Not everyone agreed with the republic. There was some monarchist sentiment.
Regionalism was a serious problem. Very few people had the power to make political decisions,
for the electorate had always been tiny and the Republic disenfranchised illiterates. Even military
men disagreed. Elements of the navy revolted unsuccessfully against the Republic in the 1890s
and army elements would revolt in the 1920s.
Deodoro Fonseca became the first President by default although he was not very popular.
He was reluctantly elected by the Congress with Floriano Peixoto selected as Vice President.
Peixoto received more votes than Deodoro, a fact that irked the latter. He only served from
November 15, 1889 to November 23, 1891 because he tried to conduct the public business as if
the state were a military unit. Deodoro had very strong emotions and was impulsive. He saw
criticisms of his government as personal. He relied upon army men, including young officers, to
head government departments. He sent young officers to be state governors when he replaced the
Imperial governors. Before 1891 ended, he dissolved Congress and put the country under martial
law. Protests forced him to resign on November 23, 1891.
Vice President Marshall Floriano Peixoto took over, claiming that the constitutional
requirement to hold new elections did not apply because he and Deodoro Fonseca had been
elected by the Congress, not the electorate. President Floriano removed Fonseca's loyal men and
ruled dictatorially. By early 1892, six states were revolting against him. His government
suppressed them. In June, 1892, a monarchist revolt erupted in Rio Grande do Sul. Floriano's
government suppressed it as well. Then a navy revolt broke out in September, 1892, which was
also put down. Although he held the nation together, he was disliked. When he ran for election in
1894, he was defeated.
Brazilian politics was run by state political machines. Coroneis (local political bosses)
under the leadership of the state president (governor) dispensed favors and made sure the vote,
such as it was, went to the "right" man. All states were not equal, however, for Sâo Paulo and
Minas Gerais dominated, sharing the presidency most of the time between 1894 and 1930 (See
The 1891 constitution, creating the United States of Brazil, was modeled on that of the
United States and was the work of Ruy Barbosa. It did, however, provide for a system of
interventors, national government officials sent to take over a state government, something akin
to the Moderating Power enjoyed by the Emperors. Under its provisions, literate males 21 and
over could vote; most Brazilians were illiterate. The President and Vice President were elected for
four year terms. Each state had 3 senators, elected for 9 year terms. Deputies were elected for 3
year terms. The Supreme Court had 15 persons. It included a bill of rights and provided for the
separation of church and state. The President had enormous powers, perhaps necessary else the
Deodoro de Fonseca and Peixoto had trouble with frequent military revolts. In the 1894-1930 period, Brazil had civilian presidents (Hermes Fonseca had taken off his uniform) but did it
make any difference? Were they truly civilian? The first civilian president, Prudente de Moraes
Barros was faced with the Canudos Rebellion (1896-97) led by Antônio Maciel, O Conselheiro or
"the Counselor." Antônio was a religious fanatic who preached to the poor and rejected the
central government of Brazil. This encouraged monarchists but even if it had not, the central
government could not tolerate disobedience even in the back country (sertão) of the northeastern
state of Bahía. When local and state authorities were defeated by the people of Canudos, the
federal government sent troops against defeat only to be met by defeat until a national army of
five thousand laid siege to the village and, in house-to-house combat, destroyed the village. The
event certainly strengthened the military's assertion that it was critical to the republic but needed
State political machines were the heart of political power in Brazil based on land
ownership. Fazendas (large estates) were the economic, social, and political loci of power in the
nation. The public lands of the Empire were given to states, who distributed them to the powerful
people in the state. States had the ability to levy export taxes and did, thus discouraging national
trade and encouraging self-sufficiency , except for luxury items which only the wealthy could
The growth of Sâo Paulo, city and state, from the production of coffee and
industrialization came to dominate Brazilian life beforev1930. As Paulistas liked to say, their state
was like a locomotive pulling 20 empty freight cars. Coffee was becoming king, which meant the
rise of Sâo Paulo to prominence and wealth. It was the largest producer of the three "coffee
states, "Sâo Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Río de Janeiro. By 1930, Sâo Paulo state was dominant
economically. Its strength and awareness thereof was part of the 1930 revolt as state leaders tried
to retain their power over the nation. By 1906, all Brazilians were indirectly taxed to take coffee
surplus off the market and store in warehouses, the valorization plan. In 1912, the federal
government prohibited further planting of coffee trees, but couldn't stop entirely because it didn't
have the security forces sufficient to do it. Besides, earlier plantings guaranteed a bumper crop.
