Brazil’s Options Narrow
This chapter takes the reader behind the scenes at the crucial Rio conference in January 1942 showing the difficulties reaching a position regarding the Axis that all the republics could accept. Brazil worked closely with the Americans, but was cautious not to alienate Argentina and Chile. The Axis governments threaten war if relations were broken. The role of Sumner Welles was critical to maintaining Brazilian support. Franklin Roosevelt’s close relations with Getúlio Vargas were important. The problem of arms for the Brazilian forces was a key element. Much of the narrative deals with behind-the-scenes conversations and meetings. Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Welles had a permanent falling out because of decisions at the conference. While the conference went on, American Colonels Lucius D. Clay and Robert C. Candee had surveyed the northeast to get a clearer idea of the region. Little could be done to organize joint defense until an overall agreement was reached on the nature of the proposed alliance. Military Attaché Miller’s distrust of the Brazilian chief of staff reached a breaking point, and he was recalled to Washington. His continued decline in influence and status is followed. The question of American troops being sent to Brazil is viewed negatively by the Brazilians. Axis submarines begin attacking Brazilian ships bringing the war closer. After the conference Finance Minister Artur de Sousa Costa went to Washington to set the relationship on a more beneficial footing. Rumors of Argentine military preparations proved incorrect, but Brazilians worried. The need for the air bases to supply the Allies operations grew more intense. The US Navy developed close ties with the Brazilians, while the US Army was viewed with suspicion. The Army grew dissatisfied with Ambassador Jefferson Caffery, but Vargas thought highly of him. The US Army did not have confidence in the Brazilian military. The signing of the political-military accord in May 1942 provided cover for an alliance. The auto accident that sidelined Vargas from May to September 1942 endangered the fragile arrangements the two countries created.