We Cannot Remain Silent

Opposition to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship in the United States

We Cannot Remain Silent

Radical Perspectives

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Book Pages: 472 Illustrations: 24 photographs, 1 figure Published: July 2010

Author: James N. Green

History > U.S. History, Latin American Studies > Brazil, Law > Human Rights

In 1964, Brazil’s democratically elected, left-wing government was ousted in a coup and replaced by a military junta. The Johnson administration quickly recognized the new government. The U.S. press and members of Congress were nearly unanimous in their support of the “revolution” and the coup leaders’ anticommunist agenda. Few Americans were aware of the human rights abuses perpetrated by Brazil’s new regime. By 1969, a small group of academics, clergy, Brazilian exiles, and political activists had begun to educate the American public about the violent repression in Brazil and mobilize opposition to the dictatorship. By 1974, most informed political activists in the United States associated the Brazilian government with its torture chambers. In We Cannot Remain Silent, James N. Green analyzes the U.S. grassroots activities against torture in Brazil, and the ways those efforts helped to create a new discourse about human-rights violations in Latin America. He explains how the campaign against Brazil’s dictatorship laid the groundwork for subsequent U.S. movements against human rights abuses in Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, and Central America.

Green interviewed many of the activists who educated journalists, government officials, and the public about the abuses taking place under the Brazilian dictatorship. Drawing on those interviews and archival research from Brazil and the United States, he describes the creation of a network of activists with international connections, the documentation of systematic torture and repression, and the cultivation of Congressional allies and the press. Those efforts helped to expose the terror of the dictatorship and undermine U.S. support for the regime. Against the background of the political and social changes of the 1960s and 1970s, Green tells the story of a decentralized, international grassroots movement that effectively challenged U.S. foreign policy.


We Cannot Remain Silent meticulously documents and analyzes the hitherto little known role that American citizens played in introducing the issue of human rights into the political debate on US policy not only towards Brazil, but also towards Latin America in general. By skillfully blending a variety of written sources uncovered by the author in the United States, Brazil, and Western Europe with oral interviews of Americans and Brazilians alike, James Green has produced a masterful study in transnational history. Indeed, he has left no stone unturned. He shows how academics, church people, political activists, playwrights, actors, artists, victims of torture, and even an internationally renowned Brazilian fashion designer were able to employ their skills to help change US foreign policy an contribute to the rebirth of Brazilian democracy.... Indeed this reviewer feels that it is one of the best books he has read in quite a while.” — Edward T. Brett, Canadian Journal of History

We Cannot Remain Silent is a good read—informative, often fastpaced, and even suspenseful. Beyond that, the book makes an essential contribution not only to the historiography of Brazil’s dictatorship but to Brazilian and Brazilianist activists’ and academics’ sense of their own histories. With its solid research, engaging writing, and illuminating detail, this book should appeal to new and seasoned scholars of Brazil, of Latin America, of the hemisphere, of the Cold War, and of human rights activism and policy.” — Benjamin Cowan, Latin American Politics and Society

We Cannot Remain Silent is a valuable addition to the historiography of Brazil and Brazilian-U.S. relations. The presentation allows readers from various disciplines as well as the general reader access. Green is successful in exploring the role of nongovernmental actors in the U.S. fighting against human rights abuses in Brazil, thus providing a new narrative in U.S.-Brazilian relations.” — Monica I. Orozco, The Historian

“[T]his well-written, engrossing, diligently researched volume is a sterling contribution to the literature on a neglected aspect of the fluctuating US-Brazilian relationship during 21 years (1964–85) of often harsh military rule.”
— Philip Chrimes, International Affairs

“This important book provides significant insight into how human rights activists made the US Congress and mass media aware of the Brazilian military governments’ torture of political opponents…. [T]his will remain an essential book by one of the more distinctive North American voices in the field of Brazilian history.” — Andrew J. Kirkendall, Hispanic American Historical Review

“This is an extremely well-written and timely book.... Green was able to interview numerous Brazilians and Americans involved in the struggle, and the effort provides a sense of drama and makes this a valuable historical document.” — W. Michael Weis, The Americas

“We Cannot Remain Silent is an innovative addition to the literature on transnational human rights campaigns, and a model of engaged scholarship. It offers hope by recovering the memory of a prior generation of human rights campaigns, grounded in a rich and detailed location. This book shows that voice matters, and that global civil society has unexpected roots and reach.” — Alison Brysk, Human Rights Quarterly

We Cannot Remain Silent makes a substantial contribution, both methodologically and theoretically, to understanding the role of aesthetics and emotions in framing and resource mobilization processes. It is also an important example of the use of oral histories in studying the construction of activist identities. In addition, the book provides methodological elements in the analysis of affinity networks and frame convergence that can be used in other social movement case studies.” — Ana Margarida Esteves, Mobilization

