Brazil spied on Argentines and turned over British missiles during the Falklands War – Politics

The Brazilian military government set up in 1982 the Argentinaduring the Falklands Waran “Information Search Network” on the confrontation between the neighboring country and the United Kingdomindicate documents of the General Staff of the Armed Forces kept in the National Archive (AN).

The country also took advantage of the landing of the British Vulcan bomber in Rio to take possession of a Westinghouse AGM-45 Shrike anti-radar missile, dismantle it and examine it before returning it to the British.

The history of these Brazilian actions in the war can be reconstructed based on the papers recently sent to the National Archives. Another part was located by João Roberto Martins Filho, a professor at the Federal University of São Carlos, who is launching the book Brazil and the Falklands War: Between Two Fires (Alameda, 318 pages). Martins Filho also researched the British and Itamaraty archives. THE Estadão had access to the documents and the book, which will be released in June.

In the documents of the General Staff of the Armed Forces it is clear that the purpose of the scheme set up in Argentina – almost an espionage mechanism, involving attaches and officers from Brazil who took courses in Argentine military schools – was to circumvent the censorship of the local dictatorship that, ironically, is criticized by Brazilians in a report. At the time of the war for the archipelago in the South Atlantic, which 40 years ago, Brazilians and Argentines – the latter under a state of siege – lived in dictatorships. In Argentina, all information was controlled by the government.

“To circumvent this obstacle, in addition to the normal contacts with the Intelligence sectors (Information) of MS (General Staff) of each of the Argentine Forces – usually evasive and reticent –, a closer relationship with other reliable military attachés, who were more active and dynamic in monitoring the conflict”, says the document. 1982/1983 – Operation Rosário (cont.) – Retaking of the Falkland Islands. Rosario was how the Argentines called the invasion of the Falkland Islands (Falkland, for the British), the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia, on April 2, 1982.

The document describes the network: “We had the valuable collaboration of our student officers enrolled in the Argentine Army and Air Force General Staff Schools, the SNI officer at Side (Intelligence Secretariat), as well as Brazilian and foreign journalists, representatives of newspapers and magazines from Brazil and other countries, who came to our embassy to evaluate their analyzes and estimates of the conflict”.


It was Brazilian student officers who brought them to Brazil, then commanded by General João Figueiredo, information about the euphoria that took over the Escola Superior de Guerra after the Argentine action. At school, the document says, “teachers cannot hide their enthusiasm and go so far as to say that the revolutionary government had been legitimized by the defeat of terrorism and the recovery of the Falklands”.

A month after the invasion, the English operation to retake the islands began. Brazil helped the Argentines, with intelligence and weapons, but sought to maintain a good relationship with the United Kingdom.. The report says that on the night of March 26, 1982, the Military Junta met. Its members were the general Leopoldo Galtieri, head of the Army and President of the Republic; Brigadier Basilio Lami Dozo, for the Air Force; and Admiral Jorge Isaac Anaya, for the Navy. Foreign Minister Costa Méndez attended the secret meeting.

In it, the decision was taken to launch the operation to retake the Falklands. The archipelago had been under the rule of the United Kingdom since the beginning of the 19th century. But the Argentines claimed it. “The plan was a ‘state secret’, only known to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commanders-in-Chief”, reports a Brazilian Air Force (FAB) attaché, who describes planning problems, political issues and even a little bit of the environment. of a dream lived by the Argentines with the invasion.


We had the valuable collaboration of our student officers (…) the SNI officer, as well as Brazilian and foreign journalists (the General Staff of the Armed Forces)


“Not even the general officers of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were aware. The lack of knowledge on the part of the other levels of the Forces was a very negative factor, as a series of measures were not taken.”


The internal scenario worsened, with union demonstrations. On April 1, few would bet on Galtieri remaining in power. The next day, the Argentines were surprised. “Galtieri managed to gather an impressive crowd in the Plaza de Mayo and spoke to the people. (…) he Gathered the Nation, and made it believe that defeating the third world power was possible.”

Information obtained from the local Air Force General Staff indicated, according to the documentation, that “on the day of the invasion, April 2, 1982, the operation (Rosary) was scheduled for May or June, when weather conditions would be more unfavorable to the British”.

At the time, during Cold War, the Argentine military was dedicated to political repression – it is estimated that up to 30,000 people have disappeared. But the precariousness of the military means for an external confrontation, especially with professional troops from a power like the United Kingdom, was obvious and would not advise the adventure. “The US position was misinterpreted,” the document says.

“Argentina’s collaboration in the troubled Central American region (military advisors training the Nicaraguan cons) would lead to the assumption that the US government would force a diplomatic exit.” Bloodless action was expected to make the UK negotiate. “The English reaction was not estimated.”


Martins Filho deals with another way in which Brazil obtained information from Argentina. The country would have deciphered the code of the encrypted communications of the chancellery of the neighboring country. Among the main concerns was obtaining information about aid from the USSR, Cuba and Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya to Argentina.

Libya reportedly committed to sending Soviet SAM-6 and SAM-7 missiles via the Tripoli, Canary Islands, Recife and Buenos Aires route. Five flights on Aerolíneas Argentinas Boeing 707s were made and more than a hundred missiles were delivered. The Brazilians were still watching the Argentine nuclear program. The Navy Information Center reported that the Argentina’s negotiation with the USSR provided for the shipment of 100 kilos of enriched uranium to Buenos Aires. The establishment of Russian bases in the country was feared.

While keeping an eye on the Argentines, the Brazilians took advantage of a unique opportunity of the war: the capture of an American-made AGM-45 Shrike missile. He was on a Vulcan bomber that landed in Rio on June 3 after failing to refuel in flight. The plane was returning from the Falklands, where it had fired two missiles and bombed the airport in Port Stanley, the island’s capital, and was heading to the Ascension base.

The crew tried to get rid of sensitive material. He threw one Shrike into the sea, but the other got stuck, its warhead activated. Upon landing in Rio, the plane was detained, at the request of Argentina. After negotiations, the Brazilians agreed to release the Vulcan, as long as it was disarmed.

The missile was withheld. British pressure to recover it was joined by the USA. Martins Filho shows the reason for the concern of both countries: it was a weapon with a modern guidance system. And Brazilians could snoop on it. That is what happened. London sent a message to its ambassador in Brazil, George William Harding. “You should be aware of the news that they may be messing with the missile.” Copies were sent to Washington, the British Ministry of Defense and Royal Air Force Intelligence.

In other words, the British secret service was being informed about the action of the Brazilians, revealed by journalist Roberto Godoy through FAB sources. Godoy wrote in Estadão that the missile was examined by experts from the Air Force. The equipment was dismantled in secret – Brazil was looking to develop its first missile. In addition to Harding, the American ambassador, Anthony Motley, put pressure on the country. After several delays, the weapon was secretly handed over to England on 6 July, 22 days after the Argentine surrender.

About Abhishek Pratap

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