There was the tremendous population growth of the city of Sâo Paulo from 64,935 in 1890 to
579,033 by 1920.
The economic interests of Paulistas were becoming very entangled with the growth of
industry and finance. There were enough industrialists to lobby for protectionism. They did not
get much. Ruy Barbosa, a leading statesman and a 1910 presidential candidate, was interested in
developing and protecting industry, but his advocacy didn't endear himself to coffee growers.
The Martinho Tariff of 1900 was a revenue tariff but there was a big fuss about it because it
established that economic interests other than coffee growers should be protected by the national
The Old Republic also saw the growth of national boundaries which were expanded by the
diplomatic team headed by the Baron of Río Branco (José Maria da Silva Paranhos) who headed
the Foreign Ministry (Itamaraty) from 1902 to 1912.
World War I had a nationalistic effect as well as the wartime stimulus of some industry,
but industry was still potatoes. In 1913, Brazil was still importing 85% of the cotton textiles it
used, significant because textile are one of the first manufacturing sectors to be created when
industrialization begins. Almost all iron, steel, and coals was imported. Between 1913 and 1945,
however, there was a tremendous growth in industry.
In this period the growth of the South, the three southern states of Paraná, Santa Catarina,
and Río Grande do Sul. This was the region to which colonists went, for their was economic
opportunity. Railroads were penetrating the region by the early 20th century, bringing with them a
multitude of business and industry. The cultivation of wheat began in begin 1891. The lumber
industry became important.
The organization of labor and passage of pro-labor decree legislation more important after
193o and especially after 1945. The planter class was hostile to labor, in general, and in labor
organizations, in particular. There were some labor organization before with two--anarcho-syndicalism and socialism. The Socialist Party, founded in 1916, never amounted to much.
There were some revolutionists in the country. Carlos Luis Prestes was a notable one but
politicians were opportunists and not ideological for the most part.
Marshal Hermes da Fonseca [nephew of Deodoro), the administration candidate, ran
against Ruy Barbosa, a liberal statesman from Bahía who had played such important roles in
Brazilian public life. He was the candidate of the civilista party and was democratically selected,
unlike all other candidates. The main issue was the military in politics. Hermes da Fonseca won
and gave conservatives and the military lots of power. Ruy Barbosa got a good many votes, 35%
as announced, more than any other defeated candidates had gotten to that time. He argued for
more democracy and the end of corruption by the handful of bosses who ran Brazil. What cost
him the election was his severe criticism of the military in politics. Even military men who cared
little for Hermes gave him their support.
After World War I, Epitácio Pessôa vetoed a military pay raise bill and appointed civilians
to the Ministries of War and Navy. The military was furious because, under the Republic, these
positions had always been held by military men. They pulled back from the government.
In the1922 presidential election, Hermes da Fonseca, back from six years in Europe and
elected president of the Clube Militar, intervened. He asserted that Artur da Silva Bernardes, the
candidate selected by Minas Gerais and Sâo Paulo, had written a letter with strong anti-military
overtones. Much of the military threw its support behind Nilo Peçanha, the candidate of the other
states. Bernardes won and Hermes tried to overturn the election. When he failed, he sent
telegrams to commanders saying that they should act according to their consciences, clearly call
for action. He sent a telegram to the commander in Recife to disobey the government's order. He
was arrested and the Clube Militar closed for six months
The alienation of the military was a factor in the 1922 Copacabana revolt by young
officers, tenentes, who wanted to use the military to modernize the nation and were opposed to
the domination of the planter-dominated system. The revolt was put down but it showed how
easy it was to revolt. Segments of the military had revolted periodically and put down easily
except for Fort Copacabana. There, eighteen refused to surrender and marched onto the beach,
fighting until they were killed or overwhelmed. The survivors, Eduardo Gomes, became folk
The 1924 São Paulo revolt, a manifestation of Paulista nationalism, was opposed by
military forces and put down. Remnants of it joined with the losers of the Revolt of the Tenentes.
