Since 1889

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Since 1889

The year 1889 is traditionally considered a turning point in Brazilian history. The abolition of slavery in 1888 resulted in an important increase in immigration and in-migration from the countryside to urban centers, the weakening of the old Rio de Janeiro coffee planters' oligarchy, and the emergence of a military in alliance with the middle sectors—the preconditions for the proclamation of the republic in 1889. Rather than accepting a strictly causal relationship between abolition and the downfall of the Brazilian monarchy, many historians have come to accept that both abolition and the rise of the republic were part of a larger movement towards a modern Brazilian state. This overall change included issues of military discontent, church-state conflicts, and the continued lack of sufficient European immigration to both replace the dwindling enslaved population and to help "whiten" Brazil's mixed-race population.


On November 15, 1889, a military coup, supported by small groups of civilian conspirators, resulted in the establishment of the Republic. The army officers had lost political power after the War of the Triple Alliance against Paraguay and were influenced by positivism, whereas the bishops were disaffected because of the refusal of the state to accept the authority of the Catholic Church regarding Freemasonry. Royal patronage of the church also caused friction, stemming mainly from its reduction in size, the closing of monastic orders, and the limiting of resources available to clerical institutions.

However, the military and the church did not act alone in bringing down the monarchy. The Brazilian economy relied on agricultural exports, and the land-owning elite played an important role in the establishment of the Brazilian Republic. During the nineteenth century Brazil's economic center shifted from the traditional sugar production of the Northeast to the coffee plantations of the South centered around São Paulo. With this transition Brazil's reliance on slavery as the primary source of labor clashed with the notion of "progress" at the heart of the positivism embraced by the military elite. In contrast to the traditional sugar fazendeiro (plantation owner), the new coffee elite embraced modern agricultural technology, and could thus accept a paid labor force rather than relying on the centuries-old tradition of slavery. During the second half of the nineteenth century Brazilian abolition became inevitable: The importation of African slaves ended in 1850; the Law of the Free Womb of 1871 eventually freed slaves born after its passage; the 1884 Saraiva-Cotegipe Law (also known as the Sexagenarian Law) freed slaves over the age of sixty; and Princess Isabel (1846–1921) signed the Golden Law granting final abolition in 1888. Rather than fighting those changes, the southern land-owning elite positioned themselves to both profit and retain their political control following the end of slavery. White immigrants (mostly Italian) were drawn to the growing economy of São Paulo. In the face of the growing acceptance of "scientific racism" in Europe and the United States, the growth of a white working class offered the Brazilian elite the means to displace the descendents of the millions of Africans brought to Brazil during the centuries-long Atlantic slave trade—to "whiten" the nation. Because European immigrants refused to come to Brazil to work alongside slaves before abolition, choosing instead to go to the United States or Argentina, some of the wealthiest plantation owners in São Paulo supported unconditional abolition as a necessary step towards a modern Brazilian state.

Population:190,010,647 (2007 est.)
Area:3,286,488 sq mi
Official language:Portuguese
Languages:Portuguese, Spanish, English, French
National currency:Real
Principal religions:Roman Catholic, 73.6%; Protestant, 15.4%
Ethnicity:white, 53.7%; mulatto, 38.5%; black, 6.2%
Other urban centers:Belém, Belo Horizonte, Campinas, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Goiânia, Manaus, Porto Alegre, Recife, Río de Janiero, Salvador, Santos, São Paulo
Annual rainfall:Up to 300 inches annually in the Amazon basin; heavy to moderate in most of the rest of the country; periodic droughts in the northeast.
Principal geographical features:Mountains: The Brazilian Highlands, Great Escarpment, and Guiana Highlands, later includes Pico de Neblina (9,888 ft)
Rivers: The Amazon and its many tributaries, including the Negro and Tocantins; Paraguay, Paraná, São Francisco, Uruguay
Lakes: Lagoa dos Patos, Furnas, Itaipú, Sobradinho, Tucuruí
Islands: Fernando de Noronha, Marajó
Other: The rainforests in the Amazon basin are the largest in the world.
Economy:GDP per capita: $8,800 (2006 est.)
Principal products and exports:Agricultural: cocoa, coffee, corn, meat, rice, soybeans, sugar, wheat
Manufacturing: aircraft, cement, chemicals, footwear, lumber, machinery, motor vehicles, textiles, steel
Mining: iron, tin
Government:Gained independence from Portugal in 1822. It is a federal republic with a bicameral National Congress consisting of an 81-seat Senate and a 513-seat Chamberof Deputies. Members of congress are elected through proportional representation. The chief of state and head of government is an elected president.
Armed forces:Army: 189,000
Navy: 48,600
Air force: 69,309
Paramilitary: 385,600
Reserves: 1,340,000
Transportation:Rail: 18,230 mi
Ports: Gebig, Itaqui, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande, San Sebasttiao, Santos, Sepetiba Terminal, Tubarao, Vitoria
Roads: 59,871 mi paved; 1,028,689 mi unpaved
Airports: 718 paved runway airports, over 5,000 unpaved airports, and 16 heliports
Media:Over 100 daily newspapers, including Estado de São Paulo, Globo, Folha de São Paulo, Jornal o Dia, and Zero Hora; 1,365 AM and 296 FM radio stations; 138 television stations.
Literacy and education:Total literacy rate: 88.6%
Public education is free at all levels. Most children complete 8 years of primary school and roughly 75% receive secondary schooling. There are over 9 universities, including at least one in each state.

