Figueiredo, João Baptista de Oliveira (1918–1999)

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Figueiredo, João Baptista de Oliveira (1918–1999)

João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo (b. 15 January 1918), president of Brazil (1979–1985). At the time of his inauguration, Figueiredo was largely unknown to the public, though he had been an early conspirator in the 1964 military coup that overthrew President João Goulart. After the coup, he rose to the rank of general and served as chief of the Military Cabinet, secretary-general of the National Security Council, and head of the National Intelligence Agency (SNI).

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Figueiredo grew up in the town of Alegrete in Rio Grande do Sul. His father, General Euclides Figueiredo, commanded anti-Getúlio Vargas troops during the 1932 São Paulo Rebellion. João Baptista chose a military career, graduating first in his class at the numerous military schools he attended, including the military academy at Realengo, where he graduated as a cavalry officer in 1937. One brother, General Euclides de Oliveira Figueiredo, also followed a military path. Another brother, Guilherme de Figueiredo, is a well-known playwright and essayist.

The last of the post-coup military presidents, Figueiredo supervised the transition to civilian rule. Bridging the gap between hard-liners and moderates, he continued the cautious relaxation (distenção) of military rule begun by Ernesto Geisel and completed the process of opening the political system (abertura). Under Figueiredo, prisoners who lost their political rights (cassados) were granted amnesty. His government abandoned the two-party system and promoted the creation of multiple parties. In 1982, Figueiredo allowed direct elections of state governors for the first time since 1965. Figueiredo tried to foster a populist image, but resorted to the hard line when necessary, as he did in the 1979 labor strikes.

Figueiredo left politics with the return to civilian rule in 1985. According to 1993 opinion polls, Brazilians rated Figueiredo's presidency high. Though mentioned as a possible candidate for the 1994 presidential elections, Figueiredo claimed little enthusiasm for the idea. He died on December 24, 1999.

See alsoBrazil: Since 1889 .


Although there is no biography of Figueiredo available in English, a number of works address his administration. Thomas E. Skidmore, The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil, 1964–1985 (1988), devotes chap. 8 and part of chap. 9 to the subject. Ronald M. Schneider, Order and Progress: A Political History of Brazil (1991), also discusses the Figueiredo government.

Additional Bibliography

Bacchus, Wilfred A. Mission in Mufti: Brazil's Military Regimes, 1964–1985. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

Frota, Sylvio. Ideais traídos. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 2006.

Gaspari, Elio. A ditadura envergonhada. São Paulo: Companhia da Letras, 2002.

                                      Sonny B. Davis

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Figueiredo, João Baptista de Oliveira (1918–1999)

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