It was the longest, darkest and most researched chapter in Brazilian history.
It lasted 21 years and ended formally two decades agoyesterdaybut
the following generationstodaystill can't quite understand it
Questions galore remain
unanswered and the most important ones have never even been formulated. Coup?
Countercoup? Military movement or civil-cum-military movement? Did the résistance
aim at restoring democracy or simply wearing down the military regime?
The best formulator of
questions is time. The 40th anniversary of the overthrow of President João
Goulart and the installation of an implacable military dictatorship would
likely be a good opportunity to raise questions and produce more didactic
and less passional reports. Unfortunately, all the radicalisms that generated
the fact were carried on to evaluations four decades later.
The press, first accomplice
and later victim, seems to be restrainedit fills ill at ease to have
its image mirrored in its own pages. It prefers to generalize, forgetting
1962 and 1963, confusing 1964 with 1968, chocking with its own role in the
myth of the "Brazilian miracle", passing through the 1974-78 period
as if everything had been duly clarified and preserving some of the villains
who proved very useful (Delfim Netto, Paulo Maluf and the big guys who are
still well lodged in power, such as Sarney and ACM).
The press is content with
melodramatic titles such as "The Lead Years". It remembers the romanticism
of songs and walks forward dreaming that in 2014, 2024 or, who knows, in 2064,
all the ii will get their dots.
Neither "Horas Estelares"
nor "Momentos Supremos" (Stellar Hours" and "Supreme Moments")
exist isolated and disconnected from its predecessors. They don't happen by
work of the Divine Providence, either. Between the re-democratization of 1945
and the coup of 1964, several military interventions took place (the ultimatum
to Getúlio in 1954, which led to his suicide); the counterblow of 1955,
favoring JK; the embargo to Jango's swearing-in ceremony in 1961). Stunning,
surgical or timid, none of these happened in such a large scale or as penetrating
and deep as the military uprising initiated in Minas Gerais to overthrow João
A reaction this huge requires
some very serious causing action. The succession of bloodless mutinies flowed
into the largest exhibition of cruelty in our history and to this day we still
don't know the mechanics of this metamorphosis.
Shots and Intimidation
The full body portrait,
front and back, of that fateful March 31st, 1964, has still not
been featured in the press, although the series of stories in Folha de
S. Paulo, with their countdown style, tries to reconstruct the progression
of events. Some isolated texts of witness-journalists (Carlos Heitor Cony,
at Folha, Márcio Moreira Alves, in Globo) or protagonist-feature
writers (José Sarney, Folha) have offered some timely elements.
On the other hand, the
bursts of paranoia published in the AOL portal - http://noticias.aol.com.br/brasil/fornecedores/aol/2004/03/26/0019.adp
and in Carta Capital ("A imprensa golpista", nº 284,
31/3/04) show how distant some journalistic circles are from their commitments
to the cause of providing clarification to the public.
before, the during and the after the coupremain
diffuse and incomplete. All the infographics published in the last few days
with the chronology of what really happened don't really inform anything.
The reports do not list
antecedents and the huge trauma, therefore, is diluted into a kind of ephemerid-coverage
that sounds a bit sly.
Except for some small
focal points of light, the press gives the impression of wanting to get its
obligation over with by providing an uncomfortable agenda, with no humility
for self-analysis and no courage to raise "politically incorrect"
If we take the printed
media to be the kind of media that provides citizens with the informative
density necessary to form opinions, it is easy to foresee that the providers
of the subsidies necessary for a serene understanding and a tragic vision
of what the military dictatorship really was will be the new books or reprints
of old worksand not the newspapers and magazines of the moment.
Once more, Brazilian society
shows its strong compulsion to escape pain. It's more comfortable to throw
slurs, detach yourself from the subject and forget that, in spite of all formal
differences, 1964 and 2004 are both part of the same process.
The party most visibly
absent from the re-visitation of 1964 provided by the press is the press itself.
Modesty, in this case, is incriminating. Since 1945, all abrupt cuts in the
political process have always counted on the press as a pivot.
The first fall of Getúlio
Vargas was hurried by the interview José Américo gave to then
journalist Carlos Lacerda, in Correio da Manhã. That interview
marked the end of censorship and the end of the Estado Novo.
The second fall of Getúlio
was first assembled by the same Lacerda in his Tribuna da Imprensa,
allied with the media barons, when he denounced the financing of Última
Hora by Bank of Brazil.
