JFK’s Failed Salazar Coup In Lisbon

Few people were likely to have as opinionated a viewpoint around the deterioration of United States-Portugal relations arising during the John F. Kennedy administration than General Kaúlza de Oliveira de Arriaga, a stalwart Salazar loyalist, nationalist, imperialist, and one of the most vocal military men within the Portuguese hard right.

In his work, Kaúlza de Arriaga noted four key hostile actions[1] taken by the Kennedy regime, three of which were: arming Holden Roberto’s terrorist band of “nationalists” – the UPA; voting with the Soviet Union against Portugal in the UN Security Council; and ultimately instituting an arms embargo against the Salazar regime. The three objective and uncontroversial points were joined by a fourth one: that the United States sponsored the failed 1961 coup against Salazar led by then-Defense Minister General Júlio Botelho Moniz.

Is this characterization accurate?

A more holistic question would be: what role did the U.S. play in undermining the Salazar regime? By examining the failed Abrilada[2] or Botelhada,[3] as the coup came to be known colloquially, this piece will argue that U.S. policy helped incubate the moderate quasi-opposition that ultimately lost the country to leftists in the Carnation Revolution. Rather than show the U.S. as actively sowing unrest, the historical record instead shows a growing Americanized outlook in the military arising from increased cooperation with America’s Cold War security and intelligence institutions.

When Portuguese international standing reached a nadir in the early Kennedy administration, dissident military leaders sought American sponsorship from Lisbon-based U.S. agents as they planned a coup; when that support was undermined from Washington, the entire coup edifice unraveled almost immediately. Finally, comparing and contrasting this episode with the next Abrilada that successfully overthrew the Estado Novo, we see both that it lacked many critical elements that made the Carnation Revolution successful, and that the collaborators of 1961 became in many instances the losers of 1974.

NATO and CIA prehistories

Why was Portugal, an authoritarian dictatorship, amongst the original signatories of the NATO agreement, whose preamble invokes the duty to protect democracy?[4] Portugal’s entry represented a quid pro quo – Salazar gained the funding for needed modernization of his military,[5] especially the revolt prone navy[6] and air forces – while the United States gained continued access to critical airfields in Portugal’s Azores islands in the Atlantic. The original deal reflected this agreement; rather than pay rent as was the case in other international bases, American payment to the Portuguese came in the form of highly subsidized weapons agreements to Portugal to meet its NATO requirements.[7]

NATO’s foothold in Lisbon was joined by that of the Central Intelligence Agency. During World War II, as one of the continent’s few great neutral ports, Lisbon became active grounds for German, British, and American intelligence units.[8] CIA functions in Lisbon centered on close cooperation with the PIDE,[9] the Portuguese paramilitary forces, with the CIA taking an active role in training PIDE officers[10] and PIDE sharing with “the Agency” its findings from its anti-communist operations, which would often include captured correspondence with other European communist parties.[11] The CIA station in Lisbon would monitor refugees from behind the Iron Curtain[12] and would use Lisbon’s harbor to monitor the movements of ships originating from the Soviet bloc moving through the Atlantic.[13] Lastly, Portugal housed one of the main transmitters[14] of Radio Free Europe, a critical component of the CIA’s anti-communist psychological operations behind the Iron Curtain.

Domestic internal political considerations, however, would make this integration into the Western military alliance more problematic over time. To placate moderates in the military after the contentious 1958 presidential election, Salazar let go his Defense Minister Colonel Fernando dos Santos Costa, one of his closest confidants and a former student of Salazar from his tenure at at the University of Coimbra.[15] His replacement was General Júlio Botelho Moniz, a former Interior Minister from 1943-47[16] and a reform-minded[17] member of what was called the “NATO generation,” a group whose ideology marked a radical departure from the prevailing military orthodoxy:

Through their international experiences, many of these officers changed their negative opinions of Western democracies. They soon occupied high positions in the in the hierarchy and influenced successive generations of officers … Many of these officers opposed the regime and participated in conspiracies, which started in the early 1960s.[18]

The first such “NATO revolutionary” was the aforementioned General Delgado – contemporaneously known by the moniker “General Coca Cola”[19] for his unabashed Americanism. From 1952-1957,[20] Delgado was in Washington as a military attaché for NATO, a role later occupied by General Botelho Moniz[21] and subsequently by Colonel Costa Gomes.[22] According to Salazar’s successor Marcelo Caetano, Delgado’s tenure in America had a dramatic effect on General Delgado, creating a sense that Portugal was a backward and outdated land in dire need of democracy.[23]

Enthralled by the Eisenhower presidential campaign and with a longtime admiration of the pugnacious General MacArthur,[24] Delgado ran his famous electoral campaign for the presidency against Salazar’s candidate, Admiral Tomás. Embittered by a loss that clearly had undeniable signs of foul play – though likely insufficient to have swayed the outcome – Delgado became an increasingly bitter foe of Salazar and was involved in more extreme acts of subversion. After his defeat, Delgado went so far as to write a letter to four military leaders describing the need for a coup – one such recipient was General Botelho Moniz, who tellingly never replied.[25]

Africa, NATO, and military factions

By the late 1950s, two distinct camps formed within the Portuguese military. One group, led by Defense Minister Botelho Moniz and his NATO trained subordinates, wanted the focus of the Portuguese military on its NATO obligations and on countering any potential threat on the European continent from the USSR. The opposing group, led by Salazar loyalists, instead prioritized the defense of the Ultramar provinces in Africa. These groups did not coalesce immediately: focused on the lessons learned by the French in Algeria, Botelho Moniz had in prior years unsuccessfully lobbied Salazar for more war materials to be sent to the African provinces.[26] By summer of 1959, though, the dividing lines had been established:

Alvaro da Silva Tavares, Undersecretary of State for Overseas Administration, attended this [major policy] meeting which took place on 12 June 1959. According to him, Botelho Moniz defended husbanding Portugal’s military strength for a European conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, but Salazar rejected this.[27]

This debate gained added importance considering the unrest surrounding the decolonization process in the surrounding African territories, especially the Belgian Congo:

As early as 1960 following the debacle in the Belgian Congo, the then Under Secretary of the Air Force Colonel Kaúlza de Arriaga expressed concern about the defense of the overseas territories, especially Angola. He made his views known during a meeting of the Supreme Council for National Defense and in conversation with Salazar. He was opposed by the Minister of National Defense, General Botelho Moniz, and Colonels Almeida Fernandes and Costa Gomes, who believed that reinforcements were not necessary in Africa.[28]

It was around this time that communications between Botelho Moniz, and the American ambassador in Lisbon, Charles Burke Elbrick, began in earnest. Writing to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Ambassador Elbrick stated that he “continued to wonder why Botelho Moniz insisted on feeding information to the Embassy about his feud with Santos Costa.”[29] The report mentioned other elements of a fulsome discussion, including the potential threat of coups (dismissed by Botelho Moniz) and some elements of the opposition, showcasing a growing working relationship between both parties.

John F. Kennedy and the rise of the “Africanists”

Kennedy’s ascent to the White Hose marked a sea change in American policy towards the African continent. Kennedy, who had served as the first chair[30] of the Senate African Subcommittee where he met many of the continent’s nationalist leaders,[31] made a shift in Africa policy a major focus of his presidential campaign – as evidenced by his astounding 479 references[32] to Africa while on the campaign trail.

Kennedy amended the Truman/Eisenhower theories of containment[33] to embrace nationalism in the developing world; for JFK, the key was embracing the upswing of Third World nationalist movements and bringing them under American influence sooner before long, drawn out conflicts gave the Soviets an opening for greater influence.[34] While ultimately constrained by escalating divisions within his administration,[35] the height of Kennedy’s Africa-centric policy outlook in the early months of the administration coincided with the commencement of the revolts in Portuguese Africa.

Given this shift in policy, Kennedy’s arrival brought a cadre of “Africanists” to positions of power. One of his first foreign policy oriented appointments was G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams to the position of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; a progressive former Michigan governor, Williams was “a long-time advocate of civil rights in the United States, and shared with Kennedy a common vision of what America’s role in Africa.”[36] Williams met his ideological match in Under Secretary of State Chester Bowles, a former liberal Connecticut politician and ambassador to India who had pushed for changes in Africa policy in his 1956 book Africa’s Challenge to America – with specific references to Portuguese Africa[37] despite relatively placid contemporary conditions in the Ultramar.

At the UN, the Africanists were represented by Adlai Stevenson, the failed Democrat candidate who had been pushing for changes in Africa policy since his 1956 run[38] and used his position to advocate for more active UN intervention in Africa.[39] These core men were buttressed by a number of key administration members, ranging from the highly in-vogue Ambassador to India and giant of American liberalism John Kenneth Galbraith[40] and the president’s own brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy[41].

