In 1977, I was working as a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University when, one fine day, the telephone rang. It was Robert Pastor, a special adviser at the White House, inviting me to Washington. Pastor was a friend, himself a political scientist, who had helped me overcome difficulties obtaining a visa to enter the United States – since, during those years, I was suspected of “anti-American activities.” How times change.
From Princeton to Washington isn’t far, and I went by train. Pastor received me with affection and to my surprise, he told me President Jimmy Carter was planning a visit to Brazil. In fact, his wife, Rosalynn, had already made a trip there.
That’s interesting, I thought. But what does this have to do with me?
This was the height of Brazil’s military dictatorship, which since 1964 had been strongly supported by successive governments in the United States. Pro-democracy voices such as myself had been marginalized or pushed into exile. But now, the recently inaugurated President Carter, known for his liberal ideas and his commitment to human rights, wanted to make contact while in Brazil with figures who opposed the regime.