Lacerda, Carlos Frederico Werneck de (1914–1977)

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Lacerda, Carlos Frederico Werneck de (1914–1977)

Carlos Frederico Werneck de Lacerda (b. 30 April 1914; d. 21 May 1977), famous for combative oratory and journalism that contributed to the fall of Brazilian presidents. According to historian José Honório Rodrigues, "No single person exerted as much influence on the Brazilian historical process" from 1945 to 1968.

Lacerda, born in the city of Rio de Janeiro, was a rebellious, intense youth who preferred to educate himself by reading instead of taking formal courses. In 1935 he dropped out of the Faculdade Nacional de Direito (Rio Law School) without obtaining a degree. His ardent oratorical and journalistic work for communism ended in 1940 with his "expulsion" from the Communist Party, which he had in fact never joined. Continuing to condemn the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas, he contributed to the achievement of democracy in 1945. His articles, such as those after 1949 in his own Tribuna da Imprensa, gained him admirers as an anticommunist and a courageous crusader against corruption. After his revelation of scandals in the final Vargas administration (1951–1954), supporters of the president killed a military officer while trying to assassinate Lacerda. Following Vargas's suicide (24 August 1954), mobs shouted "death to Lacerda." The latter, however, became the congressman who received the greatest number of votes.

Calling for a reform of the political system, Lacerda demanded in 1955 that President-elect Juscelino Kubitschek be prevented from taking office. Kubitschek, inaugurated with the help of a military coup, in turn would not allow Lacerda, Brazil's most sensational orator, to broadcast, and tried unsuccessfully to have him removed from Congress. As congressional opposition leader, Lacerda secured passage of legislation to reform education and was active in advancing the campaign that brought Jânio Quadros to the presidency early in 1961.

When Quadros, attacked by Lacerda for harboring dictatorial plans, unexpectedly resigned in August 1961, the presidency went to Vice President João Goulart, despite Lacerda's wishes. Lacerda, who had been elected governor of Guanabara state, gave his state a brilliantly constructive administration while denouncing Goulart and the president's Communist allies in labor unions. During the military coup that overthrew Goulart in 1964, Lacerda dramatically prepared the governor's palace against a possible assault by Goulart's forces.

As a presidential candidate, Lacerda denounced the new military regime and its unpopular anti-inflation measures. After an institutional act ended direct presidential elections, he found allies in Kubitschek and Goulart for organizing an antidictatorial front. The increasingly repressive military regime jailed him for a week in 1968 and deprived him of his political rights for ten years. Lacerda then concentrated on business affairs, writing, and book publishing, activities to which he had turned in 1965 following a political setback. He died of a heart attack.

See alsoJournalism; Lacerda, Maurício Pavia de.


José Honório Rodrigues, Introduction to Carlos Lacerda, Discursos parlamentares (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Dulles, John W. F. Carlos Lacerda, Brazilian Crusader, Volume 1: The Years 1914–1960 (1991); Volume 2: The Years 1960–1977 (1996). University of Texas Press (Austin).

McCann, Brian. "Carlos Lacerda: The Rise and Fall of a Middle-Class Populist in 1950s Brazil." The Hispanic American Historical Review 83 (November 2003): 661-696.

Mendonça, Marina Gusmão de. O demolidor de presidentes: A trajetória política de Carlos Lacerda, 1930–1968. São Paulo: Códex, 2002.

                                     John W. F. Dulles

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Lacerda, Carlos Frederico Werneck de (1914–1977)

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