A smaller yet vocal group supported the status quo on Portuguese Africa, consisting of veteran Cold Warriors who were holdovers of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. Their primary concern was preserving American access to the cargo and refueling stations in the Azores islands. Their most vocal proponent was former Secretary of State turned Presidential advisor[42] Dean Acheson – who had “a deep respect for Salazar”[43] and so strong an attachment to Portugal aftervisiting Lisbon for the 1952 NATO Congress that he was called the “godfather of Portugal” by Kennedy’s National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy.[44]

Joining Acheson was Kennedy’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Maxwell Taylor, whose Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that “we have no fully satisfactory alternative to the Azores for tactical and troop movements in limited or general warfare in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa; and for certain significant communications or intelligence requirements.”[45]

Equally important was that there was a sizable group of policy makers somewhere in the middle. Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Defense Secretary John McNamara, while generally representing the more Europeanist segments, weren’t as fulsome supporters of the Salazar regime and were generally unwilling to risk Kennedy’s disapproval. Rusk “was neutral at first, but his understanding of the Portuguese position would grow with time.”[46] They would also push back against the Europeanists at times: e.g. McNamara did not agree with Acheson and the Joint Chiefs that the loss of the Azores bases would represent an irreparable loss to the military.[47]

The net effect of these factions is that American policy towards Portuguese Africa was tumultuous during the Kennedy years. In the initial portion of his regime, the Africanists held greater influence. During key interludes, however – the Cuban missile crisis [48] and the passing of the Test Ban Treaty[49] – the Europeanists flexed their muscles and helped de-thaw anti-Portuguese antagonism. Post-1962, contentious negotiations with the Portuguese over extending the American lease of the Azores base also helped strengthen Europeanist hands.[50] Nonetheless, despite this longer term trend, the events described below correspond to the initial early Kennedy months when the camps were still forming and the costs of either approach were not yet fully felt. It is not for nothing that the Portuguese ambassador predicted trying relations between both nations as soon as Kennedy entered the White House.[51]

The Elbrick – Botelho Muniz Axis

By the early months of the Kennedy administration, it was clear that Portugal was headed down a course of growing international isolation: the hijacking of the Santa Maria cruise line by opposition forces garnered little international support,[52] and the escalating violence in Angola was drawing unfavorable international attention to the Salazar regime, especially in the United Nations.[53]

Seeing an opportunity, on February 17th, 1961, Defense Minister Botelho Moniz and his close subordinate, Major Viana de Lemos, met for an elongated lunch with Ambassador Elbrick and CIA Station Chief Fred Hubbard.[54] As recounted by Viana de Lemos, Botelho Moniz began by acknowledging the growing rift between Salazar and the military leadership on colonial policy, as the latter “wanted a political solution that included administrative decentralization, progressive political autonomy, and increased foreign investment.”[55]

Defense Minister Botelho Moniz reiterated that while divisions remained in the military, he could nonetheless reassure that “90% of the military agreed on the need to change policy on Africa”[56] but for such changes to come to fruition, “a dozen people would need to be removed from the government.”[57] The armed forces, according to Botelho Moniz, were hesitant to interfere in domestic politics; however, should the current ageing wielders of the Estado Novo reins of power fail to accede to these much needed reforms, “the military will not hesitate to act.”[58]

To Botelho Moniz, the current environment had surpassed the current Prime Minister’s abilities: “Dr. Salazar is old, has less energy, no longer takes command of situations as he did previously.”[59] The Defense Minister then intimated that U.S./Portuguese relations could be best preserved if going forward, Hubbard and Elbrick would “call his attention to any problem that could be solved through him directly”[60] –  both men would accept this offer for a parallel diplomacy. Botelho Moniz concluded by reminding them that “the Armed Forces have a certain influence in Portugal.”[61]

Elbrick’s diligent notes to Secretary Rusk on this meeting highlighted the “startling candor”[62] around Botelho Moniz’s criticisms of Salazar. According to Viana de Lemos, Elbrick was especially impressed, as he had always felt somewhat intimidated by Salazar.[63] He closed with the following observation around the Portuguese military:

The position of the Armed Forces in Portugal is of great importance, and there is no doubt that the military would play a decisive role under any regime change. Per the opinion of the embassy, ​​no prime minister and no government can achieve power in Portugal – much less remain in power – without the support of the military, whose apparent active leader is the Minister of Defense.[64]

Elbrick and Botelho Moniz kept close contact in the ensuing weeks. Under the suggestion of Secretary of State Dean Rusk,[65] Elbrick made a major revelation to the Defense Minister on the 6th of March: the U.S. was planning to vote alongside the USSR against Portugal in the upcoming UN Security Council resolution condemning Portuguese colonialism. In other words, the American ambassador, under the direction of the Secretary of State, had just front-run a key piece of diplomatic news to renegade defense minister of a NATO ally which he knew to be planning an active revolt.