Various historians favor different interpretations. Thomas E. Skidmore examines how the elite perceptions of race and nation affected the transition from monarchy to republic. Edgard Carone ascribes the fall of the empire to a betrayal of the aristocracy, which was not hereditary and traditional and thus had no organic link to the monarchy. Another author, João Cruz Costa, sees an important role for the middle class in the proclamation of the republic, although he attributes more significance to the antagonism of the military and clergy toward the empire. José Murilo de Carvalho denies that the people were indifferent and apathetic to the proclamation of the republic, as claimed by Aristides Lobo. In Murilo de Carvalho's opinion, people were active in religious brotherhoods, popular festivities, and mutual help organizations. This activity involved communal behavior and was devoid of individualistic attitudes inspired by bourgeois values, which were weak in Brazilian cities, where administrative and political functions prevailed. He also emphasizes the distance between formal and real life due in part to the pervading influence of slavery. In his view, people were not apathetic but cynical about the proclamation of the republic. George Reid Andrews examines how Afro-Brazilians competed with white immigrants during the period following abolition, and the state's role in excluding black workers from the better jobs during the decades of the First Republic. José Luiz Werneck da Silva calls attention to the fact, generally unacknowledged, that people demonstrated in the streets on the day of the proclamation of the republic and invaded the capital's municipal chamber, thus deposing the monarchy before Marshal Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca led a parade elsewhere and officially proclaimed the republic. Emilia Viotti da Costa weighs several aspects of the above arguments in her examination of the late Brazilian Empire and the rise of a republic: slavery; liberalism; land policies; and elite landowners.

At the time there were several currents of republican thought. Silva Jardim developed a concept of a republic based on the social contract of Jean Jacques Rousseau, whereas a significant segment of the officers supported Auguste Comte's positivism. The military also aspired to vote and claimed a full citizen's status, with the right to be elected, hold free meetings, publicly express their opinions, and have greater weight in the decision-making process of the state. Raul Pompéia argued that the army was indeed made up of the common man. Republicans excluded labor from the political system mainly because of illiteracy, the presence of many immigrants in its ranks, and fear of anarchist ideology.


An elected constituent assembly met in 1890 to draft the first republican constitution. It was based on a committee proposal subsequently revised by Rui Barbosa De Oliveira, who tried to conciliate the authoritarian state defended by positivists against the federalism favored by political leaders.

The Constitution of 1891 reflected the ideal of restricted democracy supported by liberals. The constitution embodied the principle that political rights are granted by society to those deemed deserving of them. And so the vote was to be direct but not to include the illiterate (some 83% of the population), minors (under twenty-one years), common soldiers, clergy, and women. (In the first direct election for president in 1894, only about 2 percent of the total population voted.) Deleted from an early version of the Constitution was the obligation of the state to provide education, which had figured in the empire's charter. The republic maintained the prohibition against the foundation of new monastic orders, the exclusion of the Jesuits, and the ban on religious teaching in public schools.

Additional features of the Brazilian charter were the establishment of three separate and independent powers: judicial, legislative (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), and executive; a presidential regime; federalism; separation of church and state; and the rights to freedom of thought, assembly, profession, and property. During the operation of this constitution (1894–1930), the executive was supported by the wealthiest states—São Paulo and Minas Gerais—which formed a coalition with Rio Grande do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, and Pernambuco; this regionalism hampered the formation of national parties. In São Paulo, politics were controlled by coffee plantation owners and export-import commercial concerns.

The Constituent Assembly elected the first president and vice president, Deodoro da Fonseca and Floriano Peixoto, respectively. Fonseca, who had been ruling since the fall of the empire, was supported by part of the army. Peixoto was backed by a substantial part of the army and by urban industrial and service sectors. During Fonseca's rule (1889–1891), the country was disturbed by economic and political crises. The old coffee plantations of the state of Rio de Janeiro declined due to the abolition of slavery, soil exhaustion, and plant disease. To fight the depression, Finance Minister Rui Barbosa launched a policy of economic recovery based upon an increase of currency emissions and credit. He attempted to redirect the economy toward activities other than agriculture for export. The policies of Rui Barbosa that led to the Encilhamento, a period of feverish, speculative economic activity, are a matter of controversy. Public credit that had been restricted to coffee production and export was thenceforth extended to industry and other activities. The devaluation of currency and the imposition of tariffs to be paid in gold produced an increase in custom duties and deterred the importation of competitive manufactured goods. At the same time, special measures ensured the entry of capital goods and raw materials. Industrial expansion was further favored by declines in energy prices. Labor costs also fell due to a surplus of labor; this, however, sparked workers' strikes and conflict between labor and the federal government. Negative aspects of the Encilhamento included a high rate of inflation, increased speculation, formation of fictitious enterprises to gain favorable credits, corruption, and bankruptcies.

