Tags: frank carlucci | ronald reagan | castro | communist

Remembering Frank Carlucci

Remembering Frank Carlucci
Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, left, speaks to former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci at a 2005 press conference in D.C. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Tuesday, 12 June 2018 08:36 AM Current | Bio | Archive

When Frank Carlucci died on June 3 at age 87, tributes in the press focused on his long life in public service: from his stint as a foreign service officer following graduation from Princeton to his years as deputy director of the CIA under President Jimmy Carter and national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, to his best-known assignment as Reagan’s second secretary of defense.

Relatively little attention was paid to Carlucci’s first major assignment abroad as U.S. ambassador to Portugal from 1974-78, the most turbulent time for the fledgling democracy.

“And that’s unfortunate, because were it not for Frank Carlucci, Portugal would certainly have gone communist in November of 1975,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told Newsmax on Saturday morning.

By making it clear to Portugal that the U.S. would stand by the young parliamentary democracy in Lisbon, Ambassador Carlucci “saved the democratic system from early destruction at the hands of the Soviet-backed Portuguese communists — and did so with no bloodshed,” said Nunes, 1 of 3 members of Portuguese heritage in the U.S. House.

“And had that happened, the history of the Cold War and of Europe would have been different,” he added.

Having heard from his Portuguese grandparents about the role Carlucci played in keeping their country free, freshman Rep. Nunes in 2003 arranged a private appointment to meet Carlucci (then a top executive with the Washington-based Carlyle Group).

What was intended to be a 30 minute “get to know you” session turned into a two-hour “history lesson on Portugal’s most turbulent times,” Nunes said.

When Carlucci was beginning his assignment in 1974 as the first-ever U.S. ambassador to Portugal to actually speak Portuguese, the country was only months away from the bloodless military coup that deposed the 42-year fascist dictatorship of Antonio Salazar (who was removed from the premiership by his council of state in 1968 following a cerebral hemorrhage caused by a fall but never told of the removal and allowed to think he was still ruling until his death two years later).

At a time when wars to maintain Portugal’s African colonies were costing the country 48 percent of its budget and inflation soared to 20 to 25 percent, Adm. Antonio de Spinola became the figurehead of the “Carnation Revolution,” on April 25, 1974. Salazar’s successor Marcello Caetano quietly relinquished power to a provisional government headed by Spinola.

By September, however, the government came to include socialists and a growing number of communists — all of whom were sworn enemies of the former fascist regime. Spinola was deposed and the government was soon nationalizing banks and empowering workers.

Soon, Portugal was being ruled by a three-person directorate headed by Francisco da Costa Gomes (a leftist general) as president, and Vasco Gonzales (the prime minister overseeing the nationalizing of businesses), and Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho (the beret-wearing head of the military defense force and an admirer of Fidel Castro).

“Carlucci could see where things were headed,” said Nunes. The ambassador was soon making clear that the U.S. would not tolerate a communist takeover and worked closely with pro-U.S. politicians on the left—notably Foreign Minister and longtime Socialist Party leader Mario Soares.

But Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was disgusted at the leftward move in Portugal and wanted the U.S. to have nothing to do with any of the current political figures. He preferred cutting off aid as a means of forcing Portugal to take a more pro-U.S. and anti-communist stance.

“I had at least two meetings with Kissinger,” Carlucci later revealed to Portuguese authors Bernardino Gomes and Tiago Moreira De Sa, “In the first, I told him his statements were pushing Portugal into the arms of the Communists. His answer was ‘If you’re that smart, you make the statements’… the conversation was very tense.”

Although warned by Kissinger’s staff he was in trouble, Carlucci pressed his case for assisting Soares and his allies with President Gerald Ford. The contact with the president was made by then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who had been Carlucci’s roommate at Princeton.

On Nov. 25, the communist-backed Portuguese Army Commandos and special military Command for the Continent (COPCON) under the command of Gen. Otelo struck. Carlucci took a hotel room where he could see the insurgents marching in Lisbon. There he worked the phones, assuring his friends in the Portuguese government that the U.S. was behind them while he let Washington know that the situation was well in hand.

In short order, the coup was put down and Otelo was removed from power and jailed.

The critical point about Portugal during the Cold War was the Azores, from which the U.S. was in a pivotal position to track Russian submarines and to have its planes be refueled on major missions (such as the bombing of Libya ordered by President Reagan in 1987).

Until his death last year, Mario Soares, who went on to serve two terms as prime minister and was later president of Portugal, frequently hailed Carlucci for his role in protecting his country’s democracy.

After meeting Frank Carlucci in 2003, Nunes told us, “I stayed in touch and called him two or three times a year. I think I’ve read everything about him or by him. He was someone we could learn a lot from about leadership. And he was a friend from another country who helped to guide Portugal to a lasting freedom — Portugal’s Lafayette.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.


© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

1Like our page
When Frank Carlucci died on June 3 at age 87, tributes in the press focused on his long life in public service.
frank carlucci, ronald reagan, castro, communist
Tuesday, 12 June 2018 08:36 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved