Yesterday, the New York Times’ published a great story on human rights abuses during the 1960s-1970s by Brazil’s military junta The Time’s Brazil Bureau chief, Simon Romero, authored the feature, which can be found here: (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/world/americas/president-rousseffs-decades-old-torture-detailed.html?pagewanted=all). Omitted from this piece, however, is the extensive role Havana played in subverting the Brazilian nation, in part, serving as a catalyst for the military dictatorship. While not excusing military abuses by any means, context provides clarity and as such, Cuba’s hidden hand must also be examined. My modest contribution to shedding light on these ties follows.
DGI officer Jorge Timossi Corbani, a founding member of Cuba’s Prensa Latina news agency, served in Brazil from 1959-1960. In late 1961, Havana assigned Ramiro Rodriguez Gomez as 1st Secretary and chief of the DGI Centro in Rio de Janeiro, which was then Brazil’s capital. Fellow DGI officer and newly assigned Cultural Attaché, Miguel Brugueras del Valle joined Rodriguez shortly thereafter. A third Intelligence Officer in the 12-member diplomatic staff was Guillermo Rivas Porta.
From 1961-1963, Cuban Intelligence provided financial aid to Brazilian revolutionaries who sought to create guerilla training camps in the state of Goias. Additionally, peasant leader Francisco Juliao and Governor Leonel Brizola received DGI financial support. In April 1963, Raul Roa Kouri became Havana’s Ambassador to Brazil. Following his appointment, he became the conduit for Cuban funds and direction to its Brazilian allies. Ambassador Roa, son of Cuba’s Foreign Minister, assessed Governor Brizola as the Brazilian revolutionary with the greatest potential for success. Two DGI couriers were enroute to Brazil with money for Brizola when President Joao Goulart was overthrown on March 31, 1964. In total, the DGI had made $10 million available to Govenor Brizola.
Havana withdrew most of its embassy staff shortly after the military revolt. Rodriguez remained the Centro Chief until Brazil severed ties with Cuba on May 13, 1964. Only two Cuban officials served in Brazil when relations were severed. Cuba’s continued support for Brazilian leftists was largely responsible for Brazil ending diplomatic ties. That year, spymaster Manuel Pineiro assigned Ulises Estrada to oversee and participate in guerilla warfare training for a group of former Brazilian soldiers who fled to Cuba following a failed coup attempt. Throughout the remainder of the 1960s, Cuban support to Brazilian revolutionaries appears centered around training guerrillas and serving as the preferred safe haven for Brazil’s terrorists and revolutionaries. During this decade, Cuba trained at least 150 Brazilians (and perhaps over 200) in guerrilla warfare. During the latter half of the 1960s, the main faction trained was the National Liberating Action (ALN). ALN founder Carlos Marighella had extensive ties with Havana and its Latin American Solidarity Organization (LASO). Killed by police in 1969, Marighella achieved immortality when LASO’s flagship publication, Tricontinental, published his book, the Mini-Manual of the Urban Guerrilla in 1970. Subsequently, Cuba translated Marighella’s book into several languages and distributed it worldwide.
By late 1971, the Brazilian regime’s aggressive effort to eliminate the guerrillas, coupled with their own internal dissention, led to the disorganization and demoralization of the revolutionaries. Many guerrillas and their supporters were killed or captured, their supplies destroyed, and their documents seized and exploited. America Department officer Manuel Basabe was allegedly arrested in Brazil in the early 1970s for weapons smuggling. By the mid-1970s, Brazilian police and military had broken up the Cuba-encouraged guerrilla groups.
America Department (DA): The name used by the intelligence wing of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party from 1974 to the late 1980s or early 1990s. The DA was heavily involved in supporting revolutionaries and terrorists, but has since become more focused on political intelligence operations. This service is now called the America Area of the International Department of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC/ID/AA).
Directorate General of Intelligence (DGI): The name previously used by the foreign intelligence wing of the Ministry of the Interior. Following a 1989 “scandal” and reorganization, this service was reorganized and given a new name –the Directorate of Intelligence (DI).