The tenentes were also defeated but about 1,000 fled to the interior. They evaded capture until
1927, leading the army on a 15,000-mile wild goose chase from the extreme south to the
northeast and through the interior. Those who survived went into exile. The tenente leaders,
especially Luis Carlos Prestes, became popular heroes. Prestes went to Europe finally, came back
as a Communist and headed the Communist Party. He was an important political figure after
- Revolt against São Paulo dominance.
- Desire to modernize Brazil (tenentes)
- Military interest in politics
- Some fascination with fascist movements in Europe
- Crisis of Great Depression
The Great Depression was the big event of the late 20's and early 30's. Like many others,
the Brazilian economy went into a tailspin. The coffee "motor" sputtered, for coffee made up
about seventy percent of Brazil's exports during the 1920's but dropped with the great
Depression. Coffee prices plummeted from 22.5 cents a pound in 1929 to 8 cents in 1931. Coffee
beans were warehoused because they could not be sold; by 1930, São Paulo's warehouses
groaned under the weight of 26 million bags of coffee beans--more than the world consumed in
an entire year. With the decline of coffee came the decline of the São Paulo's influence. National
policy would no longer be determined solely by the coffee interests.
President Washington Luis Pereira de Souza (1926-30) decided to have another Paulista,
Julio Prestes, succeed him. Pre-1945 parties were alliances of state political bosses. Minas Gerais
leaders were unhappy about two Paulistas in row as president. After some jockeying by the
leaders of the disaffected state, the Mineiros ran Getulio Vargas, governor of Rio Grande do Sul,
as their candidate. Getulio had served in national cabinet. He was clearly a Brazilian patriot. They
created the Liberal Alliance, which was more nomenclature than anything else. It did promise
some social reforms. His vice-presidential candidate was João Pessôa of Paraíba.
Initially, the Liberal Alliance had made deals with the administration's political machine,
had Getulio accepted defeat after making the obligatory charges of fraud. But then João Pessôa
was assassinated in July. The murder plot seemed to lead to the administration of President
Washington Luis. The Liberal Alliance mobilized. It formed a conspiracy to oust the president.
It was a military coup against government. The military side was entrusted to two military
officers, one of whom was Colonel Góes Monteiro, a fascinating character who was a lush. The
tenentes joined the battle, seeing this as an opportunity to destroy the old regime. The civilian side
headed by Garça Aranha. The government was quickly overthrown. When troops arrived in the
city, even São Paulo supported the rebels. Getulio rode a triumphant train from Rio Grande. The
military had chosen, once again, that it was the most important force in politics.
The military junta quickly turned power over to Vargas but retained its interest in politics.
Some officers advocated version of European fascism but got no where. Vargas was not an
He was born in 1883 in Río Grande do Sul near the Argentine border. He grew into a
short (5'4") bespeckled man. He served as an army officer but gave up that career to attend law
school. He served in state offices, as governor of Río do Sul, in the national congress, and in the
national cabinet. He was 47 when took power. He had an unassuming, outwardly democratic
His government was founded on two bases: (1) military support--which vacillated and (2)
social welfare measures. He issued a decree suspending the 1891 constitution and kept
discretionary power in his hands. He sent interventors to take over the states, which they did for
the 1930-34 period. There was no interventor in Minas Gerais because Vargas could get along
with that governor. He used military men in government, as interventors and other officials. For a
few years, tenentismo (lieutenants but the term meant junior officers). Vargas did appoint a lot of
good men to top posts, but point is that he kept so much power to himself. He played groups
against each other and allowed people to joke about it and him. He was persistent.
