Brazil Social and Political Conflicts

The proclamation of the republic

The main social and political problem, starting in 1860, was the issue of slavery. The country pressed for its abolition, while the landlord class opposed it, and when, after a series of partial measures, the complete emancipation of the slaves was decided, in the absence of the emperor, by the daughter and regent Isabella (1888), the loss of support for the crown by this class contributed to the fall of the monarchy. A military revolt in 1889 led to the abdication of Peter II and the proclamation of the republic, whose first president was appointed MD by Fonseca. In 1891 a federalist constitution was launched, modeled on the US one; but the situation, after the dictatorial government of the first (military) presidents, stabilized only starting from 1895.

The Vargas dictatorship After having participated in the last phase of the First World War (1917-18) alongside the Entente, the Brazil was shaken, in the 1920s, by strong social tensions, which resulted in the coup that brought GD Vargas to power (1930). Launched a clearly authoritarian Constitution in 1937 (when all the parties were also dissolved), Vargas maintained the presidency of the Republic until 1945, trying to provide a mass basis for his dictatorial government with popular mobilization (especially of the urban classes) and a series of corporatist-inspired social reforms (Estado novo). Its centralizing policy limited the traditional autonomy of states and local oligarchies to the benefit of the federal government, while industrialization and urbanization of the country were promoted. These developments were accentuated by the Second World War, in which Brazil participated from 1942 alongside the Allies: exports to international markets, particularly American ones, were favored, production growth was stimulated and ties with the USA were strengthened. In 1945 the pressure for the restoration of a formal representative democracy was expressed in the military pronouncement that forced Vargas to resign. For Brazil government and politics, please check

The postwar period

With the resignation of Vargas, a new President of the Republic (General EG Dutra) and a Constituent Assembly were elected, with the participation of various parties. Despite the advent of relative political pluralism (the Communist Party, legalized in 1945, after more than twenty years of hiding, was nevertheless outlawed in 1947), the new regime remained essentially an expression of the traditional oligarchy and the new urban middle class., while the exclusion of illiterate people from suffrage kept the majority of the population, especially in the countryside, out of political life, and the parties remained largely tied to local interests and ruling groups. Chief among these, the nationalist and populist Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (PTB), thePartido Social Democrático (PSD), moderate, and União Democrática Nacional (UDN), conservative, took turns leading the government between 1945 and 1964, while still remaining subject to substantial supervision by the armed forces.

Re-elected president in 1950, Vargas, who had accentuated the populist aspects of his politics, was forced to resign from the military in 1954. After the presidential elections of 1955, the Social Democrat J. Kubitschek took office and tried to promote the country’s economic development with a policy of public investment and founded the new capital Brasilia (1960). To his successor, J. Quadros of the UDN, induced to resign after a few months (1961), the vice president J. Goulart, of the PTB, opposed by the military, could take over only after a constitutional amendment had reduced the prerogatives of the President of the Republic with the institution of a prime minister. A referendum in 1963 restored the presidential regime, but Goulart’s reformist policy (particularly the land reform project) and the growing popular mobilization that accompanied it led the military to seize power in a coup in 1964.

The military regime

The presidency was assumed by General H. Castelo Branco, who in 1965 outlawed all political forces, establishing in their place a government party, the Aliança renovadora nacional (ARENA), and an official opposition, the Movimento Democrático Brasileiro (MDB). Two new Constitutions formalized the military regime, attributing in particular vast powers to the President of the Republic. Protest movements, mostly students, were severely repressed and attempts to give rise to a rural and urban guerrilla in the early 1970s were thwarted by the army; also the Catholic Church, which, through a substantial part of the clergy and bishops, denounced political oppression and social injustice, suffered government repression (also conducted by far-right terrorist organizations such as death squads).

On the international level, the military regime re-established the traditional close ties with the USA, questioned by Quadros and Goulart, trying at the same time to assume a hegemonic role in South America, also through economic and trade agreements with neighboring countries and with some European countries. After Castelo Branco (1964-67), A. da Costa e Silva (1967-69), E. Garrastazu Médici (1969-74) and E. Geisel (1974-79) took over the presidency of the Republic, while Brazil a period of accelerated but unbalanced economic development, heavily dependent on foreign countries and in particular on an intense influx of foreign capital, especially from the United States.

Brazil Social and Political Conflicts