Bankruptcies were frequent but mostly related to fake or small, weak enterprises, whereas the major industrial concerns acquired capital in spite of inflation and increased production. Nevertheless, popular discontent exploded as food prices and rent rose, salaries and wages remained low, and unemployment became extensive. The executive, which lost the support of Congress, was closed by President Deodoro, who decreed a state of siege and announced new elections. Opponents sought support from the navy, which revolted under the command of Admiral Custódio de Melo. To avoid civil war, Deodoro resigned in 1891 and Vice President Peixoto took over (1891–1894). He reversed the policy of enlarging the currency, suspended the state of siege, and deposed state governors who had supported the former president. In 1892 an unsuccessful uprising at two fortresses in Rio de Janeiro sought immediate presidential elections.

In 1893, with the support of Admiral Luís Filipe Saldanha Da Gama, a monarchist who claimed that Floriano Peixoto's government was unconstitutional, the navy, under the leadership of Custódio de Melo revolted once again. In the same year, federalists in Rio Grande do Sul rebelled against the authoritarian local government and, after joining forces, dominated the south of the country. The decisive victory of federal forces in 1894 ended a period of troubled consolidation of the republic, although the hopeless resistance of Saldanha da Gama lasted until August 1895. The main urban centers were also disturbed by conflicts between the National Guard, police, and army and between Brazilians and Portuguese.


The recovery and expansion of coffee plantations, employing free, mostly immigrant labor in São Paulo, was responsible for the victory of Prudente José de Morais (1894–1898) as presidential candidate and the return to power of the coffee oligarchy. Morais pacified Rio Grande do Sul, but during his rule a rural movement sprang up in the interior of Bahia, where in 1893 Antônio Vicente Mendes Maciel, a messianic religious leader called the Counselor by his followers, settled the village of Canudos. An economically self-sufficient peasant community, it served as a refuge for the poor and unemployed, refused to pay taxes, and led a revolt that lasted until 1897.

Despite the fact that the Morais government made no attempt to promote it, industry, with the help of exports and the inflow of foreign capital and immigrants, developed. Nevertheless, in the early decades after the founding of the republic, the country's economy remained massively agricultural, essentially dominated by coffee produced for export. The pattern of land ownership varied widely. Prosperous coffee plantations prevailed in São Paulo, declining coffee plantations prevailed in Rio, and deteriorating sugar plantations characterized the Northeast. Sharecroppers and salaried field hands replaced slaves. Blacks and people of color were dominant, but great numbers of European immigrants were brought in to work on São Paulo plantations. In declining gold-mining areas (Minas Gerais, Goiás, Mato Grosso) and in the Northeast backlands, extensive cattle raising and agriculture developed. The Indian population was still important in the central plateau. The Amazon basin—typified by communal and tribal subsistence agriculture and gathering, fishing, and hunting—was largely unexploited and sparsely populated. Rubber was the only important export from the area.

The main urban industrial centers were Rio de Janeiro (the capital), São Paulo, Recife, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, and Pôrto Alegre. The pattern of urban development did not center around one primary city, as was the case in some Latin American countries.

After the efforts of Rui Barbosa, the federal government had no industrialization policy. From 1895 to 1904, investments in import machinery for textile mills diminished because of the fall of coffee prices beginning in 1896, a policy of deflation, reduction of tariffs, and a bank panic in 1900 at a time of intensive gold speculation. The government negotiated a funding loan with the Rothschild group to stabilize currency. In 1903 a general strike occurred in Rio de Janeiro to protest low salaries, unemployment, and poor health and housing conditions. In the early twentieth century, competition in the international coffee market caused prices to fall further. In 1906 valorization agreement among the main coffee-producing states to limit exports led to an increase in prices from 1909 to 1912 and helped to stabilize currency and expand the importation of capital goods. In the period from 1915 to 1919, imports of equipment dwindled due to World War I, while industrial production increased at different rates in various regions due to full employment of industries to attend the increased market.

In 1912 strikes reached a peak. A general strike in São Paulo during World War I marked the height of anarchist influence and the beginning of its decline. From 1920 onward the unions won recognition, several laws protecting labor were enacted, and security for laborers injured in work-related accidents began to be developed. Founded in 1922, the Communist Party tended to supersede anarchism.

In 1922, Modern Art Week, organized by São Paulo intellectuals, questioned Brazil's traditional European-inspired elite culture. The movement encompassed all forms of art, sought the Brazilian popular roots of national culture, and had strong political overtones. The 1920s also witnessed protests against the old republican order—the manipulation of votes, the absence of electoral fairness, the coalition among the larger states, and the exclusion of the majority from the political process through the literacy requirement for voting. Also criticized were the distorted structure of land ownership, in which inefficiently exploited large estates stood alongside landholdings too small to support a family, the abuses against sharecroppers, the absence of labor laws to protect field hands, and the dominance of foreign capital in the economy.

