Estado Novo

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Estado Novo

Estado Novo (New State), Brazil's fascist-inspired dictatorship. On 10 November 1937, President Getúlio Vargas overthrew the constitutional government that he had helped to establish in 1934, replacing it with a totalitarian regime that would continue in power until 1945. The coup d'état was justified as an emergency measure prompted by fear of class warfare and a Communist takeover in Brazil. This threat was trumped up, however, as was the document, the so-called Cohen Plan, that Vargas and his supporters brought forth as evidence for the Communist plot. Created by the Integralists, the Cohen Plan was crafted to play on anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and fear of communism, all of which flourished in Depression-era Brazil.

The Estado Novo constitution allowed for both executive and legislative branches, but Vargas actually ruled by decree. Political parties were banned, as were, by extension, elections, the Congress, and politics. Vargas and his advisers, many of them supporters of the Revolution of 1930 from Vargas's home state of Rio Grande do Sul, created a highly centralized state whose main goal was domestic industrialization. Vargas himself was a populist and successfully co-opted much of the working class by placing all labor unions under a single national umbrella. These antidemocratic moves were accepted by an urban industrial class that found its wages, and education, and health standards rising rapidly.

Although based on European fascist models, the Estado Novo did not have an absolute or clear ideology. After flirting economically and politically with the Axis Powers, Brazil linked itself to the United States in 1939, eventually joining the Allies in World War II and sending troops to Italy in 1942. The defeat of fascism, and the increasing inability of the regime to pay for the benefits it had granted to the urban working class, led the armed forces to overthrow Vargas and the Estado Novo in October 1945. On December 2, seven years after the establishment of the Estado Novo and fifteen years after Vargas first took national power, democratic rule returned to Brazil.

See alsoBrazil: Since 1889; Cohen Plan; Vargas, Getúlio Dornelles.


Thomas Skidmore, Politics in Brazil, 1930–1964: An Experiment in Democracy (1967), esp. pp. 3-53.

Robert Levine, The Vargas Regime: The Critical Years, 1934–1938 (1970).

Edgard Carone, O Estado Novo (1937–1945) (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Aggio, Alberto, Agnaldo de Sousa Barbosa, and Hercídia Mara Facuri Coelho Lambert. Política e sociedade no Brasil, 1930–1964. São Paulo, SP, Brasil: Annablume, 2002.

Levine, Robert M. Father of the Poor?: Vargas and His Era. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Williams, Daryle. Culture Wars in Brazil: The First Vargas Regime, 1930–1945. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.

                                            Jeffrey Lesser

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Estado Novo

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