The press as a weapon of the coup in 1964



Media interference was crucial to the coup d'état - which prevented the continuation of an emerging process of democratization of the country's social, political, economic and cultural life


The 60th anniversary of the 1964 coup d'état consolidated the omission of the vast majority of the business press regarding their active participation in the conspiracy that led to the deposition of President João Goulart. The coverage of the event, much of it superficial and diversionary, exposed the lack of self-criticism regarding its complicity with the violence committed against democracy and during the dark 21 years of military dictatorship. The recurring purpose was to try to keep the role of broadcasting bodies in the right-wing and extreme-right offensive, riddled with lies and misrepresentations, that destabilized the government, overthrew the president, blocked ongoing social advances and targeted the left.

In this article, I intend to revive how the media, especially the written press, became one of the priority trenches in the fight against Jango and progressive forces. The military-political-business-media plot followed well-defined strategic planning, inspired by the dictates of the Cold War and anti-communism. The architects of the coup used manipulation and persuasion tactics, linked to adverse ideological propaganda, counting on the support of media groups.

The goal was to weaken the government in the eyes of public opinion, particularly among the middle class and more conservative social segments, frightening them with mystifications surrounding the “syndicalist Republic” and “communization”, with the aim of convincing them to accept the breakdown of the constitutional order through authoritarian and undemocratic means.


With very few exceptions, journalistic companies acted as transmission belts for the conservative bloc – a web that interconnected the national business community, multinational corporations, landowners, financial market speculators, right-wing and extreme-right parties and parliamentary groups and the reactionary portion. high-ranking officers of the armed forces. The threads of this web strengthened around common intentions: to undermine the bases of support for Jango, to halt the rise of the subaltern classes and, in particular, to halt social and political mobilizations in favor of basic reforms (agrarian, urban, university, administrative, tax, fiscal, banking, political, electoral and others). Reforms that, if implemented, would constitute the foundations of a conception of inclusive, participatory, distributive and more egalitarian national development.

To unveil the convergence of the so-called big press with other spheres of power, my starting point is the contribution of the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, a militant journalist in socialist periodicals in the 1910s and 1920s and founder of Unity, newspaper of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), on February 12, 1924. Gramsci qualifies the press as “the most dynamic part” of the ideological superstructure, fixing it as “the material organization aimed at maintaining, defending and developing the 'front “theoretical or ideological” – that is, an ideological-cultural arm of the hegemonic bloc in society.1

The press projects itself, as a rule, as a support for political, economic, business and financial positions, disseminating meanings and values ​​that serve to consolidate social consensus. Thus conceived, it acts as a fraction of a political party in representing specific interests, expressing opinions in editorials, choosing the themes it deems to be a priority and ideologically controlling news approaches.2 When facing real enemies, it can launch campaigns and rhetorical maneuvers, with the purpose of weakening and, ultimately, nullifying alternatives that interfere with the foundations established by the hegemonic classes.

Exactly as it happened in Brazil until the coup broke out.

In the period 1960–1964, there was “a very clear partisan division in the Brazilian press”, with newspapers aligned with political and economic interests, which linked them to parties, groups and corporations”, as noted by journalist Janio de Freitas, who was a writer -head of Newspapers in Brazil (May 1959 to April 1961) and the Correio da Manhã (March to November 1963): “In Rio, we had the Correio da Manhã, identified with the PSD, the party of colonels from the interior, and with a less intolerant and radicalized sector of the upper bourgeoisie. O Carioca diary He also identified with the PSD, and this went back much further, in the 1950s, when its relevance grew. O Diário de Notícias it was the newspaper of the military and the right, which had emerged with a relatively more democratic perspective, but which soon migrated to the right. The Globe, conservative and Udenist as well, was an important evening writer, but he didn't have half the influence he would have later. A Press Tribune, lacerdista. In São Paulo, it stood out The State of S. Paul, very identified with the hard right-wing line of the UDN”.

Janio de Freitas highlights that the number of newspapers was incomparably greater than today. In Rio alone, there were 17 daily newspapers in circulation, “which meant, at least theoretically, more options for readers and a relatively larger job market for journalists – even though a conservative tendency prevailed in most of them”.3

This partisanship was reflected in the increasingly organic approach of the main media outlets to the coup march that ultimately ousted João Goulart.