Vargas changed Brazil. He was nationalistic, including in economics. He gave labor a role
in politics, using working men as one bulwark of his regime, the first time any Latin American
government had paid any attention to them. Vargas increased government activity--including in
the social and economic spheres, statism in economics, and spurred the growth of industry,
especially, by protective tariffs and other forms of state aid. This growth did signify some
reduction in power of the coffee industry. The period saw the growth of nationalistic sentiment
which was related to the growth of economic statism. During WWII, he supported the Allies,
using this support to acquire a steel mill, other industrial plants, and aid from the United States.
He was a dictator with a sense of humor. And he was wise. Vargas granted amnesty to the
Paulistas who revolted 1932. São Paulo revolted in 1932, partly as result of not keeping control
of the presidency. The other states rallied around the national government, much to the surprise of
São Paulo, and the revolt was stifled. Vargas granted general amnesty to the rebels but realized
that he had to make changes. In 1933, he called together a Constitutional convention
Constitution of 1934
It made the federal government stronger. In its representation system, the Chamber of
Deputies (lower house) had 350 elected members and 50 other members representing interest
groups in the population. It had an element of parliamentary government which seemed to reduce
the power of the President in that it gave some power to ministers and made them responsible, in
part, to the Chamber. This didn't work very well. The president gained power. It gave some
attention to collectivism; sometimes it is described as paternalistic constitution. The presidency
was for a four-year term with no reelection. Vargas was elected President, arguing that he was
not the president in 1930-34 but a caretaker.
Battles by extreme political groups, the Communists and the Integralistas, helped Vargas
because it convinced many that Brazil needed as strong man. Vargas, of course, encouraged that
The Communist organized a popular front, the National Liberation Alliance (Aliança
Nacional Libertadora), with Luis Carlos Prestes as nominal head. Prestes called for a revolution in
favor of the Alliance in July, 1935. Vargas outlawed it and arrested the leaders. The Chamber
granted Vargas emergency powers. A state of siege was declared. When Communists tried to
incite mutiny in the military, Vargas was given even broader powers. In September, 1936, he
created a National Security Tribunal to handle political crimes. Naturally, the Integralistas were
ecstatic that their arch-enemies were being destroyed politically.
The Integralistas challenged Vargas. They were extremely nationalistic and Christian-oriented, whose slogan was God, Country, and Family. Their storm troopers wore green shirts,
much like the black shirts of Nazi Germany. In fact, they had financial support from the German
embassy. During the very hard economic times and with a president who seemed fascist, they had
a strong appeal to the masses. Plinio Salgado, their leader, decided to run for president.
The campaign for the 1938-42 presidency began in 1937. In addition to Salgado, the other
two campaigning hard for the job were Jose Americo de Almeida from northeastern Brazil, and
Amando Sales de Oliveira of São Paulo. In a free election, Sales de Oliveira would have won,
given the weight of São Paulo.
But there was no free election; Vargas overthrew his own government on November 10,
1937. He claimed a vast Communist conspiracy, detailed in a false document, and called the
election off. He said "In response to public opinion and with support of the armed forces," he
dismissed Congress and took power for himself. Communists were arrested or forced into exile.
Then in December, he outlawed the political parties. He was using the Communists and,
eventually, the Integralistas as the excuse. He did as much from the desire to stay President as
Then he trotted out a new Constitution which created the Estado Novo (New State). The Estado
Novo constitution was a ghost constitution. Article 187 says that it was "to take effect with a
plebiscite, " but Article 186 says it is suspended. Vargas was no fanatic; the Estado Novo
constitution had a heavy socio-economic content, including provisions for the protection of the
family and statements that work was a social duty. It had strong nationalistic elements, including
the state claiming ownership of subsoil mineral rights and protection of nonrenewable natural
resources. In some respects, it was the culmination of the dreams of many tenentes. Integralistas
thought Vargas was creating a fascist state.
