Quadros, Jânio da Silva (1917–1992)

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Quadros, Jânio da Silva (1917–1992)

Jânio da Silva Quadros (b. 25 January 1917; d. 16 February 1992), president of Brazil (1961), mayor (1953–1954, 1986–1988) and governor (1955–1959) of São Paulo. Born in Mato Grosso, Quadros soon moved with his family to Paraná, where his father practiced medicine and dabbled in politics. In 1930 the family moved to São Paulo, where Quadros completed his education and received a law degree. While practicing law and teaching, he became active in local politics. As a campaigner and later as a councilman, he gained a reputation as a bohemian, unpredictable, and quixotic figure.

In 1950 Quadros won a seat in the state legislature, and his notoriety grew because of his constant questioning of officials and demands for rectitude. In 1953, with the backing of Paulista influentials, he ran for mayor on a platform that stressed cleaning up graft and curbing expenditures. He adopted the broom as a campaign symbol. His victory over veteran politicians brought national attention, and the following year he took on Adhemar de Barros in the gubernatorial election. Promising to "sweep out corruption," he used unorthodox appeals that won broad support from the working and middle classes. His victory confirmed his image as a dragon slayer and quintessential populist.

From the moment of his election, Quadros turned his attention to the presidential succession, maneuvering for influence and federal patronage. São Paulo prospered from business expansion, and Quadros plowed growing taxes into infrastructure. São Paulo surpassed Rio in population as it became an industrial megalopolis.

In 1959 Quadros began campaigning for president, accepting the nomination of the National Democratic Union (UDN). His fresh image, unusual methods, and promises of national prosperity attracted a plurality of the voters, who also returned João Goulart to the vice presidency. As the first president inaugurated in Brasília, Quadros made headlines in early 1961 with an ambitious program of reforms while retaining his reputation for moralism and eccentricity. He pursued fiscal austerity, an activist and neutral foreign policy, closer relations with the third world, and industrial growth. Soon, however, relations between the president and Congress soured, and in August Quadros abruptly resigned. He hoped to be recalled because Goulart was unpalatable to conservatives and the military, but Congress accepted his resignation and Goulart eventually succeeded him.

Failing to make a comeback as governor of São Paulo in 1962 and again in 1982, Quadros remained on the sidelines throughout the military years. Then he surprised critics by winning the mayoralty of São Paulo in 1985. His decision not to run for president in 1989 marked the end of his active career.

See alsoBarros, Adhemar de; Brazil, Political Parties: National Democratic Union of Brazil (UDN); São Paulo (City).


Thomas E. Skidmore, Politics in Brazil (1967).

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

Maria Victoria Benavides, O governo Jânio Quadros (1981).

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

Edgard Carone, A república liberal (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Benevides, María Victoria. O Governo Jânio Quadros. São Paulo: Brasilense, 1999.

Chaia, Vera. A Liderança Política de Jânio Quadros. Ibitinga: Humanidades, 1992.

                                   Michael L. Conniff