Salazar, Antonio (1889–1970)

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SALAZAR, ANTONIO (1889–1970)


Portuguese politician.

The "Catholic dictator" of Portugal, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar led one of the longest dictatorships in twentieth-century Europe. In 1968 after he suffered a cardiovascular attack, he was removed from power. He died two years later.

The son of a modest rural family from Vimieiro, a village in central Portugal, Salazar had a traditional Catholic upbringing and completed most of his intellectual and political education before the First World War. He attended a seminary but abandoned the ecclesiastical path in order to study law at the University of Coimbra on the eve of the fall of the monarchy. A reserved and brilliant student, he led the best-known Catholic student organization in Coimbra, the Christian Democratic Academic Centre (Centro Académico de Democracia Cristã, or CADC). His friendship with the future cardinal patriarch of Lisbon, Manuel Cerejeira, dates from this period. He pursued a university career as a professor of economic law, and his only political activity during the liberal republic (1910–1926) took place within the strict limits of the social Catholic movement. He was one of the leaders of the Catholic Center Party (Centro Católico, or CC) and was elected as a deputy for them in the elections of 1921. With the early dissolution of parliament in July 1921, Salazar left his position as deputy, and returned to his academic life and a more discreet involvement in Catholic political circles. Nevertheless, he did not lose any opportunity to reaffirm his position as the country's leading specialist in finances, which eventually resulted in his being invited to join the first cabinet formed following the 1926 military coup. However, after noting that the political situation remained highly unstable, Salazar declined the invitation. He was asked again two years later, and this time he accepted, but only on condition that he receive important powers over the other ministries in order to resolve the dictatorship's budgetary crisis.

Between 1928 and 1932, the year in which he became prime minister, Salazar, with support from the Catholic Church and important sections of the armed forces, came to dominate them ilitary dictatorship. Benefiting from a new constitution, which was the product of a compromise between corporatism and liberalism that had been approved in a popular plebiscite in 1933, Salazar created a single party from above, designed to remain weak and elitist from the very outset. Its purpose was simply to ensure political control. It was used as a tool for the selection of members for the Chamber of Deputies and the local administration, as well as to provide some legitimacy in the regularly held "non-competitive elections."

Salazar was a master at manipulating this perverted rational-legal legitimacy, and he had little need to seek recourse in charismatic leadership in order to rise above the bureaucratic and governmental mediation between himself and the nation. The military origins of the regime ensured that his position remained linked to that of the president, General António Óscar de Fragoso Carmona (1869–1951), who had been elected in direct elections in 1928 and who retained the authority to dismiss any of his appointed officials, including Salazar.

The Portuguese New State became radicalized with the outbreak of the civil war in neighboring Spain in 1936. Some of the regime's organizations that had been inspired by the Fascists—for example, the paramilitary youth movement, Portuguese Youth (Mocidade Portuguesa, or MP), and the anticommunist militia, Portuguese Legion (Legião Portuguesa, or LP)—introduced elements of the cult of the leader. Nevertheless, the more traditionalist conservatism continued to dominate the majority of the written press, which was closer to the paternalistic "prime ministerial" model of dictatorial leadership. The Catholic Church, both by its influence within official institutions and by its powerful nucleus of autonomous institutions, was transformed into a powerful and complementary instrument of ideological socialization. Nationalism and "providence" both completed and introduced elements of diversity into the official discourse.

With its declaration of neutrality in 1939, the Portuguese dictatorship was able to survive the Second World War thanks mainly to the concessions it made to the Allied Powers and to the rapid onset of the Cold War. The development that most concerned Salazar about the new international order after 1945 was decolonization. At the beginning of the 1960s, the African nationalist movements began their armed struggle, which led to the outbreak of colonial wars in Portuguese West Africa (Angola), Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique), and Portuguese Guinea (Guinea-Bissau). Salazar died in 1970, convinced that he was still Portugal's leader. His regime was overthrown by a military coup in 1974.

See alsoPortugal; Spanish Civil War.


Cruz, Manuel Braga da. As origens da democracia Cristãeo Salazarismo. Lisbon, 1980.

Lucena, M. de. "Salazar." In Dicionário de história de Portugal. Vol. 9: Suplemento. Edited by António Barreto and Maria Filomena Mónica. Porto, 2000.

Pinto, António Costa. Salazar's Dictatorship and European Fascism: Problems of Interpretation. New York, 1995.

Salazar, Antonio de Oliveira. Discursos e notas políticas. Vol. 1. Coimbra, 1935.

Antonio Costa Pinto

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Salazar, Antonio (1889–1970)

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