When they realized they were wrong, they tried revolt, storming the presidential residence
during the night of May 10-11, 1938. Vargas used his pistols and, with the aid of family and staff,
held the attackers at bay until the army arrived. Vargas was a hero. His enhanced reputation made
it easier to rule. And, of course, he destroyed the Integralistas.
The administration of Justice under Vargas was that of a dictator which included torture
and imprisonment but the Estado Novo was no police state and there were no concentration
camps. Brazilians are proud of their law schools and legal codes. The Constitution of 1937
included judicial review but it had no practical effect. In a case when the Supreme Court declared
a part of a Vargas decree unconstitutional, Vargas issued another decree. Court objected,
claiming the right of judicial review. The press picked up the story and public interest was
generating. Vargas did not confront the Court; he went around the problem.
Federal-State relations were highly complex with Vargas using interventors and prefects.
An administrative department was set up in each state, a supervising agency above the
interventors, reporting directly to fed government.
Many independent federal agencies were created. There was a tremendous proliferation of
bureaucracy, partly to provide jobs for supporters, partly because the activist national government
was doing so much more and needed personnel to do it. Vargas tried to do something about
bureaucracy but no efforts made much difference. He tried to prevent multiple office holding
(common because the government pay was so low); raised salaries a little; and used exams to
screen out unqualified people. Nothing worked. Too many people had a vested interest in the
growth of the bureaucracy.
Tax morality was not improved a bit during the Vargas regime. People avoided paying
taxes or cheated. Tax evasion was one of the things about which Vargas said he was going to do
something but the mores could not be overcome.
Labor benefitted under Vargas. There was lots of organizing unions and other labor
associations taking place. Although there was some prior to Getulio, he encouraged and helped
bring working people together into syndicates. The syndicates were heavily political and part of
the Vargas machine. Labor was one of the non-military props of the regime, a lesson seen by Juan
Domingo Perón of Argentina when he served as a military attaché during this period.
Quite a bit was done in education but progress slow. The task was difficult because of the
low level of education when he assumed power. In 1920, 35% of the population was literate; in
1940, 45% was. The Vargas regime required instruction to be in Portuguese. This was
nationalism much like the desire of some people in the US to limit instruction in the US to
English. Similarly, Vargas wanted to counteract the Germans in the south just as some Americans
want to counteract the Spanish speakers and other non-English speakers in the South, Southwest,
Vargas was a political opportunist not a fascist. When WWII came, Vargas quickly joined
the Allies. The war may have been saved Vargas politically, for Brazilians rallied around the flag.
Brazil sent an army unit to Italy; patrolled the Atlantic with its navy; lost many ships to the Axis;
provided military bases in the Northeast (which was the closest point to the Eastern Hemisphere);
and rearranged its economy for the war effort. Although Germany had been one of its largest
trading partners between 1933 and 1941, Brazil dropped the trade but more than made up for it
with Allied (principally US) trade.
When the war ended in 1945, it seemed that everybody in Brazil wanted Vargas out.
Vargas, faced with the pressure to return Brazil to democracy (after all, WWII had been fought
for democracy), called for elections in December, 1945. He relaxed the political controls and a
number of political parties emerged. The three most important were the Partido Social
Democratico (Social Democratic Party, PSD), founded by Vargas himself, which represented the
urban, moderate, middle-class interests. The Uñiao Democrática Nacional (National Democratic
Union, UDN), was created to oppose Vargas; it was more conservative and favored the
traditional oligarchy. The Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (Brazilian Labor Party, PTB) was also
created by Vargas and sought worker support. It had a leftist ideology, being concerned for the
welfare of the majority of Brazilians. It was very nationalistic.
Fearing that Vargas would cancel the elections, the military overthrew him. One sign of
his intention to stay was his firing of the Río police chief in October and replacing him with his
brother, Benjamin, who was known for his thievery and involvement in prostitution and gambling.