The tenentes (lieutenant) revolts of 1922 and 1924–1925 voiced some of these qualms as well as aspirations for the reform of federalism, restoration of balance between the three branches of government, the secret ballot, individual rights, and nationalism. The tenentes movement is variously interpreted as military intervention to uphold legitimacy or as an expression of middle-class discontent with the corrupt democratic system of the 1920s. The military body known as the Prestes Column wandered through the interior for several years without fighting a decisive battle with the regular military forces. Its leader, Captain Luís Carlos Prestes, became a mythic figure called the Cavalier of Hope. The degree of popular support for the tenentes column is a matter of debate.

The states' policy of supporting coffee prices could not cope with the plummeting prices resulting from the Great Depression of 1929. The problem was reinforced by the credit restriction imposed by the last president of the Old Republic period, Washington Luís, who aimed at restoring convertibility of the currency through a funding loan.


The Revolution of 1930 that brought Getúlio Vargas to power has been regarded as a movement of the industrial bourgeoisie seeking to overthrow a state dominated by the coffee landlords and the commercial complexes linked to them. Nevertheless, the associations of entrepreneurs in São Paulo, Brazil's main industrial center, supported President Washington Luís, and two years after the victory of Vargas, they revolted against his rule. Furthermore, the industrial bourgeoisie was too weak to form a national movement of its own, depending as it did upon foreign capital and state support. Also, industry stood to benefit from a policy aimed at avoiding the collapse of the coffee economy.

Another interpretation of the period views the revolution as a result of conflict that pitted the middle classes (public and commercial employees, liberal professionals, and small commerical, industrial, and financial entrepreneurs) with low political consciousness against the oligarchies. The weak middle classes might have found political expression in the tenentes movements, but the latter were unable to establish common ground with the civilian middle classes, whose goals were different. When the tenentes reached power in 1930, they did not represent middle-class interests. The Depression and cancellation of coffee price supports led to a diversification of production (coffee represented 70 percent of total exports), which in turn weakened the coffee oligarchy.

The Aliança Liberal (Liberal Alliance), organized in 1930, was a coalition of dissident oligarchies from Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul, and Paraíba that supported Vargas in his 1930 bid for the presidency against Júlio Prestes, the candidate favored by Washington Luís. Vargas lost the possibly fraudulent election. Revolt broke out after João Pessoa, Vargas's vice-presidential candidate, was assassinated in Recife. A joint civilian-military movement quickly swept Vargas into power as provisional president in October 1930.

Francisco Weffort observed a political void in 1930 stemming from the weakness of the industrial bourgeoisie, the crisis of hegemony of the coffee bourgeoisie (plantation owners, export-import concerns), the lack of cohesion and limited consciousness of the middle sectors, and the diffuse thinking of the popular masses, who favored the formation of a state of compromise above class interests. Into this void stepped the coalition that brought Vargas to power. It included regional interest groups harmed by São Paulo's dominance, tenentes discontented with the republic's lack of authenticity, and urban middle sectors negatively affected by the Depression. The senior officers in the army were divided. At the heart of the coalition were elements of the bourgeoisie (commercial, industrial, financial) and part of the middle classes, with the latter in a subordinate position. Labor was excluded from power.

Vargas's rule reflected this coalition when in 1931 he established the Conselho Nacional do Café (renamed Departamento Nacional do Café in 1933), which from 1931 to 1944 was in charge of buying coffee and burning it, thus forcing coffee planters to restrict their fields and crops. Further encouraging this process, the government transferred resources from coffee plantations to industries and to other types of agriculture. In 1933 the planters' debts to banks had reduced by 50 percent. The coffee policy diminished unemployment, ensured a certain level of income for the growers, maintained the internal market, and resulted in an effective antidepression policy. Brazil showed signs of economic recovery in 1932, much earlier than other nations. Yet in spite of these measures, a 1932 revolt in São Paulo called for the return to constitutional rule. Afterward, the tenentes were excluded from the governments of some states.

The Ministry of Labor, Industry, and Commerce, founded in 1930, was in charge of implementing the new regime's philosophy of cooperation between capital and labor. Labor laws, later codified, aimed at forcing workers into government-regulated unions. Entrepreneurs were also pressed to join unions. Conflicts between labor and capital were to be decided by labor courts. The government collected a mandatory tax on unions to whom it later dispensed these resources. Unions were discouraged from delving into politics. Their role was to promote culture. The right to strike was restricted. Nevertheless, workers formed factory commissions to resist government control.

Vargas's rule (1930–1945) was characterized by nationalism, economic self-sufficiency, restriction of immigration and foreign capital, and state regulation and direct participation in the economy. Vargas returned Brazil to democratic rule, reestablishing in 1933 the National Constituent Assembly, comprising representatives of employee and emp-loyer unions. The Constitution of 1934, Brazil's third, was based on the corporatist ideas of Germany's Weimar Republic. It incorporated Vargas's labor and electoral laws (women's suffrage, the right to vote at age eighteen). The state regulated the ownership and exploitation of underground resources and water, established free and mandatory primary education, and created the regional minimum wage.