Botelho Moniz’s response was seemingly telling:[66] while respectful of U.S. opinion, he nonetheless disagreed and instead argued for a gradual, democratic process that would ultimately lead to a Lusitanian Commonwealth modeled after the British example.[67],[68] Botelho Moniz’s idea would be echoed by Salazar’s successor Marcelo Caetano[69][70] and his senior military commanders, Generals Spínola[71] and General Costa Gomes[72][73]. As Portugal had neither the economic resources, nor the cultural hegemony of Great Britain or France to preserve such an influence over its colonies post-independence, said option was pure blue-pill fantasy; Salazar, to his credit was not as naive.[74]

Elbrick’s reports back to Rusk included copious details around what Botelho Moniz was envisioning for post-Salazar Portugal.[75] Unsurprisingly, Botelho Moniz’s pick for the new Prime Minister was none other than Marcelo Caetano, then-president of the University of Lisbon, who had been dismissed from the Salazar regime after the ’58 election for perceived insubordination and was soon to be chaffing under new repressive measures aimed at university campuses.[76]. That there was contact between Caetano and Botelho Moniz’s conspirators is not denied,[77] although sources disagree as to whether there was any actual collusion.

There were a number of meetings in late March and early April. On April 9th, Viana de Lemos reported how President Américo Tomás did not respond at his first meeting with Botelho Moniz when he suggested removing Salazar.[78] Elbrick reported back to Washington describing the intentions around Botelho Moniz’s planned follow-up with Admiral Tomás:

It will be an attempt to convince Tomás to neutralize or dismiss Salazar and appoint a new prime minister. If the attempt fails, Moniz says that he and other generals will tell Tomás that they will then seize power. Moniz states that this will be done ‘very soon.’[79]

Indeed, Elbrick wrote memos to Rusk up and till the day before the attempted coup. While unaware of the latest thinking of Tomás, he did make the following prediction: “It is conceivable that Tomás (a conservative) does not support Botelho Moniz’s ideas … if this happens, Botelho Moniz and his followers in the Armed Forces may have to face the problem of deposing Tomás and Salazar at the same time to achieve their goal.”[80]

The CIA and the trail back to Washington

Mirroring his counterpart at the U.S. embassy, CIA station chief Fred Hubbard also developed a close working relationship with the coup conspirators. Major Viana de Lemos remarked amusingly: “I knew that Freddy was the head of the CIA in Lisbon. He was an intelligent American, who thought in European terms, and there are not many intelligent Americans.”[81] Based on his more mid-level status and the high frequency of meetings at the U.S. embassy, Viana de Lemos would also have undoubtedly dealt with two secretaries therein, William Beal and Glenwood B. Matthews, who were later accused of being embedded CIA operatives.[82]

In addition to the above mentioned Elbrick-Botelho Moniz meetups where Hubbard was present, the CIA had a direct line of communication into the defense ministry as shown on March 4th, when Hubbard gave Viana de Lemos notice of upcoming terrorist activity by Holden Roberto’s UPA in northern Angola.[83] Comparing their communications with Hubbard versus those with Elbrick, Viana de Lemos came to the following critical observation: “By the type of information that he brought us, it was perceived that Hubbard did not tell the ambassador everything.” Admiral Tomás would later joke that Botelho Moniz was as informed as Salazar if not more so, thanks to his frequent communications with the CIA.[84]

From the first fateful group meeting in early February, Hubbard had positioned himself and his organization as primed for action: “the CIA agents in Lisbon were receptive to [Botelho Moniz’s] offer and immediately began contingency plans in preparation for a coup d’état.”[85] In the weeks leading up to the coup, the “CIA officers in Lisbon were considering the possible scenarios for a change of regime and encouraging some of their Portuguese connections; the time had come for ‘Salazar’s substitution.’ The American objective was to secure a pro-Western succession for the regime.”[86]

While Fred Hubbard’s was bustling with activity, Dean Rusk continued to read Elbrick’s detailed telegrams. During this time, Dean Rusk, ever the realist, mentions in an internal State Department memo that he had “no illusions” around the limitations of diplomatic pressure with Salazar.[87] The weight of evidence is fully in favor of the highest echelons in Washington being fully aware of what was transpiring in Lisbon:

Washington’s involvement at the highest level does not raise doubts today in light of declassified documentation. A member of the National Security Council, where the crises were monitored, said that the White House was ‘highly interested in regime change’. Elbrick’s most sensitive telegrams, all labeled “Top Secret” [and referenced above], are signed by National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy – a sure sign that Kennedy had followed developments. Fred Hubbard, head of the CIA station, was sure that Botelho Moniz had enough support for the coup to be a success. Ambassador Elbrick stated that Botelho Moniz’s conspiracy was a ‘profound operation’… There is no doubt that the entire American country team (diplomats, CIA operatives, military attachés) moved in support of the rebels.[88]

“Shut it down”

Unbeknownst to the coup plotters and their American “accomplices” in Lisbon, a drastic change in direction was forthcoming from Washington. Perhaps acting on behalf of a wider contingency – the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs, former Secretary Acheson – the State Department’s European Bureau was about to put the kibosh on the entire operation:

On April 11th, a mere two days before the coup attempt, Foy Kohler, the head of European Affairs at the State Department, discussed developments in Portugal with Dean Rusk, Kennedy’s Secretary of State. Kohler reminded Rusk that Botelho Moniz had tried to persuade Salazar to liberalize the regime in Angola and Mozambique and that at the same time had kept the Americans strictly informed through Elbrick. Nonetheless Kohler added that, despite American interest in maintaining a connection with Botelho Moniz, it was imprudent to openly support him. Foy Kohler’s position was instrumental in bringing about a certain inflection in American policy towards the Portuguese Defense Minister.

