1970s in Brazil
During the 1970s in Brazil, Silva reached their pinnacle. The valorization of the country's territorial attributes was accompanied by an increase in its defensive capacity. The need for a more effective occupation of the Amazon Rainforest was prioritized. The construction of the Transamazon Roadway (1970) began as part of the National Integration Plan (PIN). In this spirit, Brazil’s territorial sea was extended to 200 miles (370 km) off-shore.
French General Paul Aussaresses, a veteran of the Algerian War, came to Brazil in 1973. General Aussaresses used "counter-revolutionary warfare" methods during the Battle of Algiers, including the systemic use of torture, death squads and death flights. He trained U.S. officers and gave taught military courses for Brazil's military intelligence. He later acknowledged maintaining close links with the military.
Considered one of the "emerging powers," together with Mexico, Nigeria and India, the Brazilian government tried to dilute its identity as a Third World country. The expansion of Brazil's international agenda coincided with the administrative reform of the Ministry of External Relations. Its move to Brasília in 1971 was followed by internal modernization. New departments were created, responding to the diversification of the international agenda and the increasing importance of economic diplomacy. Examples include the creation of a trade promotion system (1973) and the Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation (1971) to develop studies and research foreign policy.
Foreign policy during the Gibson Barboza mandate (1969–74) united three basic positions. The first one, ideological, defended the presence of military governments in Latin America. To achieve that, the OAS fought terrorism in the region. The second one criticized the distension process between the two superpowers, condemning the effects of American and Soviet power politics. The third requested support for development, considering that Brazil, with all its economic potential, deserved greater responsibility within the international system.
New demands and intentions appeared, related to the idea that the nation was strengthening its bargaining power in the world system. At international forums, its main demand became "collective economic security". The endeavor to lead Third World countries made Brazil value multilateral diplomacy. Efforts in this direction can be observed at the UN Conference on Environment (1972), the GATT meeting in Tokyo (1973) and the Law of the Sea Conference (1974).
This new Brazilian stance served as a base for the revival of its relationship with the United States. Differentiation from other Latin American countries was sought, to mean special treatment from the United States. Nevertheless, not only was this expectation not fulfilled but military assistance and the MEC-USAID educational cooperation agreement were interrupted.
Washington held itself aloof at the time of President Médici's visit to the United States in 1971. In response, especially in the military and diplomatic spheres, nationalist ideas were kindled and raised questions about the alignment policy with the United States. The presence of João Augusto de Araújo Castro, as ambassador to Washington in this period, contributed to the re-definition of relations with the American government. The strategic move was to try to expand the negotiation agenda by paying special attention to the diversification of trade relations, the beginning of nuclear cooperation, and the inclusion of new international policy themes.
In 1971 the military dictatorship helped rig Uruguayan elections, which Frente Amplio, a left-wing politician, lost. The government participated in Operation Condor, which involved various Latin American security services (including Pinochet's DINA and the Argentine SIDE) in the assassination of political opponents.
During this period, Brazil began to devote more attention to less-developed countries. Technical cooperation programs were initiated in Latin America and in Africa, accompanied in some cases by State company investment projects, in particular in the fields of energy and communication. With this pretext, an inter-ministerial system was created by Itamaraty and the Ministry of Planning, whose function it was to select and coordinate international cooperation projects. To foster these innovations, in 1972 foreign minister Gibson Barboza visited several African countries. However, the prospect of economic interests and the establishment of cooperation programs with these countries were not followed by a revision of the Brazilian position on the colonial issue. Traditional loyalty was still towards Portugal. Attempts were made to consolidate the creation of a Portuguese-Brazilian community.
Geisel administration, distensão, and the 1973 oil shock
It was in this atmosphere that retired General Ernesto Geisel (1974–79) came to the presidency with Médici's approval. There had been intense behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the hard-liners against him and by the more moderate supporters of Castelo Branco for him. Fortunately for Geisel, his brother, Orlando Geisel, was the minister of army, and his close ally, General João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo, was chief of Médici's military staff.
Although not immediately understood by civilians, Ernesto Geisel's accession signaled a move toward a less oppressive rule. Geisel replaced several regional commanders with trusted officers and labeled his political program distensão, meaning a gradual relaxation of authoritarian rule. It would be, in his words, "the maximum of development possible with the minimum of indispensable security."
President Geisel sought to maintain high economic growth rates, even while seeking to deal with the effects of the oil shocks. He kept up massive investments in infrastructure — highways, telecommunications, hydroelectric dams, mineral extraction, factories, and atomic energy. Fending off nationalist objections, he opened Brazil to oil prospecting by foreign firms for the first time since the early 1950s.
Brazil suffered drastic reductions in its terms of trade as a result of the 1973 world oil shock. In the early 1970s, the performance of the export sector was undermined by an overvalued currency. With the trade balance under pressure, the oil shock led to a sharply higher import bill. Thus, the Geisel government borrowed billions of dollars to see Brazil through the oil crisis. This strategy was effective in promoting growth, but it also raised Brazil's import requirements markedly, increasing the already large current-account deficit. The current account was financed by running up the foreign debt. The expectation was that the combined effects of import substitution industrialization and export expansion eventually would bring about growing trade surpluses, allowing the service and repayment of the foreign debt.
Brazil shifted its foreign policy to meet its economic needs. "Responsible pragmatism" replaced strict alignment with the United States and a worldview based on ideological frontiers and blocs of nations. Because Brazil was 80% dependent on imported oil, Geisel shifted the country from an acritical support of Israel to a more neutral stance on Middle Eastern affairs. His government also recognized the People's Republic of China and the new governments of Angola and Mozambique. The government moved closer to Latin America, Europe, and Japan. The 1975 agreement with West Germany to build nuclear reactors produced confrontation with the Carter administration, which also scolded the Geisel government for abusing human rights. Frustrated with what he saw as the highhandedness and lack of understanding of the Carter administration, Geisel renounced the military alliance with the United States in April 1977.
In 1977 and 1978 the succession issue caused further political confrontations with the hard-liners. Noting that Brazil was only a "relative democracy," Geisel attempted in April 1977 to restrain the growing strength of the opposition parties by creating an electoral college that would approve his selected replacement. In October he dismissed the far-right minister of the army, General Sylvio Cueto Coelho da Frota. In 1978 Geisel maneuvered through the first labor strikes since 1964 and through the repeated electoral victories of the opposition Brazilian Democratic Movement (Movimento Democrático Brasileiro — MDB). He allowed exiled citizens to return, restored habeas corpus, repealed the extraordinary powers decreed by the Fifth Institutional Act, and imposed General João Figueiredo (1979–85) as his successor in March 1979.
- Marie-Monique Robin in Escadrons de la mort - l'école française (See here, starting at 24 min)
- Nixon: "Brazil helped rig the Uruguayan elections," 1971, National Security Archive