In 1933 the Brazilian Integralist Action Party (Ação Integralista Brasileira—AIB) was founded. With fascist leanings, the party supported a centralized and strong federal state, powerful municipal chambers, indirect elections, and representatives from employer and employee unions. The patriarch-ical Catholic family would be the cell of society. Plinio Salgado, its leader and founder, had belonged to the Modern Art Week movement. Most of the supporters of this party were professionals and members of the navy.

Opposed to the AIB was the National Liberating Alliance (Aliança Nacional Libertadora—ANL), a loose coalition of liberals and Communists. In 1935 it acquired a stronger Communist overtone when Luís Carlos Prestes became its honorary leader. Its program was land reform, nationalization of foreign enterprises, suspension of foreign debt payments, and establishment of a democratic bourgeois government as a step toward larger popular participation. In November 1935 the ANL, supported by some military sectors, attempted to take power in Rio de Janeiro, Recife, and Natal but failed for lack of popular support. The government then "found" the Cohen Plan, a forgery that contained a blueprint for Communist terrorism. It was used as a justification for launching a coup d'état in 1937 that established the lengthy dictatorship of Vargas, known as the Estado Nôvo. From that time both followers of the AIB and the Communists were repressed.


It is almost impossible to summarize the many interpretations of the Estado Nôvo and their views as to whether it was authoritarian or totalitarian and fascist in nature. The army was not monolithic, giving Vargas room to play one faction against the other and remain somewhat independent. Corporatism had some impact, but it was mostly a matter of rhetoric. For some the Estado Nôvo was a decisive moment in state building for its creation of a rational-legal bureaucracy that promoted industrialization.

Ruling without parties under the new Constitution of 1937, Vargas's government favored national integration, import substitution, industrialization, and urban over rural interests, policies that profoundly transformed Brazil in the war years. His government also realigned Brazil from neutrality to an anti-Axis stance in January 1942, thereby enabling the country to obtain U.S. credit for the construction of the Volta Redonda steel mill. The sinking of Brazilian ships in March 1942 led to a declaration of war on the Axis powers five months later and Brazilian participation in the Italian campaign. Returning from Europe, officers in the Brazilian Expeditionary Force would play a key role in the downfall of Vargas in October 1945. The removal of Vargas was linked to the defeat of the Axis powers, the quelling of political discontent through repressive labor practices, and the refusal to adopt rural labor laws. In 1945 workers, through urban labor strikes organized by factory commissions, supported a return to democracy. Pressure for the end of the dictatorship also came from political parties such as the National Democratic Union (União Democrática Nacional—UDN), representing urban bourgeois liberalism; the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrático—PSD), the party of traditional landed interests; and the Brazilian Labor Party (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro—PTB), based on the official bureaucracy of the unions and organized by Vargas himself. Finally democracy was restored, and General Eurico Dutra won the presidential election with the support of Vargas, the PTB, and the PSD.

DEMOCRACY: 1945 TO 1964

From an economic standpoint, the 1945–1964 period was one of installing and developing the import-substitution industrialization model to its limits. This model implied the need for direct state intervention in the economy. The Dutra government (1946–1951) tried briefly to reestablish free trade, but the quick loss of foreign money reserves earned by Brazil during World War II led to a policy of selected noncompetitive imports. In spite of democracy's return, labor unions suspected of Communist leanings were closed and the Communist Party itself was outlawed.

The return of Vargas as president (1951–1954) meant continuation of state enterprises in strategic sectors (water, power, electricity, steel, petroleum), economic planning, and co-option of urban labor, which had been repressed under Dutra's conservative rule. Opposition to these policies as well as nationalism, eventually led the army to try to overthrow the president. After an attempt on the life of journalist Carlos Lacerda that killed an air force major, the generals demanded Vargas's resignation. Instead, he committed suicide in 1954. In November 1955 the vice president who had taken over, João Café Filho (1954–1955), was replaced by the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Carlos Luz, allegedly because of an illness of the former. But during the same year, Luz and leading supporters fled for fear of an army takeover. Also in 1955, Juscelino Kubitschek was elected president, and War Minister Henrique Lott ensured his taking office despite maneuvers to keep him out. A transitional government headed by Nereu Ramos (speaker of the Senate), chosen by the Chamber of Deputies, ruled from November 1955 to the end of January 1956, when Kubitschek assumed power.

The Kubitschek government (1956–1961) adopted an economic planning policy inspired by U.S. economist Walt W. Rostow's theory of takeoff. It concentrated investments in an area (Minas Gerais, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro) where the preconditions for self-sustained growth existed. The plan of targets (1958) provided for government investment in that area to unclog bottlenecks for industrial growth—for example, power, transportation (mainly shipyards and cars), roads, and chemical industries. The government also sought private and foreign investments for the region. Planners assumed that as the area developed, it would carry in its wake the growth of the other regions so that industry would bring change to the backward rural areas. Kubitschek diverged from Vargas by fostering foreign investment. The march to the west and the establishment of the capital in Brasília (1960) would, he believed, redistribute the population, which was concentrated along the coast, and integrate the country. Between 1955 and 1961, industrial production grew 80 percent in constant prices. From 1957 to 1961, the real rate of growth was 7 percent per year and nearly 4 percent per capita. Brazil had achieved virtual self-sufficiency in light consumer goods by the mid-1950s.