The reverberations felt were immediate. Getting ever closer to the launch date, Botelho Moniz wanted one final confirmation from the Americans that he could rely that “had his back” and requested as much the following day post the communication from Kohler:

Having decided on the use of force, Botelho Moniz wanted to make sure of the American support for the coup and requested a meeting with Elbrick. The ambassador, however, found it wiser not to speak to the Minister of Defense, as he explained to Washington: ‘General Botelho Moniz asked to meet with me today. He was informed, however, that the embassy has irrefutable evidence that other elements of the Government are well aware of the informal contacts between the embassy and the military. Although there is no indication that these elements know that Botelho Moniz and I are directly involved, I informed him that it might be quite unwise to meet him at this delicate time … Botelho Moniz told me that he understood. He says that ‘in a day or two’ the problem will be solved, which may mean that he intends to act tomorrow or the next day.’[89]

Per Viana de Lemos, Botelho Moniz was thoroughly devastated:

The fear of Elbrick, ever the bureaucrat, had an outsized influence in the final stretch. When he passed word to see Elbrick, Botelho Moniz wanted to know if the Americans were one hundred percent behind us – but that’s precisely when Elbrick cut himself loose. Botelho Moniz henceforth doubted the firmness of Washington’s support.[90]

The resulting failure of the coup, as much as it was the result of poor planning by the conspirators, was also the ripple effect of decision making from Washington – as Elbrick, then Botelho Muniz, and subsequently his subordinates all lost confidence.

Comparison to the Carnation Revolution

“In the end, Botelho Moniz threw everything away by his insistence on following what he perceived to be the legal path.”[91] By the time of the coup attempt, Botelho Moniz had given Salazar more than two weeks notice when had delivered his formal letter of disapproval on March 29th. Similarly, Botelho Moniz’s also allowed a full week between the coup date and his President Tomás – who would later tell Botelho Moniz, with emotion showcasing their decades-long friendship since their days together at the military academy, that under no circumstance would he ever “dismiss the greatest statesman of the century after Churchill.”[92] By following “protocol,” Botelho Moniz gave Tomás time to coordinate with retired Defense Minister Santos Costa and Colonel Kaúlza de Arriaga to rally the support of the Air Force, Navy, the paramilitary police, and several local military battalions to move against the coup organizers.[93]

Arguably, though, such disorganization and naivete was just one area where the 1961 coup attempt came up short versus the Carnation Revolution; another critical flaw was the absence broad swell of support from junior officers. A critical piece of evidence is the CIA briefing from March 30th 1959,[94] preceding the coup by almost two years. In it, we learn that Botelho Moniz had “removed over 200 key military officers” – more than triple the number of senior personnel –generals and brigadiers – ousted in the Carnation Revolution[95] despite the massive military expansion in the intervening period.  The report references that many junior officers were loyal to former Defense Santos Costa. It is also instructive that when Major Viana de Lemos suggested an outreach effort to junior officers,[96] Botelho Moniz dismissed the idea – likely because he knew he did not have the support. Given how extremely politicized the senior officer corps was under Salazar,[97] no conspirator would ever be able to guarantee loyalty of as large group of senior officers that Botelho Moniz believed to be on his side. It is certainly not coincidental that majors and captains were the ranks to lead the ultimately successful rebellion that toppled the Estado Novo regime.

However, to place the blame on purely institutional shortcomings would also miss the mark: the Botelhada conspirators also showcased a poor understanding of key sociological factors endemic to the Portuguese psyche. The first critical aspect was the Portuguese tendency towards factionalization. Portuguese history[98] was replete with spirited debate between small yet very distinct ideological groups: pro-clerics versus anti-clerics; absolutist monarchists versus constitutionalist monarchists; monarchists versus republicans; and parliamentarians vs presidentialists. Each of these groups would in turn often split amongst themselves in more bitter sub-rivalries – as such, that there would be some break among the coup organizers should have been a foregone conclusion.

The other key factor in the episode was the Portuguese tendency towards personalism[99] – a strange combination of hyper-self-interested individualism to the detriment of group interest, which curiously also leads towards heavy gravitation towards very strong leadership and a desire for a “national savior”. One can see this dynamic unfold in this episode: while some conspirators flinched at go-time, their opponents instead would rally hard in support of the epoch’s dominant “Alpha Male” as embodied in Salazar. Indeed, the Carnation Revolution succeeded in part because it had a military hero for the army to rally around in General Spínola, who was widely decorated for his pacification efforts in Portuguese Guinea.