The economic-financial link behind the support of many newspapers in the opposition to Goulart was fueled by millions of dollars from the largest advertising agencies (several of them with headquarters in the United States), in the form of advertisements and sponsorships from national and foreign companies contrary to the inclinations federal government reformers; and by credits granted by banks and private finance companies.

Not to mention the fundraising from business and private entities by the Institute for Research and Social Studies (IPES). Created during the Jânio Quadros government, IPES was the ideological arm that brought together business, political and military elites, rural oligarchies and multinationals around a power project that implied, according to René Armand Dreifuss, “the adoption of a associated and strongly industrializing capitalist model, with an economy centered above all on a high degree of ownership concentration in industry and strongly integrated into the banking system”. The execution of such a project required the political exclusion of the popular classes – exactly those who could benefit from the social measures of the national-reformist government. Deposing Jango would mean not only the conquest of the State to carry out the reorganization of Brazilian capitalism but also the liquidation of the mass movement that was expanding in the country.4

Organizations such as IPES operated as bridges for political-ideological action within the United States government's strategy of prioritizing security in its areas of influence, through combating the “internal enemy” – the left associated with communism – in Latin American countries. . The combination of counterinsurgency doctrine with cultural, media and propaganda warfare aimed to destabilize popular and progressive governments. Not to mention the Brazilian Institute of Democratic Action (IBAD), founded in May 1959 by Ivan Hasslocher at the service of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). IBAD spent, according to calculations by the then American ambassador to Brazil, Lincoln Gordon, something close to 5 million dollars to try to elect right-wing candidates in the 1962 election. This sum came from contributions from both Brazilian businessmen and foreign companies operating in Brazil . IBAD allocated part of the resources raised from these multinationals to IPES.5

In turn, financed by the business community and by funds from United States government agencies, such as the CIA, the newsreels, newsletters, pamphlets and booklets produced by IPES formed a source of anti-communist indoctrination. They exploited the economic crisis and the inflationary spiral, accusing Jango – who did not have a cohesive support base – of giving in to pressure from trade unionism and the left. They insisted that the enemy was becoming increasingly threatening in the “march towards communism”, supposedly infiltrating the General Command of Workers (CGT), the National Union of Students (UNE) and other civil society entities .

IPES created the Publications/Editorial Group (GPE) to produce doctrinal articles, materials and translations of foreign texts for associated or receptive media outlets. This group included journalists, writers and advertisers who were in tune with the coup ideology. In total, IPES published almost 300 thousand copies of books and around 2,5 million leaflets. It attracted journalists and opinion makers and established solid connections with communications entrepreneurs, which favored the publication of editorials, articles and reports that discredited the Goulart government and instilled feelings of hopelessness, fear and repudiation.6

Last Minute by Samuel Wainer was the only newspaper identified with the Goulart government, as it had been with that of Getúlio Vargas at the beginning of the 1950s. In addition to the Rio and São Paulo editions, a national edition was circulated printed in Rio and complemented with local news in Porto Alegre , Belo Horizonte, Recife, Curitiba, Campinas, Santos, Bauru, ABC and Niterói. He supported basic reforms, with daily coverage of social demands.

The other publications in the national-popular field had a more limited scope and were linked to left-wing parties, organizations and movements – almost always divided among themselves and without demonstrating the necessary clairvoyance in analyzing the real correlation of forces in society. Among them were New directions, organ of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), which circulated from 1959 to 1964 and reached a circulation of 60 thousand copies; The Working Class, launched by the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) in 1962; Brazil Urgent, edited by the Catholic left, from 1963 to 1964; The league, spokesperson for Francisco Julião's Peasant Leagues, between 1962 and 1964; Binomial, from Belo Horizonte, one of the precursors of alternative journalism; The Weekly, nationalist; It is Pamphlet, a Brizolista weekly that appeared in February 1964, with a circulation of 70 thousand copies, and had only seven editions, the last on March 30, 1964.


