Kathy Swart is a U.S. Professor, Librarian and expert on the information landscape of Latin America. Following the Guardian‘s publication of this article regarding planned commemorations of Brazil’s US-backed 1964 Military Coup, she was compelled to lodge an official complaint with the newspaper. It has yet to respond.
“For years I have enjoyed the Guardian’s articles on many topics. But this article is representative of the disturbing trend I’ve noticed for several years: a whitewashing of U.S. involvement in Brazil’s 1964 coup and dictatorship. As someone who has read widely on Brazil, it is offensive to read this piece because of this glaring omission. Particularly disappointing is the “Quick Guide” to the dictatorship that fails to even mention this extensively documented history. Mr. Phillips must be aware that the U.S. role included spending millions trying to oust Goulart, military assistance, CIA infiltration, and even torture training. The U.S. itself admitted its role 40 years ago—and yet reading the Guardian, one would think this history never occurred.
It’s curious that Mr. Phillips took the trouble to cite James Green but not to refer to any of the facts of U.S. involvement detailed in his book, We Cannot Remain Silent: Opposition to Brazil’s Military Dictatorship in the United States. In the article in question, Green points out that the military’s rationale for throwing the coup — “anti-communism” — was a pretext. Who do you think encouraged the military to use anti-communism as a pretext? Green and others have documented how the U.S. leveraged McCarthyite sentiment to spin its support of Right-wing dictators as about “quelling communism.” The communist threat to Brazil was an invention of propagandists in Washington and Brazil’s military (a separate well-referenced source describes how the CIA paid peasants to call themselves communists and set fire to landholder’s buildings to create the illusion of a communist threat). Green’s book illustrates how it was actually U.S. financial interests that drove the coup. By not mentioning U.S. involvement, you are simply perpetuating a false narrative from the Cold War.
But U.S. meddling did not end with throwing coups. Journalists from other media have described its intervention in Brazil’s more recent affairs, such as NSA spying on Petrobras, the 2016 coup against Rousseff, and the conviction of Lula without evidence. Again, the Guardian remains silent on these stories. For example, last week you published 3 separate pieces on Bolsonaro’s trip to the U.S. but failed to mention an off-agenda visit to the CIA with his justice minister. This was a major story in Brazil; even Brazilians know the CIA had much to do with its coup. And yet you fail to mention this historic visit? You are writing history with revisionism by omission. Ignorance is not a likely explanation, so why are you whitewashing the U.S. involvement? Is it because the Guardian is under the editorial influence of US and UK foreign policy? If not, what is your explanation for these omissions?”
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