With the coup suppressed, Salazar was finally able to move decisively in Africa, and not a moment too soon. Salazar’s optimal window to suppress the Angolan violence would have been preemptive action at the start of the crisis in the Belgian Congo;[100] the lack of a united and cohesive military rendered that option impossible. An exasperated Santos Costa wrote to Salazar in the weeks leading up to the failed coup attempt urging him to step up military efforts in Angola:

Since your lucidity – may God preserve it for many years – allows you to see and understand that Angola’s military capacity is insufficient, if not actually ridiculous, you cannot accept Pilate’s vestments and reach an agreement with the pessimists, with the incompetent, with the cowardly, with the money-lenders at the Temple. You must assume full responsibility, you must determine, you must demand, you must force the immediate departure for Angola of 10 to 12,000 men who can constitute a well-organized corps with all hierarchical levels and are endowed with the necessary combat equipment, in which we are not lacking.[101]

It was only after the failed coup that the Portuguese moved in earnest to meet the challenge at hand in Angola. Upon taking command of the defense ministry himself, Salazar explained the underlying rationale with a confidence that didn’t betray that he just thwarted a wide-scale military revolt only a few hours beforehand:

If a word of explanation is needed for the fact that I am taking over the national Defense portfolio even before the general reshuffle, which will follow, that word is ANGOLA … To move rapidly, and in strength, is the objective which will test our decision-making capacity.[102]

To be a proper imperialist, one needs, crucially, to maintain an authentically Imperial Mindset – no matter how much he aged, Salazar nonetheless exuded such qualities up until the very end as the above manful and energetic response showcases. The same, however, cannot be said of his successors. The following decade, the supporting cast of the 1961 Aprilada – most notably Marcelo Caetano and future post-coup president General Costa Gomes – assumed the reigns of Portuguese government, bringing plausible deniability and copious technocratic efficiency according to the British and American press. However, these men and the generation they led tossed the cohesive ideology of their predecessors and bent to oscillations of near-term politics – which is unsurprising, as the wellspring of their “third way” approach was a Washington security apparatus where the Portuguese Empire was never more than an afterthought intermixed amongst more pressing issues facing the globalist henchmen.

Lacking Salazar’s fully delineated ideological outlook and knack for power politics, these leaders proved no match for a highly regimented, ideologically unified, and hierarchically organized leftist opposition that rightfully approached the “colonial problem” as a truly long game. Although not the case in the short-term for Costa Gomes, the long-term fate of both men shared the same ignominy: the shame of failure in not one, but two Portuguese coups – while forfeiting her Império in the process.

[1] “Entrevista do General Kaúlza de Arriaga ao Coronel Manual Amaro Bernardo” Link

[2] Cronologia – Fundacao Mario Soares – Link

[3] Proença Garcia, Francisco. “Analise Global de uma Guerra (Mocambique 1964-1974) link

[4] Preamble, The North Atlantic Treaty (1949). Washington 4 April 1949: p1

[5] Fryer, Peter. Oldest Ally: A Portrait of Salazar’s Portugal. Praeger, 1982: p153

[6] De Menses, Felipe Ribeiro. “Revolutions (Portugal)”, 1914-1918 online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War. 08 December 2014. https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/revolutions_portugal Accessed 18 July 2017

[7] Antunes, José Freire. “Kennedy, Portugal, and the Azores Base, 1961.”  John F. Kennedy and Europe, edited by Douglas Brinkley and Richard T. Griffins, LSU Press, 1999: p150

[8] (Duarte, Miguel Bruno. “Winston Churchill and Oliveira Salazar” The Inter American Institute for Philosophy. Government, and Social Thought. 6 July 2011.  https://theinteramerican.org/winston-churchill-and-oliveira-salazar/ Accessed 18 July 2017

[9] Pimentel, Irene. “Relações entre a PIDE/DGS e a CIA” 19 April 2010. http://irenepimentel.blogspot.com/2010/04/relacoes-entre-pidedgs-e-cia.html?m=1 Accessed 18 July 2017

[10] Antunes, José Freire. Kennedy e Salazar: o Leão e a Raposa (Os Americanos e Portugal). Publicações Dom Quixote, 2013: p98

[11] Kennedy e Salazar p96

[12]Kennedy e Salazar p98

[13] Ibid

[14] “Memorandum for the Honorable Robert G. Murphy, Deputy Secretary of State: Radio Free Europe.” Central Intelligence Agency. 24 May 1957: p2

[15] Gallagher, Tom. Portugal: A Twentieth-Century Interpretation. Manchester United Press, 1983: p105

