document was Richard Goodwin. He did not speak Portuguese or Spanish and had never been in Latin America before March 1961. Goodwin became the White House expert on Latin America. During a trip to Brazil in April 1961 in preparation for an Alliance for Progress conference he described the air of Rio de Janeiro as an aphrodisiac, "its warm, odored moisture at once calming the mind and arousing the flesh with promise of sexual pleasure." In Rio he had meetings with Latin American economists, drank with journalists until after midnight "and enjoyed, in the time remaining, the girls of Ipanema." (1)

Like the Truman Doctrine, containment policy and the Marshall Plan, the Alliance for Progress was a program to combat the expansion of international communism. The report sent to the president in early 1961 declared that the problem was to prevent capture of the "inevitable and necessary Latin American transformation" by "Communist power politics." The objective of the Communists was "to convert the Latin American social revolution into a Marxist attack on the United States." The analysis warned that the communist threat "is far more dangerous than the Nazi-Fascist threat of the Franklin Roosevelt period and demands an even bolder and more imaginative response." (2)

Kennedy announced the Alliance for Progress in a 13 March 1961 speech to the Latin American Diplomatic Corps. He said "our aspiration for economic progress can best be achieved by free men working within a framework of democratic institutions" and asserted that "political freedom must accompany material progress ... we call for social change by free men." (3) The Charter of the Alliance signed at Punta del Este, Uruguay in August 1961 declared "The Alliance is established on the basic principle that free men working through the institution of representative democracy can best satisfy man's aspirations." (4)

JFK had a Janus-faced policy for the Western Hemisphere. A grandiose plan to promote economic development and democracy was announced with great enthusiasm. Hidden from public view was the counterinsurgency program designed to prevent at all costs the expansion of communist influence in Latin America. For example, Kennedy established AID's (Agency for International Development) Office of Public Safety (OPS) in 1962. The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) worked through OPS and in six years it was a global anticommunist operation with an annual budget of $35 million and four hundred advisors assigned abroad. …

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