As ideological cleavages and the coup plot became more acute, the climate in the newsrooms began to reflect the positions in dispute. According to journalist Ana Arruda Callado, the journalistic environment was very divided in the phase leading up to the coup: “The right-wing campaign against the João Goulart government found an echo among reporters and journalists, in general, although, on the other side, several of us support basic reforms and social advances. There were discussions about the political framework, which became increasingly restricted to left-wing or right-wing groups. Exchanges between us, with different positions, almost no longer exist. There was a certain ideological rigidity.”7

The situation of tension led Janio de Freitas to resign from his position as editor-in-chief of the Newspapers in Brazil and, later, from Correio da Manhã, for identical reasons: it did not accept political interference in its editorial line, which valued truthful information and the primary interest of readers, and it reacted to attempts to introduce mechanisms of prior censorship in the news.

Articles and editorials associated the Goulart government with communism, the discredit of moral, family and Christian values, and the risks to private property.

(i) The director of the newspaper O State St. Paul, journalist Júlio Mesquita Filho, in a speech at the Inter-American Press Society (SIP), demanded firm action from the United States against “the serious situation in Brazil, which is on the brink of communism” (Last Minute Northeast, 21/11/1963). According to Mesquita, “the United States government must warn the Soviet Union that it will not allow a new communist regime in the Americas, even if that means using the atomic bomb.”

(ii) The owner of Diários Associados, Assis Chateaubriand, warned about the “communization” of the country (Last Minute Northeast, 13/11/1963): “Sudene and its left-wing activists. Luiz Carlos Prestes and the Communist Party in the streets, Celso Furtado holding hands with Lenin… The assault on Capuava in broad daylight by the communists is a page of shame and mourning for the armed forces.”

(iii) Editorial of the Newspapers in Brazil (13/11/1963) criticized the two policies that, in his opinion, coexisted in the Goulart government: “One legal, without efficiency and democratic administrative results, and another illegal, visibly subversive, mounted in this illegal appendix of the government, called General Command of the workers."

(iv) The editorial “Take a position” in the News Diaryias (12/3/1964) accused Jango of allowing “demagogues of all kinds to use these commitments [with popular demands] to transform them into an instrument of agitation and intensification of the class struggle”.

(V) The Globe published the editorial “In defense of the Constitution, law and order” (23/3/1964), in which he practically justified an institutional rupture: “When the main people responsible for public affairs associate themselves with the most notorious agitators and communists, to preach against the Constitution and against Congress, it is no longer possible for a single Brazilian to be omitted, fight and reaction are required.” And he went further in his crusade against Jango and the left: “The nation is no longer willing to watch, immobile, shifts to the left. The nation is not leftist and cannot, therefore, admit a leftist government.”


At the end of October 1963, the main communication groups in Rio de Janeiro decided to oppose federal deputy Leonel Brizola's weekly program on Rádio Mayrink Veiga (state broadcaster), in which he emphatically defended basic reforms. It was then that they launched the “Democracy Network” – a chain formed by Globo, Jornal do Brasil and Tupi radio stations. Every day, at 22:30 pm, they broadcast statements opposing the federal government and the left. The objective was to disseminate “the truth about the maneuvers that the enemies of democracy, with open chests or hoods, intend to attack constitutional principles, human freedoms and the Christian dictates of the historical formation of Brazil”. The statement from the three broadcasters, published by The Globe on October 26, 1963, it stated that “the voice of authentic leaders will disseminate messages of faith in the greatness of the country and the strength of the democratic regime”.8

Businessmen Roberto Marinho (Globo), Nascimento Brito (Jornal do Brasil) and João Calmon (Tupi) appeared in person, adopting, with slight nuances, a discursive line with an anti-communist and oppositionist bias.

After saying that the main Brazilian problem was the enlightenment of public opinion, Roberto Marinho highlighted: “Many of our countrymen are being victims of an intentional and highly dangerous deformation, on the part of a minority of demagogues and communists, overt or disguised, but all committed to poisoning our relations with the countries of the Western world, throwing us behind the 'Iron Curtain' and establishing, within the country itself, conditions that would lead it inexorably to communism.”