We Cannot Remain Silent is an important book that deserves to be read by a wide audience. Human rights activists, Latin American specialists, and students of U.S. foreign relations can learn much from Green’s analysis of the campaign to end human rights abuses in Brazil. This book makes a strong case that global social activism can make a difference in ways that are sometimes unpredictable and hard to fathom except in retrospect.”
— Stephen M. Streeter, Journal of American History

We Cannot Remain Silent is an important contribution to Brazilian scholarship. . . . Yet its value goes well beyond the field of Brazilian history. Green’s study reminds Latin Americanists of the importance of looking beyond the geographical boundaries of authoritarian nation-states when analyzing opposition movements. For U.S. scholars, his work provides insight into an oft-overlooked aspect of American responses to military regimes in Latin America. . . . Green’s balanced integration of scholarship and resources from both Brazil and the United States provides a useful model for transnational history. . . . Various contributions make Green’s work an important and enjoyable study for scholars throughout the Americas.” — Colin Michael Snider, H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews

“For American audiences who ask why Brazil matters, Brown University history professor James N. Green answers with an extensive study of a country ruled by law absent of habeas corpus and filled with unspeakable torture. Green highlights both the U.S. government’s complicity in the 1964 coup that overthrew a reform-minded president and the decades long efforts of American activists and Brazilian exiles to unmask the horror.” — John Pantalone, Providence Journal

“James N. Green provides a volume that in itself is an exemplar of historical presentation in that he provides multiple perspectives. He also created innovative narrative strategies that carry the reader along with pleasure through a long and richly detailed history.” — Edward L. Cleary , A Contracorriente

We Cannot Remain Silent is an exemplary piece of historical research that simultaneously performs an act of recuperation and interpretation. James N. Green’s gripping study not only discloses an aspect of (U.S.-based) opposition to the Brazilian military regime that had previously gone largely unacknowledged, but also demonstrates how a transnational approach to this history can reveal and reconstitute a series of narratives that are crucial for understanding the politics of this era.” — Barbara Weinstein, author of For Social Peace in Brazil

We Cannot Remain Silent is the most complete and comprehensive analysis ever made of the multiple paths and confluences among the political and cultural resistance in Brazil and the United States after the military coup d’état in Brazil in 1964. Based on new sources and a broad range of interviews, James N. Green reveals unexpected coalitions, introduces new actors, and tells fascinating human stories. His book is obligatory reading and a tool for reaching the truth about the background of torture and political killings carried out during twenty-one years of military dictatorship. It is essential for understanding the struggle for human rights in Brazil then and now.” — Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Commissioner, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Organization of American States

We Cannot Remain Silent provides a new understanding of the development of human rights discourses in Brazil and the Americas. Working with a range of sources, both oral and written, James N. Green shows how a small group of activists in the educational and religious spheres successfully created a transnational space for changing U.S. policy toward Brazil’s military dictatorship and, with it, the systematic torture of political activists. This book challenges the traditional understanding of political opposition in Latin America during the sixties and seventies. In doing so, We Cannot Remain Silent opens up new methodological vistas toward all post–World War II dictatorships.” — Jeffrey Lesser, author of A Discontented Diaspora: Japanese Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militancy, 1960–1980


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

James N. Green is Professor of Brazilian History and Culture at Brown University and past president of the Brazilian Studies Association. He is the editor of Lina Penna Sattamini’s A Mother’s Cry: A Memoir of Politics, Prison, and Torture under the Brazilian Military Dictatorship, also published by Duke University Press, and the author of Beyond Carnival: Male Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century Brazil.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: Tropical Delights and Torture Chambers, or Imagining Brazil in the United States

Prólogo "Era um país subdesenvolvido" 13

1. Revolution and Counterrevolution in Brazil 19

Capítulo I "A gente quer ter voz ativa" 49

2. The Birth of a Movement 55

Capítulo II "Caminhando e cantando e seguindo a canção" 77

3. The World Turned Upside Down 85

Capítulo III "Agora falando sério" 107

4. Defending Artistic and Academic Freedom 115

Capítulo IV "Acorda amor" 137

5. The Campaign against Torture 143

Capítulo V "Vai meu irmão" 167

6. Latin Americanists Take a Stand 177

Capítulo VI "Pode me prender, pode me bater" 197

7. Human Rights and the Organization of American States 201

Capítulo VII "Fado tropical" 225

8. Congressional Questioning 233

Capítulo VIII "While my eyes go looking for flying saucers in the sky" 255

9. Denouncing the Dictatorship 259

Capítulo IX "Navegar é preciso" 291

10. Performing Opposition 293

Capítulo X "Quem é essa mulhar" 315

11. The Slow-Motion Return to Democracy 321

Capítulo XI "Amanhã há de ser outro dia" 355

Conclusions: Making a Difference 359

Notes 367

Bibliography 411

Index 431
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4735-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4717-0
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