Carlos Marighella in 1964

Carlos Marighella/ Photo: publicity


The decisive moments of the Brazilian revolutionary in the days of the coup that installed the dictatorship in Brazil

“I’m getting ready for the tough times.” That was how Carlos Marighella received a friend in his room and living room at Catete, in 1964, in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Doing physical exercises at home. “Hard times always come.” It was the interlocutor's reply.[1]

Carlos Marighella ran from one side to the other, bent down, did push-ups, stood up, did jumping jacks, then jumped rope, armed himself and did exercises by suspending and lowering the lower part of his body supported by his forearms, which in turn were propped up on a chair. He would lie down on the floor and pull his legs towards his torso, while making a symmetrical gesture with the upper part of his body, head, neck, chest and arms in the opposite direction.

Further ahead, on March 31, Carlos Marighella anticipated the late line of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) “Crush the reactionary coup, defend freedom and depose the coup governors”. Two cruisers were to torpedo the Guanabara Palace, where a coup governor, Carlos Lacerda, from the National Democratic Union (UDN), worked. A brigadier allied with the loyalists would take care of the infantry coming from Minas Gerais.

The Bahian did his best to communicate with the communist military, of which there were many. However, what was called the “security scheme” of President João Goulart – Jango – of the then Brazilian Labor Party (PTB), turned out to be a failure, with defections on the part of allegedly allied military personnel and, even worse, hesitation itself. of Jango who said he did not want “bloodshed”.

Carlos Marighella imagined a war of positions between military garrisons that were inclined towards one or another trench, the so-called legalist, that is, loyal to the João Goulart government, or the coup leader, led by the movement of General Olympio Mourão Filho and his henchmen.

Preaching to comrades throughout the city of Rio de Janeiro and recruiting fighters, Carlos Marighella's order was that, if General Humberto de Alencar Castello Branco – Chief of the Army General Staff – endorsed the coup generals, the counterattack It should have taken place by taking over the Army headquarters in the city of Rio. Carlos Marighella did not have activists under his organic command in the party, but he influenced many of them: “They take the band there, we take the band here”.

The band here held an assembly in the Cascadura neighborhood with Army sergeants. They improvised in the middle of the street, near Suburbana Avenue. The Central Motor Mechanization Park was on this side, that is, it was in favor of the loyalists – the base that Carlos Marighella was trying to enlist for active resistance to the coup. On April 1, 1964, Army soldiers joined their comrades throughout Vila Militar and moved to the Center of Rio, the General Headquarters area. With them came the Group of 90mm Anti-Aircraft Guns.

Around five o'clock in the morning, Carlos Marighella was informed that General Amaury Kruel, commander of the II Army, based in São Paulo, had sided with the coup plotters. Still in the dark, in Rio, militants asked Carlos Marighella where to report for combat, and he directed them to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, in Praça Quinze.

Faced with Jango's hesitation, Marighella demanded from all possible allies. The Army, at least that loyalist portion, awaited orders from the then President of the Republic. There were arms, but they were inexperienced. Worst of all, there was a lack of weapons. Luís Carlos Prestes, a historical figure and national leader of the PCB, didn't help either, as he was one of those responsible for the party's line of alliance with the Brazilian bourgeoisie, which was not at all progressive: “If the reaction raises its head, we will cut it off. immediately". That's what Prestes said. 

At one in the afternoon on that Wednesday, April 1st, Jango left Palácio Laranjeiras and embarked for Brasília. Meanwhile, Marighella did not give up, along with hundreds of protesters in Cinelândia. On top of a crate, she shouted at lightning rallies. A handful of generals and other members left the Clube Militar to leaflet bulletins against the “nefarious government” of Goulart, and the protest participants reacted, pushing the officers back into the club. The club's headquarters were stoned, and fire weapons were retaliated from the windows of the building. 

Amid the crowd, a man provoked Carlos Lacerda with a cheer and rushed through the glass door of the club, protected by the Military Police. The crowd responded with “One, two, three, Lacerda in chess”. Carlos Marighella inflamed the crowd to invade the building, but machine gun fire rang out, bodies fell and blood covered the floor. Marighella threw off a jacket, climbed a tree and spoke. He was preparing to climb a statue, but his companions restrained him as projectiles whizzed overhead.

“You have to believe: at the moment, everything is lost.” Carlos Marighella, tireless until his last day. If “the duty of every revolutionary is to make the revolution”, his duty as a humanist activist was to fight the military dictatorship tooth and nail. Hence the fear that the coup regime had, and the reaction on the occasion of his assassination, in 1967, with the repressive police officers shooting everywhere in Alameda Casa Branca, in Jardins, in São Paulo, even killing themselves.

In the early hours of April 1st to 2nd, 1964, Marighella produced a pamphlet and distributed it to activists at post 6, in Copacabana, in the house of a public servant. He signed it in the name of a fictitious command, as he could not get it approved by the PCB. Of those possible torpedoes on the Guanabara Palace, which we talked about at the beginning, the Bahian later learned that the sailors did not do it because the order did not reach the cruisers.

A sequence of disagreements on the left made the military coup successful. But it was already a split left, official and official, even if illegal. A left that, with its historical weight, moved slowly. “The scammers are still in the air. […] They still do not have full control of the situation. […] It is therefore necessary to act quickly”.

An offensive by armored squadrons against the Army HQ was arranged for April 8, based on contact with sergeants in Vila Militar. But the dream collapsed with the discovery of the conspiracy and the punishment of the soldiers. That same April, Carlos Marighella introduced the perspective of armed struggle against the nascent regime. The rest is your story and ours.

*Carlos De Nicola is a member of the socio-environmental movement.


[1] This text is partly fictional, partly historical. I looked for references in Marighella: the guerrilla fighter who set the world on fire, by Mário Magalhães, published by Companhia das Letras in 2012.

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