[16] Trigueiro, José. “O Golpe de estado frustrado de Botelho Moniz foi há 50 anos” Tribuna das Ilhas Online. 01 April 2011. http://tribunadasilhas.pt/index.php/local/item/1851-o-golpe-de-estado-frustrado-de-botelho-moniz-foi-h%C3%A1-50-anos Accessed 18 July 2017/

[17] Rodrigues, Luis Nuno. “‘Preparing for the Next War’: the Portuguese Army Staff Corps and the Military Reforms on the eve of the Colonial Wars”.  Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies – Journal of the Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies. Volume 37. Issue 1. Article 6. (2012). pp123, 125

[18] Osuna, José Javier Olivas. Iberian Military Politics Controlling the Armed Forces during Dictatorship and Democratisation. Springer, 2014: p91

[19] Dacosta, Fernando. “General Coca Cola” Amalia.  17 February 2017. goo.gl/UD5sDt Accessed 18 July 2017

[20] “The man who dared to oppose Salazar” Portugal Resident. 10 March 2015. http://portugalresident.com/the-man-who-dared-to-oppose-salazar-0 Accessed 18 July 2017

[21] Kennedy e Salazar p75

[22] Kennedy e Salazar p76

[23] Salazar a Political Biography p425

[24] “Portgal. Comic Odyssey. ”Time. 26 January 1962. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,872872,00.html Accessed 18 July 2017

[25] Kay, Hugh. Salazar and Modern Portugal. The Book Service Ltd., 1970 p350

[26] Salazar e Kennedy p73

[27] Salazar a Political Biography p452

[28] Van der Waals, W.S. Portugal’s War in Angola: 1961-1974. Protea Book House, 2011: p88

[29] “No. 286. Memorandum for the Portuguese Desk Files” Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Western Europe, Volume VII, Part 2. State Department: Office of the Historian. 16 December 1959

[30] Gleijeses, Piero. Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976. University of North Carolina Press, p382

[31] O’Brien, Michael. John F. Kennedy: A Biography. MacMillan, 2005: p360

[32] Muehlenbeck, Phillip. John F. Kennedy’s Courting of African Nationalism. Madison Historical Review, 2004, Volume 2: p7

[33] McMahlon, Robert and Thomas Zeller. “Kennedy, Johnson and Nonalignment.” Guide to U.S. Diplomatic History. CQ Press, 2012: p312

[34] Bender, Gerald J. “American Policy toward Angola” African Crisis Areas and U.S. Foreign Policy, edited by Gerald J. Bender and James Smoot. University of California Press, 1985: p111

[35] Noer, Thomas J. “Africa.” Kennedy’s Quest for Victory: American Foreign Policy, 1961-1963: American Foreign Policy, 1961-1963, edited by Thomas G. Paterson. Oxford University Press, 1989: p283

[36] Muehlenbeck pp9-10

[37] Bowles, Chester. Africa’s Challenge to America. University of California Press, 1956: pp 89, 94

[38] Walton, Hanes Jr. and James Bernard Rosser, Sr. The African Foreign Policy of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: A Documentary Analysis. Lexington Books, 2010: p24

[39] Liebling, A. Adlai Stevenson’s Lasting Legacy. Spring, 2016: pp106-7

[40] O’Brien p871

[41] Salazar a Political Biography p485

[42] “Dean Acheson” https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/DEKXylYUQUGmhkplyijz2A.aspx Accessed 18 July 2017

[43] Brinkley, Douglas. Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years, 1953-71. Yale University Press, 1994: pp 306-7

[44] Ibid

[45] “Kennedy, Portugal and the Azores Base, 1961” p160

[46] Salazar a Political Biography p488

[47] Poole, Walter. History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy 1961 – 1964. Office of Joint History, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2011: p254

[48] Salazar a Political Biography p489

[49] Wright, George. The Destruction of a Nation: United States’ Policy Towards Angola Since 1945. Pluto Press, p45

[50] Salazar a Political Biography pp487-491

[51] Rodrigues, Luís Nuno. “About-Face: The United States and Portuguese Colonialism in 1961.” ISCTE-CEHCP, Lisbon. https://www.brown.edu/Departments/Portuguese_Brazilian_Studies/ejph/html/issue3/html/lnrodrigues_main.html Accessed 18 July 2017

[52] Salazar a Political Biography p470

[53] Ibid

[54] Kennedy e Salazar p146

[55] Ibid

[56] Kennedy e Salazar p 147

[57] Ibid

[58] Ibid

[59] Ibid

[60] Ibid

[61] Ibid.