This was an insult to the nation and the military, which demanded that Getulio resign. He left
peacefully, but tried to put a caretaker in his place. The military said no and installed their choice,
José Linhares. Linhares held office from October 29, 1945 until January 31, 1946 when the
newly-elected president, General Eurico Gaspar Dutra (PSD) took office. He had beaten the
UDN candidate, Eduardo Gomes. There had been 7½ million registered voters, and, for the first
time, non-working women voted. Vargas had supported Dutra.
Female suffrage has meant bigger parties and more socio-economic legislation but military
The military created a new constitution in 1946. It created a centralized government under
the guise of federalism. The military wanted order. Dutra squandered public capital and adopted
an anti-working man policy. As James Cockcroft in Neighbors in Turmoil says:
General Eurico Dutra, a coup leader, won the elections and served as president
from 1945 to 1951. Dutra's government broke relations with the Soviet Union,
outlawed the PCB, purged the military of nationalist elements, and launched a
witch-hunt against reformers and leftists. It sent "interventors" to take over trade
unions. It squandered Brazil's foreign exchange reserves that were accumulated
during the war by allowing unchecked imports of consumer and luxury goods. It
threw open the doors to foreign capital. Direct U.S. investments tripled to nearly a
billion dollars by 1951."
Dutra did not handle the structural problems or Brazilian assets well. In 1947, Brazil had
an unfavorable balance of payments of $200 million. It has recurrent balance of payment crises
and has tended to issue currency to overcome. It had a build-up of huge US trade in post-war
period. The price and supply of ordinary commodities was a problem--too high and not enough.
This hurt the poor people but Dutra believed the government should do nothing. Wages lagged
behind prices. Rents increased 300% in 1946-47, a two year period. Dutra's Brazil was for the
upper reaches of society. There was speculation in foodstuffs. The military was embarrassed by an
army scandal whereby money to be used to buy foodstuffs for the poor was misappropriated. A lot of problems were due to the poor distribution system. It was costly to move goods
through most of the nation. It is better now because of highway building. A large share of the
Brazilian merchant marine had been destroyed during WWII.
Dutra's regime was democratic in the beginning and initially allowed the growth of the
Brazilian Communist Party until it perceived it as a threat. There had not been many Communists
in Brazil before 1930 and not many more before 1945. The Communist had organized the
National Liberating Alliance in 1934 as part of the Third International. Luis Carlos Prestes came
back from the USSR in 1935. Vargas jailed him and drove party underground until 1945. That
year, Vargas declared a political amnesty and the party emerged. In November, 1945, it got
political recognition. Before registration claimed 3,000 members but, in the election of
December, 1945, it pulled 600,000 votes or 10% of the total presidential votes. This apparently
made it the fourth largest political party in Brazil. It got one senator and 14 deputies. It began
showing all kinds of strength in local elections. It published newspapers. The Communist strength
frightened conservatives. Just before January, 1947, Dutra says that a vote for Communists was a
vote for foreign power and condemned other parties for dealing with them. In the elections in
January, 1947, the Communists got 800,000 votes and elected a number of people to office. The
next month, the public prosecutor asked the Supreme Electoral Commission to withdraw
recognition. The upper governmental administrations, the military, and, some say, the United
States government, were behind this outlawing. The Party howled that this was a result of US
imperialism in Brazilian affairs. There was frequent collaboration between the Communists and
ultra-nationalists, for the Communist often took a strong nationalistic posture. They howled about
US troops in Brazil and asserted that the US was also dumping goods in Brazil in an effort to
destroy the economy. In March, 1947, the US pulled it troops out. Dutra suspended the
Communist Youth Union. On May 7, 1947, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal voted 3-2 to outlaw
the Communist Party. The police immediately began closing up offices, clubs, and other
Communist organizations. What to do about their elected politicians? This was a big debate for
months. In July, 1947, the Supreme Electoral Commission said, 4-2, that it wasn't in their
jurisdiction. This began a diplomatic issue; the USSR was upset. In October, 1947, the
Communist mandates were canceled by Senate. Debate dragged on in the House, which finally
passed revocation in January, 1948, 181-74. Rumors flew that there would be Communist mob
revolts, but there weren't.