Kubitschek has been criticized, however, for reinforcing regional differences, neglecting backward states, depressing the standard of living of urban workers, and promoting inflation through the construction of Brasília at a time of declining export earnings. Furthermore, some have asserted that the option for roads and an automobile industry instead of trains was a mistake in a country that imported petroleum. Finally, education and agriculture were the forgotten goals. Foreign indebtedness reached higher levels that were difficult to reduce.

In the 1945–1964 period, the Social Democratic Party and the Brazilian Labor Party formed a dominant political alliance that implied the exclusion of rural workers and cooptive populist policies toward urban workers. The economic policies of the alliance broadened the gap between rural and urban areas and caused heavy migration from countryside to cities (mainly from the Northeast to São Paulo), which resulted in the growth of tenements and shacks and mass unemployment. The 1946 constitution (Brazil's fifth), adopted the Vargas labor code.

The government of Jânio Quadros, who succeeded Kubitschek in 1961, made a frustrated attempt to reestablish a market economy, follow an independent foreign policy, and impose an authoritarian regime combating corruption and administrative inefficiency. After eight months, Quadros suddenly resigned, hoping to return with increased authority, but the interference of the military prevented that maneuver from succeeding.

Popular and labor mobilization and division within the military made it possible for Vice President João Goulart to complete the term (beginning in September 1961) but within a parliamentary system. Goulart, former labor minister of Vargas and PTB leader, fought for the return of presidential government in 1962 and won a January 1963 plebiscite on that issue. To gain labor support, Goulart departed from the traditional PSD-PTB policy of demobilizing workers, which helped to break the power of the bureaucracy in the government-controlled unions. The plan of basic structural reforms sponsored by Goulart, including land and tax reforms, antagonized landowners. Educational and housing reforms were less controversial, but industrialists felt aggrieved by the revived workers' movement and increases in wages.

From the beginning of Goulart's term until his overthrow by the military in April 1964, inflation worsened while the split between leftist-nationalists and anti-Communists within labor became wider. A general radicalization of mass movements took place, and leftist unions became more powerful, independent, and better coordinated on the national level, particularly in the General Command of Workers (Comando Geral do Trabalho). Unions pressed for higher wages and joined the movement for basic reforms. Rural workers were organized both locally and nationally, and literacy campaigns, involving an effort to promote political awareness, were launched. The students' movement, led by the National Students Union (UNE), coordinated its activities with workers' protests. A segment of the Catholic clergy supported reform, whereas some members were outright revolutionary. Several popular fronts were formed, while the PSD, UDN, PTB, and PCB suffered splits. In the last case, dissidents formed the Labor Policy (Política Operária—POLOP), which revised the Marxist analysis and strategies of the PCB.

The discontent with structural inequalities was reinforced by the declining growth rate of industrial production due to international market conditions and exhaustion of the import-substitution model. Through domestic production, the country had replaced a large number of imported goods until most imports (e.g., petroleum), could not be substituted for. Also, regional differences of income, as well as class differences, had deepened.

The 1964 military coup against Goulart had the support of the great majority of the military and part of the industrial and the landed elites. It could count on the immediate recognition of the new regime by the United States. The supposed threat of the so-called unions' republic, the basic reforms of Goulart, a law restricting the repatriation of profits by foreign enterprises, and the high rate of inflation were factors behind the coup, particularly because some of the army leaders no longer supported civilian rule and had a nationalistic ideology.


After the 1964 coup Congress lost its power, becoming a mere rubber stamp. Opponents of the new regime lost their political rights. Under the regime's First Institutional Act, Marshal Humberto Castelo Branco, the coup's leader, was selected as president by the military leaders and given automatic approval by Congress. The CGT, Peasant Leagues, and UNE and its affiliates were dissolved. Labor unions were purged, and some state governors were removed. Strict censorship was established, and the secret police gained new power. In 1969 university professors were dismissed, the number of social science classes was reduced, and a mandatory course on moral and civic education was imposed. The Second Institutional Act established indirect elections for the presidency, denied illiterates the vote, extinguished old political parties, and organized two new ones, the Brazilian Democratic Movement (Movimento Democrático Brasileiro—MDB) as the opposition and the National Renovating Alliance (Aliança Renovadora Nacional—ARENA) as the pro-government organization. The same act gave the president the right to suspend Congress, to expel members of parliament, to suspend political rights for ten years, and to decree a state of siege. In 1966 the federal legislature was suspended; subsequently it was this demoralized Congress that elected General Artur da Costa E Silva president and approved Brazil's sixth constitution in 1967 (drafted by a committee of jurists close to the regime), which incorporated the institutional acts. Under this charter the executive could enact laws by decree, suspend political rights of members of Congress, and extend the jurisdiction of the military courts to civilians committing political crimes. In 1969 extensive amendments to the Constitution further centralized power in the federal government and further weakened Congress in relation to the president.

