Médici, Emílio Garrastazú (1905–1985)

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Médici, Emílio Garrastazú (1905–1985)

Emílio Garrastazú Médici (b. 4 December 1905; d. 9 October 1985), military leader and president of Brazil (1969–1974). Médici was born in Bagé, Brazil, a village in southern cattle country close to the Uruguayan border. He entered a military school in Pôrto Alegre when he was twelve and enlisted in the cavalry nine years later. In 1934 he joined the Command and General Staff School in Rio de Janeiro. He was serving as an intelligence officer in Rio Grande do Sul in 1953 when Artur da Costa e Silva, commander of the Third Military Region, named him chief of staff. Eight years later Médici was promoted to brigadier general and appointed commander of the National Military Academy in Agulhas Negras.

Médici was the military attaché at the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C., at the time of the military coup against President João Goulart in 1964. He left the army in 1966 to become civilian head of the National Intelligence Service, returning three years later to take command of the Third Army.

When President Costa e Silva suffered a stroke in August 1969, a three-man junta composed of the military service chiefs assumed control of the government. They bypassed the successor designated in the Constitution of 1967, Vice President Pedro Aleixo, who was perceived as being too much of a politician. After consulting 100 generals, the 10 generals of the Army High Command settled on Médici as the next president. He was then nominated by the government party, the National Renovating Alliance (ARENA), elected by the Brazilian National Congress, and sworn in 30 October 1969.

Médici promised a move toward democracy but instead practiced political repression. He permitted federal elections to Congress in November 1970, but allowed only one opposition party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), to compete against ARENA. Before the election, the military carried out a mass crackdown of dissidents and arrested about 5,000 people. According to the Brazilian Amnesty Committee, 170 political opponents were killed during Médici's presidency.

The military considered suppression of dissent necessary for maintaining the stability needed to achieve economic growth. Médici's administration also helped to sustain the "economic miracle" that began in 1968. It attracted foreign loans for large-scale economic development projects and spent heavily on roads, railways, and utility projects—the infrastructure for heavy industry. Government-owned enterprises dominated steel, mining, and petrochemical industries. In 1974, 74 percent of the combined assets of the country's 100 largest firms belonged to state enterprises; state banks accounted for 56 percent of total deposits and 65 percent of loans to the private sector. This created further inequality of wealth among people and regions. Médici attempted to correct this imbalance in 1970 with construction of the Transamazon Highway, which was intended to encourage immigration and development in northeastern Brazil, the nation's poorest region. High government spending, along with the infusion of foreign capital, boosted economic growth rates to between 7 percent and 11 percent during Médici's years in office, but 80 percent of the population remained mired in poverty. Médici died in Rio de Janeiro.

See alsoBrazil, Economic Miracle (1968–1974) .


Werner Baer, The Brazilian Economy: Growth and Development (1989).

Thomas E. Skidmore, The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil, 1964–85 (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Mattos, Marco Aurélio Vannucchi Leme de, and Walter Cruz Swensson. Contra os inimigos da ordem: a repressão política do regime militar brasileiro (1964–1985). Rio de Janeiro: DP & A Editora, 2003.

Rezende, Maria José de. A ditadura militar no Brasil: repressão e pretensão de legitimidade, 1964–1984. Londrina, Brazil: Editora UEL, 2001.

Souto, Cíntia Vieira. A diplomacia do interesse nacional: a política externa do Governo Médici. Porto Alegre, Brazil: Editora da UFRGS, 2003.

                                          Ross Wilkinson

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Médici, Emílio Garrastazú (1905–1985)