The military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985 was planning to develop an atomic bomb according to secret documents from the Armed Forces Chief of Staff to which the influential newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo had access and released details.
The document is a minute of a 10 June 1974 conference by then president General Ernesto Geisel (1974/1979) during a meeting of the High command of the three forces in which he called on the military to implement the idea.
In the conference Geisel admits the military government concern with the nuclear bomb test undertaken by India and with the possibility that Argentina, the country with which Brazil feared an armed conflict, could also be testing an atomic weapon.
“The recent explosion of a nuclear bomb by India has caused world commotion and we have to consider the hypothesis that in a not too distant future, Argentina could also test one. This evidently generates deep concern among us and everybody is asking what will be the position of Brazil on addressing that situation”, added Geisel.
Given these circumstances Geisel argued “it was necessary to develop a technology to make use of a nuclear explosion for peaceful purposes, which could allow us inclusive if needed, to develop our own weapon”.
The minute released by O Estado de Sao Paulo is part of several secret documents from the Brazilian Armed Forces recently declassified by the national archives.
In his address Geisel said he could not leave out a reference to the “nuclear energy national policy” and its significant “impact for national security”.
Brazil started to develop its nuclear program in 1976 following an agreement with Germany to build three nuclear plants for the generation of electricity.
Geisel feared Brazil could be relegated in the nuclear race be it for energy generation, economic purposes or even in the “military field”.
He also called for a review of the “national strategic concept formulated several years ago” to include and “admit the hypothesis of a continental war involving Argentina”.
Although Brazil did not subscribe the treaty on the non proliferation of nuclear weapons until 1998, it was a signatory of the Tlatelolco Treaty which banned nuclear arms in Latinamerica. Likewise in the 1988 constitution drafted three years after the end of military governments, Brazil dropped the possibility of developing nuclear weapons.