Jânio Quadros resigned
one day after a long televised rally by the same Lacerda. And when the movement
to prove that João Goulart was legal and should take office started
to grow, the three military ministers decided to control the informative process.
The Diário de Notícias (Rio) of August 30th,
1961, featured great white stains in its first page. It was the first act
of military censorship of modern times.
The second attempt to
control the press, this time by a portion of the troops faithful to Jango,
happened on March 31st, 1964, when Contel (the National Telecommunications
Council) ordered all radio broadcasters to abstain from carrying "alarmist"
news. Later in the afternoon, a platoon of Marines (the shock troops of admiral
Aragão in defense of Jango), in combat uniform, stopped at the door
of the old head offices of Jornal do Brasil (Avenida Rio Branco, 110),
fired some shots into the air, invaded the building and stood right in the
middle in the newsroom. They didn't know what they wanted, or maybe they simply
wanted to intimidate everyone. Then they left (Os idos de março
e a queda em abril ) (The Ides of March and April fall), page 341).
The signal for the troops
to leave the barracks was given by Correio da Manhã with a succession
of first page editorials on March 30th and 31st, 1964
("Basta" and "Fora!") ("Enough" and "Out!").
The same newspaper that shouted angrily in 1961 against the attempts to stop
Goulart from taking office was now at the helm of his overthrow.
The press left its mediating
role aside and installed itself as a protagonist. In a mere 15 days, from
herald of what we then called "revolution", the Correio da Manhã
converted itself into its sole opponent (Última Hora, attacked
by a mob of hired assassins, was forced to shut up). The rest of the great
newspapers of Rio and São Paulo who participated in the conspiracy
gave full support to the new government.
The economic blockage
imposed on Correio da Manhã did not start immediately. It took
time. Ten years later (1974), after having co-opted for groups of "developmentists"
military men and "development-opportunists" entrepreneurs, the huge
paper closed its doors.
The punishing imposed
on journalist Hélio Fernandes, director of Tribuna da Imprensa,
occurred during the period of the ditadura envergonhada (embarrassed
dictatorship), which converted to ditadura escancarada (flung-open
dictatorship), long before the AI-5 (Institutional Act nr. 5) (according to
the expressions used by Elio Gaspari).
Everything was reported
in the news, nothing was held back, but the garrote was slowly tightening.
There were some focal points of resistance from both journalists (many) and
from business owners (rare); we should not minimize them, because totalitarianism
feeds on generalizations and simplifications.
On the other hand, we
can't forget that the reaction to censorship in 1968-69 was neutralized by
the fact that the big press concurred widely to self-censorship, sustained
in great part by the power of Finance Minister Antonio Delfim Netto over journalistic
The alternative press,
yes, was a veritable trench. With courage and intelligence, it managed to
create a conscience of opposition. It was more effective than armed fighting.
It formed teams and created consciences. Instead of burial grounds, it left
us a handsome inheritance. Unfortunately, it too was forgotten.
learned to conspire in 1964 and enjoyed it. In 1973, Jornal do Brasil conspired
with then general-president Emílio Garrastazu Médici for a continuistic
solution and the only reason it was not punished by the Geisel-Golbery pair
(who won the game) was because it decided to adhere body and soul to their
scheme. The "distensão lenta, gradual e segura" ("slow,
gradual and safe distension") itself only existed as a journalistic metaphorreality
was much different.
In a general way, we could
say that, from 1808 through 1937, journalists engaged in causes; Getúlio
Vargas was the first one to engage them in his interests; and, from 1964 onwards,
the press-government partnership became concrete and part of the political
These notes do not intend
to review what happened in the 7,665 days that followed March 31st,
1964. The idea here is merely to remember, suggest references, locate omissions,
identify gray areas and black holes. History is not a tribunal and its sentences
are always provisory, but the continuation of the journalistic process is
part of the records. In the next few days, we will know if this anniversary
has added any new pages.
Alberto Dines, the author, is a journalist, founder and researcher at LABJORLaboratório
de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Laboratory for Advanced Studies
in Journalism) at UNICAMP (University of Campinas) and editor of the Observatório
da Imprensa. He also writes a column on cultural issues for the Rio
daily Jornal do Brasil. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was
originally published in Observatório da Imprensa www.observatoriodaimprensa.com.br
Translated by Tereza
Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based
in Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association.