During the rule of Castelo Branco (1964–1967), Costa e Silva (1967–1969), and the military junta that briefly replaced the latter when he became ill, the economic depression deepened partly because of deflationary austerity measures. Opposition was forced underground, assuming the form of urban and rural guerrilla activity. Part of the Catholic clergy remained the last open resistance to the military regime; some clerics supported rural unionism and other organizations of the poor as they worked for a humanized capitalism preached by Father Bastos d'ávila. Anti-Communist organizations were supported by a segment of the industrial bourgeoisie. The Superior War College defended an all-encompassing concept of national security including government repression of dissidents by imprisonment without due process, torture, murder, and secret burial under a false or no name.

Whereas the Left deemed that the national economic crisis could be resolved only by a radical redistribution of wealth, the Right believed that growth and modernization could be achieved through a pattern of income concentration. The military government emphasized the expansion of manufactured and agricultural exports and a process of modernization. During the rule of Emílio Garrastazú Médici (1969–1974), important sectors of business and finance were restructured, inflation was reduced to 20 percent in 1971 (it had been 80 percent in 1963), exports grew from $2.7 billion in 1968 to $6.2 billion in 1973, exchange reserves reached $1 billion, and foreign capital once again entered the country. Before 1964 the country had achieved self-sufficiency in most durable goods. The goals of the plan of 1970–1973 were the development of capital goods production and nuclear power and the massive absorption of technology.

For many the so-called Brazilian Miracle legitimized the military regime. By the same token, the decline of the economy after 1974, resulting in part from higher petroleum prices, promoted a democratization process. President Ernesto Geisel (1974–1979), under the pressure of large strikes and public opinion, started a gradual return to democracy with the constitutional amendment of 1978 that revoked the institutional acts, restored local elections, and allowed the formation of new political parties. João Baptista Figueiredo (1979–1985) granted political amnesty in 1979 and made it easier to organize parties. Remodeled and new parties, the Catholic Church, and class organizations participated in a huge campaign for direct and immediate presidential elections in which the masses would participate. Instead, indirect elections were held on January 15, 1985, with Tancredo Neves and José Sarney chosen as president and vice president, respectively. The latter assumed office in 1985 due to the illness and death of the former.

Between 1950 and 1980 the country underwent deep changes. In 1950, 64 percent of the total population was rural and 36 percent urban. In 1980 the figures were, respectively, 33 percent and 67 percent. In 1980 Greater São Paulo reached more than 12.5 million inhabitants—more than 10 percent of the total population. The number of workers grew 500 percent between 1950 and 1980, when they represented 32.7 percent of the population, and 52.1 percent of labor was concentrated in the production of capital goods. In 1980 the primary sector of the economy incorporated 29.9 percent, the secondary 24.4 percent, and the tertiary 45.7 percent. The participation in elections broadened from 15 percent of the population in 1945 to 48 percent in 1982.

During the military regime, the malnourished increased from 27 million in 1961–1963 (38 percent of the population) to 72 million in 1974–1975 (67 percent); the percentage dropped slightly in 1984 to 65 percent. In the 1980s, the richest 1 percent of the population increased its share of the national income from 13 percent to 17.3 percent, whereas the poorer 50 percent suffered a decline from 13.4 percent to 10.4 percent. In 1989, 18.9 percent of the population age fifteen or more (17.2 million people, concentrated mainly in the Northeast) were illiterate. More than 44 percent of all families earned less than twice the minimum wage, and only 3.5 percent of the members of these families went to college (1989). Poverty and lack of proper sanitary conditions were responsible for the persistence of epidemic diseases such as malaria, and for the reappearance of cholera in 1989, with 1.1 million cases.

The relationship between the volume of foreign debt and the internal gross production deteriorated from 18.9 in 1980 to 46.3 in 1984. Conspicuous consumption by the government, extensive investments in nuclear programs, and military expenditures represented a drawback. The breakdown of democracy weakened parties and reinforced populist, authoritarian, and clientele practices. The problem of maldistribution of infrastructure, income, and land remained; the number of landless rural workers increased whereas the number of sharecroppers dwindled and that of migrant salaried field hands grew.

Two years after the drafting of Brazil's seventh constitution in 1988, Fernando Collor de Mello became the first president elected by direct popular vote since 1961. Collor ran for the presidency on an anticorruption platform, promising to sweep out government corruption and remove inefficient state employees who collected inflated salaries. Ironically, his presidency is best remembered for its high level of personal corruption, which led to massive anti-Collor demonstrations and formal impeachment proceedings. Collor also implemented an unorthodox and highly unpopular economic "shock" policy by abandoning wage and price indexing and freezing all funds held in personal bank accounts for eighteen months. His goal was to control inflation, which reached nearly 80 percent per month during his presidency, but his policy failed to slow those rates. Collor's commitment to neoliberal reform through privatization of government-owned industry also marked a change in Brazilian economic policy. In 1992 he became the first Brazilian president to face removal from office through an impeachment trial before the Brazilian senate; at the opening of the trial in December he resigned his office. His vice president, Itamar Franco, completed Collor's term, taking office in December 1992 and serving through 1994.