Nascimento Brito defended “democratic freedoms”, which, if maintained, would ensure the country would overcome difficulties – including “inflation, which devalues ​​money and makes life difficult for the people”. He warned, however, of the actions of “enemies of democracy […], totalitarians who want to oppress the people in the name of a false 'new order'”.

Calmon, referring to the penetrating power of radio, asked: “Why should radio continue, on a political level, to be managed in a chain only by mortal enemies of democracy? […] The time has come to say: enough is enough! Our 'Democracy Network' is here to prevent the liberticidal and subversive monologue from continuing in the skies of Brazil.”9 And further on: “We were losing the propaganda battle, which is the most important episode of the Cold War, but it is still possible to make up for lost time.”

The director of Rádio Tupi was the only one of the three businessmen to explicitly attack basic reforms and the government. He promised to demonstrate that “exploiters of the good faith of the proletariat” were deceiving the people with the constitutional amendment of agrarian reform; and that “Labour’s demagogic wage policy has made sea freight almost prohibitive”.

In the program of October 30, 1963, Roberto Marinho criticized Goulart's economic policy, which, in his view, encouraged workers to fight for better wages, without enlightening them about the inflationary impacts on the cost of living: “The What interests them [the workers] is not the increase in wages, but the stability of the prices of things. […] That would be an honest government policy. But those who are not prepared for the great responsibilities of public life do not know how to manage. They only know how to do demagoguery […] and scare away the foreign capital necessary for our development, scare away the national capital itself, which is looking for other, safer places, where they will not be persecuted as they are being persecuted in Brazil”.

The “Democracy Network” remained on the air until the 1st. April 1964. It ended with democracy.

In the days of hatred and fury that followed João Goulart's deposition, the overwhelming majority of newspapers welcomed the coup d'état. The editorials of Correio da Manhã - "Enough!" and out!" –, in the precise definition of Janio de Freitas, became “the shameful history of coup journalism”. And what about the title of the editorial on the first page of The Globe on 1/4/1964: “Democracy resurfaces!”? Not to mention the collection of euphoric headlines about the destruction of the democratic rule of law. Here are some: “The democratic movement is victorious” (The State of S. Paul, 2/4/1964), “People celebrated the victory of the democratic forces in Guanabara” (Paraná Diary, 2/4/1964), “Fabulous demonstration of repulsion towards communism” (O Dia, 4/4/1964).

There is no doubt about the crucial interference of the media in the preparation and defense of the coup d'état - which, it is worth insisting, prevented the continuity of an emerging process of democratization of the country's social, political, economic and cultural life. The press systematically constructed and disseminated narratives hostile to the Goulart government and the national-reformist bloc, protecting the class domains and privileges of the bourgeoisie and the power system hegemonized by it. He took sides, made it clear which side he was on. “The press was part of the conspiracy, due to its conservatism.”, emphasizes Janio de Freitas. ”She was and is anti-reform. Any change that affects the so-called socioeconomic structure of Brazil, the press will be against. It was and is the first weapon of conservatism and coupism.”

*Denis de Moraes, journalist and writer, he is a retired professor at the Institute of Art and Social Communication at the Fluminense Federal University. Author, among other books, of The left and the blow of 1964 (Brazilian Civilization) []


[1] Antonio Gramsci. prison notebooks. Org. by Carlos Nelson Coutinho, Marco Aurélio Nogueira and Luiz Sérgio Henriques. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 2000. p. 78. v. 2. (Intellectuals. The educational principle. Journalism).

[2] Antonio Gramsci. prison notebooks. Org. by Carlos Nelson Coutinho, Marco Aurélio Nogueira and Luiz Sérgio Henriques. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 2002. p. 349-359. v. 3. (Machiavelli. Notes on the State and politics).

[3] Statement by Janio de Freitas to the author, August 29, 2023.

[4] René Armand Dreifuss 1964: Conquest of the State. Political action, power and class coup. Petrópolis: Vozes, 1981. p. 125.

[5] Ditto.

[6] Ibid., p. 194.

[7] Statement by Ana Arruda Callado to the author, August 24, 2023.

[8] Statement by Janio de Freitas to the author, August 29, 2023.

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