Vargas, who returned immediately in 1946 to national government as a senator from Río
Grande do Sul, was nationalistic and anti-Yankee. He used the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) as his
chief support. In his maiden speech to Congress in 1946, he justified his regime. He would
eventually charge that Spruille Braden, US Ambassador to Argentina, and Adolf A. Berle, Jr., the
US ambassador to Brazil, had inspired the military coup against him. He said his economic policy
was nationalism, that he was trying to promote domestic industry. Braden and Berle answered
both charges saying Vargas wanted Communist support on the eve of the presidential election.
Brazilian generals said that the US had not been involved.
In 1950, Vargas was elected president, winning almost half of the votes against the
Eduardo Gomes of Fort Copacabana fame and the candidate of the UDN and Cristian Machado
of the PSD. The former dictator seen dynamic and caring compared to the other two. He was
much more nationalistic and concerned with social justice. This was the Cold War period and
right-wing nationalists don't like his social justice views. He created Petrobras, the government
petroleum company, and attempted to extend government control over energy and power
resources. He created a national development council to foment economic, especially, industrial
growth. He was no better than Dutra at handling the chronic problems of inflation, excessive
imports, slow exports, and poor productivity. By 1953, his regime was in serious trouble and with
age, he had lost much of his cleverness. When workers rioted for better pay in 1954, his minister
of labor, João (Jango) Goulart, a PTB cohort, proposed a big increase in the minimum wage.
Vargas fired Goulart because too many did not like his pro-labor stance. Moreover, many military
officers did not trust him.
His downfall came partly because he involved himself in the internal politics of the Clube
Militar. Since 1950, there had been pretty nasty competition among officers, a competition which
most obviously manifested itself in the competition for the club presidency. In 1950, there was a
split in the club over the election to its presidency. Candidates since 1950 have always
campaigned on national political affairs. Vargas intervened in the 1950 election by promising one
candidate, General Newton Estillac Leal, the Ministry of War. Estillac Leal was an anti-Yankee,
ultra-nationalistic person but not a Communist. He had a nationalistic solution to the petroleum
problem. The opposition candidate had spent a lot of time in non-military jobs. The issue was
complicated by the Korean War. Before the decision was made, an article was published in
military club review, a long article which followed the Communist line. The result was that
Estillac Leal was defeated handily for re-election in 1952. A well-known moderate won. Vargas,
abandoned Estillac Leal.
All this disturbance led to military talk that maybe Vargas would have to go. Vargas
changed ministers and went back to the Estillac Leal tine. In the 1954 Clube Militar election, a
moderate won again. This contributed to the overthrow of Vargas in August, 1954, among over
The end of the Vargas regime came for a number if reasons. There was rising discontent
over inflation and corrupt government. Vargas got mixed up in a fight over Petrobras, a 2½ years
debate. "The Petroleum is Ours" might have been a nice nationalistic slogan but it ignored the
reality that Brazil could not exploit its oil reserves without foreign companies. The voices of
political economists were drowned out. The final straw was the assassination of an air force
major, Major Rubens Vaz, in August, 29 1954. He was riding in a car with Carlos Lacerda, a
critic of Vargas, who was the target. The major's death was an accident. However, the military
took this death hard. It traced the plot to the office of the brother Getulio, Benjamin. Army
officers demanded that Vargas leave.
Getulio committed suicide on August 24, 1954. There were two suicide notes, one
innocuous and which people think Vargas wrote, the other very anti-Yankee, nationalistic , and
typewritten. Some people think Goulart wrote it. Regardless, Vargas was gone and the military
once again controlled Brazil directly.