[62] Cann, John P. Flight Plan Africa: Portuguese Airpower in Counterinsurgency, 1961-1974. Helion and Company, 2015: p71

[63] Kennedy e Salazar p48

[64] Ibid

[65] Ibid

[66] Kennedy e Salazar p174

[67] Ibid

[68] Robinson, Richard A.H. “The influence of overseas issues in Portugal’s transition to democracy.” The Last Empire: Thirty Years of Portuguese Decolonization, edited Steward Lloyd-Jones and António Costa Pinto. Intellect, 2003: p3

[69] Porch, Douglas. The Portuguese Armed Forces and the Revolution. Croom Helm, 1977: p184

[70] Lewis, Paul H. Latin Fascist Elites: The Mussolini, Franco, and Salazar Regimes: The Mussolini, Franco, and Salazar Regimes ABC-CLIO, 2002: p160

[71] “Antonio de Spinola, 86, a Bridge To Democracy for the Portuguese.” Associated Press. 14 August 1996. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/08/14/world/antonio-de-spinola-86-a-bridge-to-democracy-for-the-portuguese.html Accessed 18 July 2017

[72] “Marshal Francisco da Costa Gomes” The Telegraph. 01 August 2001. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1335954/Marshal-Francisco-da-Costa-Gomes.html Accessed 18 July 2017

[73] Raby, R.L. Fascism and Resistance in Portugal: Communists, liberals, and military dissidents in the opposition to Salazar, 1941-74. Manchester University Press, 1991: p247

[74] Biggs-Davidson, John. “Counting the cost in Portugal” The Spectator. 1 April 1977, page 8. http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/2nd-april-1977/8/counting-the-cost-in-portugal  Accessed 18 July 2017

[75] Kennedy e Salazar p194

[76] Moniz, Gonçalo Canto. “The Portuguese ‘May 68’: Politics, Education and Architecture” European Journal of American Studies. 3 February 2008. https://ejas.revues.org/2802  Accessed 18 July 2017

[77] Kennedy e Salazar p211

[78] Ibid

[79] Kennedy e Salazar p214

[80] Kennedy e Salazar p219

[81] Kennedy e Salazar p105

[82] Ibid

[83] Kennedy e Salazar p169

[84] Raimundo, Orlando. “21- A Traição a Botelho Moniz” O Último Salazarista – A outra face de Américo Thomaz. Leya, 2017. goo.gl/MeFQqf

[85] Marino, Alexander J. America’s War in Angola, 1961-1976. University of Arkansas, 2015: p52

[86] “Kennedy, Portugal, and the Azores Base” p154

[87] Kennedy e Salazar p195

[88] Ibid

[89] Kennedy e Salazar p221

[90] Ibid

[91] De Meneses p 475

[92] Cann, John C. The Flechas: Insurgent Hunting in Eastern Angola, 1965–1974 (Africa @ War Series) Helion and Company, 2014: p12

[93] Kennedy e Salazar pp215-219

[94] “III. The West: Portugal” Central Intelligence Bulletin. 30 March 1959. Pp 3-4,7

[95] Porch p42

[96] Kennedy e Salazar p213

[97] Porch p42

[98] Wheeler, Douglas. Republican Portugal: A Political History, 1910-1926. University of Wisconsin Press, 1999: p105

[99] “Portugal: Political Culture and National Character” EURA – Office of European Analysis, Directorate of Intelligence. 9 March 1984

[100] Salazar a Political Biography p450

[101] Salazar a Political Biography p471

[102] Salazar a Political Biography p477

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  1. John Q. Public August 7, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks again! The Estado Novo is an inspiration. Would that Mexico had had a similar government during the 1920s and after.


  2. Stunning! Thank you so much.


  3. A thoroughly researched article, good job. I had never heard of this attempted coup.

    However I remember reading years ago that during the 1974 revolution Kissinger even considered the possibility of a Spanish intervention to end the whole thing (which Franco would turn down). Frank Carlucci, the American ambassador in Lisbon at the time, opposed it, fearing the effects of making a second Chile out of Portugal.

    I don’t know if the author might know something about this. The book is “Carlucci vs. Kissinger, os EUA e a Revoluçao Portuguesa” from the journalists Bernardino Gomes y Tiago Moreira. The original article where I saw this is story is from Spain’s La Vanguardia newspaper (sadly no English version):


  4. Thanks for the article, Oscar! Very interesting … the Nixon administration was taken aback by the Carnation revolution, which overthrew Salazar’s successor Marcelo Caetano, so it’s not surprising that the U.S. considered just taking out the leftist junta that ran the country in the aftermath. The piece preceding this one in passing mentions how the outright communists were outmaneuvered by the plain-old-socialists a few years after the coup.

    There were several coup attempts throughout the Estado Novo – that they got so adept at dodging coup attempts not a small reason why they lasted through so many decades!


    1. You are welcome. I was inmediately reminded of La Vanguardia story upon reading the title of your piece.

      Being Spanish I feel sort of ashamed of knowing so little about our neighbor Portugal… will have to plunge into their history one day.


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