Under Franco, in May 1993, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a senator and former minister of foreign affairs, was appointed minister of finance. In that position he implemented the Plan Real, which successfully controlled Brazil's hyperinflation. The Plan Real was implemented in three stages. The first stage, put into action in December 1993, enabled the federal government to balance the budget through tighter control of both taxes and transactions between the central government and the various municipalities. Once the budget was balanced, the second stage, introduced in March 1994, indexed the currency, controlling salaries through daily adjustments. The final stage of the plan took effect in July 1994 with the introduction of the new Brazilian currency, the real, which was introduced at a 1:1 ratio with the U.S. dollar. The economic stability gained by Cardoso's plan easily swept him into the presidency in January 1995, with 54 percent of the vote in the first round.

Cardoso, who had been a distinguished sociologist best known as a Left-leaning dependency theorist, spent his two presidential terms pushing through an agenda of privatization and liberalization of the Brazilian economy. Even in the face of well-defined opposition from the Left, Cardoso managed to build a large majority of supporters in Congress to implement most of his desired reforms, several of which required a three-fifths majority from both houses of Congress. One hard-fought constitutional amendment allowed for the reelection of the president for a second term. Based on that amendment, Cardoso was able to run again in the 1998 election, which he again won in the first round, with 53 percent of the popular vote. Cardoso continued his push for privatization and liberal reform, but growing unemployment and slow economic growth cost him much of the popularity he had enjoyed early in his presidency.

In 2002 Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known in Brazil as Lula, ran for the presidency of Brazil for the fourth time—having lost in 1989, 1994, and 1998. This time, for the first time, he led in the polls. Lula is an anomaly in Brazilian politics, because in stark contrast to the Brazilian political elite, he has a working-class background. He has little formal education, having dropped out of school after the fourth grade. He was a union activist in São Paulo in the 1960s and 1970s, and in 1975 he was elected president of the metalworkers union. In 1980 he was a founding member of the Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalharores, or PT), the first major political party to espouse a socialist agenda following the military coup of 1964.

With the first round of the presidential election on October 6, 2002, Lula won a plurality of 46.4 percent, but the Brazilian constitution requires a majority; in the October 28 runoff, Lula won 61.3 percent of the overall vote. Both during the campaign and in his two presidential terms Lula has sought compromise, balancing the expectations of his well-established Leftist backers in the PT while at the same time trying to appease the fears of the middle class and the economic elite.

Following the election, Lula was cautious in setting his agenda and forming his government. He surrounded himself with diverse advisers and ministers, including two Afro-Brazilians and one indigenous Brazilian in his cabinet. He also sent a message by selecting a very moderate minister of finance. During his first term he disappointed his traditional supporters from the PT Left who were clamoring for social reform, increased minimum wages, and a break from Cardoso's neoliberal policies. Although Lula did halt privatization by retaining several hydroelectric companies and the national oil monopoly (Petrobras), his economic policy was a strict continuation of Cardoso's. Lula's commitment to the previous liberal policies was not enough to immediately appease the fears of foreign investors, who pulled most of their dollars out of Brazil early in his presidency.

During Lula's first presidential term Brazilian exports grew rapidly, and the nation had a growing trade surplus (expanding from $13.1 billion in 2002 to $33.3 billion in 2004), allowing Brazil to pay off portions of its sizable international debts ahead of schedule. By 2004 international investments came back into the country. In terms of social reforms, Lula introduced an antipoverty plan called Fome Zero (Zero Hunger), but due to overall underfunding and poor administration it was later replaced by the Bolsa da Familia (Family Allowance), which gave subsidies to poor families who kept their children in school. He also passed a 26 percent increase in the minimum wage in 2006.

Lula and his PT were hurt by several corruption scandals during his first presidential term, and even in the face of expanding trade, economic growth lagged behind expectations. Nonetheless, he won his second Brazilian presidential election in two rounds in October 2006. In his victory speech he promised to "give attention to the most needy," suggesting that he would use his second term to address more of the social needs that he had overlooked while consolidating power in his first term.

See alsoBarbosa de Oliveira, Rui; Brazil, Constitutions; Brazil, Political Parties: Brazilian Communist Party (PCB); Brazil, Political Parties: Integralist Action (AIB); Brazil, Political Parties: Liberal Alliance; Brazil, Political Parties: National Democratic Union of Brazil (UDN); Brazil, Political Parties: Workers Party (PT); Café Filho, João; Cardoso, Fernando Henrique; Collor de Mello, Fernando Affonso; Dutra, Eurico Gaspar; Figueiredo, João Baptista de Oliveira; Fonseca, Manoel Deodoro da; Geisel, Ernesto; Goulart, João Belchior Marques; Isabel, Princess of Brazil; Kubitschek de Oliveira, Juscelino; Lacerda, Carlos Frederico Werneck de; Médici, Emílio Garrastazú; Modern Art Week; Morais Barros, Prudente José de; Peixoto, Floriano Vieira; Positivism; Prestes Column; Silva, Luis Inácio Lula da; Tenentismo; Vargas, Getúlio Dornelles.


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                         Eulalia Maria Lahmeyer Lobo

                                      Zachary R. Morgan