Goulart, João Belchior Marques (1919–1976)

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Goulart, João Belchior Marques (1919–1976)

João Belchior Marques Goulart (b. 1 March 1919; d. 6 December 1976), Brazilian Labor Party (PTB) leader and president of Brazil (1961–1964), whose overthrow led to two decades of military rule.

João "Jango" Goulart was born in São Borja, Rio Grande do Sul. His family was allied politically and economically with that of Getú lio Vargas. Jango, the eldest boy of eight children, spent his early years on the family ranches that produced cattle, sheep, and horses. From the age of nine, he attended schools in larger cities, finally receiving a law degree in 1939. He soon took over the family businesses and became a millionaire.

Jango befriended Getúlio Vargas when the latter returned to São Borja in 1945. A popular figure, Jango formed district chapters of Vargas's PTB. Eventually he became a confidant, aide, and spokesman for Vargas during his 1950 campaign for president. At about that time his sister married Leonel Brizola, who would become his closest political ally.

After leading the PTB in Pôrto Alegre for a year, Jango transferred to Rio to help Vargas manage national labor politics, for which he was appointed labor minister in 1953. He showed great skill in handling workers, whom he favored with a 100-percent wage hike in 1954. The furor resulting from this decision forced Jango's resignation, but he continued to exercise great influence in labor matters through his leadership of the PTB.

In many ways Vargas's heir, Jango rode the PTB into the vice presidency in 1956 and again in 1961, allying with Juscelino Kubitschek and Jânio Quadros, respectively. He continued to use his position to help labor, and the PTB grew rapidly in Congress and the states—the only major party to do so.

Jango was in China when Quadros resigned in August 1961, creating a succession crisis. His many supporters—especially Brizola in Rio Grande—threatened civil war should the military attempt to deny the presidency to Jango. A compromise between Congress and the military chiefs allowed Jango to be titular president in a parliamentary system. The arrangement proved cumbersome, and when put to a plebiscite in early 1963, it was abandoned.

Goulart took the restored presidential powers as a vote of confidence, yet his tenure proved controversial and stormy. Although he continued to enjoy popularity among the working class, he never captured (as Vargas had) the support of the middle and upper classes. The U.S. government treated him with aloofness, especially after Brizola nationalized a subsidiary of International Telephone and Telegraph. U.S. businessmen, abetted by increasingly cool diplomatic relations, worked to discredit Goulart, while Washington disallowed financial assistance. The country plunged into a depression, exacerbated by Goulart's erratic policies and mismanagement. Politics became dangerously polarized, and Goulart failed in several attempts to conciliate opposing groups. Finally, in March 1964 he decided to make a bold appeal to the workers, rural poor, and leftists by announcing a major reforms package, including redistribution of land near federal installations. This effort, as well as his mishandling of two military revolts, led the army to overthrow him on 1 April 1964 in order to rid the country of a leftist president and restore economic order. Goulart flew into exile and lived in Uruguay and Argentina until his death from a heart attack.

See alsoBrizola, Leonel; Livestock; Vargas, Gétulio Dornelles.


Thomas E. Skidmore, Politics in Brazil, 1930–1964 (1967).

John W. F. Dulles, Unrest in Brazil (1970).

Luís Alberto Moniz Bandeira, O governo João Goulart (1977).

Jan Knippers Black, United States Penetration of Brazil (1977).

Israel Beloch and Alzira Alves De Abreu, comps., Dicionário histórico-biográfico brasileiro, 1930–1983 (1984).

Edgard Carone, A república liberal (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Fico, Carlos. Além do golpe: versões e controvérsias sobre 1964 e a ditadura military. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 2004.

Francis, Paulo. Trinta anos esta noita: 1964, o que vi e vivi. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1994.

Markun, Paulo, and Duda Hamilton. 1961: Que as armas nã o falem. São Paulo: Editora SENAC São Paulo, 2001.

Otero, Jorge. De Lula a Jango: João goulart, recuerdos en su exilio uruguayo. Montevideo: Ediciones de la Plaza, 2003.

Villa, Marco Antonio. Jango: Um perfil, 1945–1964. São Paulo: Editora Globo, 2003.

                                Michael L. Conniff