In 1954-56, there were three interim presidents: João Café Filho from August 24, 1954 to
November 8, 1954; Carlos Coimbra da Luz from November 9, 1954 to November 10, 1955; and
Nereu de Oliveira Ramos from November 11, 1955 to January 31, 1956. João Café Filho (John
Coffee, Junior, a wonderful name for a Brazilian president!) had a heart attack and resigned. What
these interims meant was that politicians, both civilian and military, were maneuvering to gain
control. There were divisions within the military and plotting to prevent the selection of the
president by military means. One segment of the military decided for free elections.
In the 1955 election, Juscelino Kubitschek elected president on the PSD ticket and got
34% of the vote and Jango Goulart as vice-president on the PTB ticket with 40% of the vote.
That his vice president was more popular was one problem; that many perceived Kubitschek as
being too close to Vargas was another.
Kubitschek promised "50 years Progress in 5" but his fiscal policies created severe
inflation. The budget deficits got worse and worse. His decision to build a new national capital,
Brasilia, in the interior may have been wise in that it moved the locus of power from the coast, but
Brazil couldn't afford it. Kubitschek turned over just about impossible problems to successor,
Jânio Quadros, governor of São Paulo,
Quadros had nominal support of UDN in election, but he was non-partisan. He had been a
very honest governor. Quadros was very heavily supported by the business community. He
campaigned using the broom as his symbol, promising a "clean sweep." Leftists and the
ultra-nationalistic called him an Integralista, which caused Quadros to defend a number of leftist
view strongly as a counterweight. He ran as pro-Castro and promised to recognise the USSR, for
example. The PSD supported Marshall Lott. Quadros got the largest popular vote in history of
Brazil. Goulart elected V-P. After seven months in office, Quadros repudiated a lot of leftist
statements. He practiced economic austerity. In the diplomatic field, he followed a pro-left line,
which was easy because Brazil had little weight in international affairs. He had legislative
troubles, too, for he could pass little of his program. He resigned in August, 1961 blaming
foreigners and reactionaries for his political problems, and said he was attacked for being
nationalistic. Quadros thought the could put pressure upon people this way. He had sent Goulart
to Communist China on a mission and knew that the military would not want Goulart to succeed
him. To his surprise, his resignation was accepted.
The military wouldn't accept Goulart, considering him too leftist. After negotiations, a
constitutional amendment was passed that put power in hands of the cabinet, responsible to
Congress. In 1963, Goulart held a plebiscite which gave him power.
Goulart moved for reform. He was a leftist nationalist. He sought an independent
line in foreign policy which angered the US. He was interested in land reform and the
redistribution of income. The conservatives and military became frightened. Goulart granted
amnesties to sergeants and then to some navy people in Rio. The military feared that discipline
would be broken. On March 31, 1964, the military marched. General Humberto de Alencar
Castelo Branco took over.
The 1964 military revolution was unlike other military interventions, for, this time, the
military was intent on structurally changing Brazil. It was anti-politics and preferred to run things
as a command society. It issued Institutional Acts to ban Congress, political parties, jail or exile
politicians, and to give itself the means to perpetuate itself in power.
The military asserted that it was going to eliminate corruption in public life, a feat hard to
accomplish, Goulart was personally corrupt, and the military was quick to reveal this. But it had
its own problems with corruption. It used ships to house political prisoners but prisoners could
bribe their way ff a ship and then bribe officials for an exit visa.
General developments during the New Republic
- The tremendous growth of industry. Brazil developed the largest industrial plant in Latin
- The subsistence farming group remained poor.
- Food production remained static forcing Brazil to import.
- Continuation of very low wages and living standards
- Deficit financing and inflation, especially since WWII. This was partly an aspect of rapid
industrialization and partly the result of growth of bureaucracy
- The continued passivity in politics of the bulk of the population, a phenomenon which
facilitated military intervention in national political affairs.
- The continued failure on the part of political parties, groups, and leaders to develop
sufficient discipline to get the country running properly and to keep the military out of
- The essential unity among armed forces that they should "guarantee" the constitution and