The Getulio Vargas Era in Brazil

. Oct 15, 2017
Getulio Vargas after seizing power, in 1930 Getulio Vargas after seizing power, in 1930

During the first few decades of the Brazilian Republic, oligarchs from São Paulo and Minas Gerais dominated the national political scene. They had a simple but effective deal: one state would work to elect their own President, and in the following election, it would be the other state’s turn to choose the President-to-be.

In 1930, São Paulo ignored the deal and launched its own successful presidential bid – and succeeded. Elites from Minas Gerais challenged the election and refused to accept the results. Meanwhile, groups from other states seized the opportunity to break the São Paulo-Minas Gerais monopoly over the presidential elections. Leaders from the South and the Northeast joined forces, creating the “Liberal Alliance” with landowner Getulio Vargas at its helm. The liberals were successful in their power-grab, deposing sitting President Washington Luís and inaugurating Vargas as Brazil’s “provisional” President.

</p> <p>During his “temporary” government, Vargas began to modernize our country’s industrial sectors. He also carried out a plan to centralize power, gradually weakening regional oligarchs. In 1932, São Paulo rebelled against the overbearing federal government and demanded a new constitution. The uprising was quickly crushed, nevertheless, Vargas decided to promote a new Constitution.</p> <p>Among its new features, the 1934 Constitution implemented secret ballot voting, votes for women and compulsory primary school education for all. However, it was short-lived. Political alliances motivated by communist ideologies grew in popularity, but their ideologies were unpopular with the elite. The communist uprisings were squashed by the government in 1937, whose conquest against these agitators had the support of both the country’s military and São Paulo’s middle class. With their backing, by November 1937 Vargas was once again governing Brazil by force. And this time, his dictatorship was uncontested.</p> <h3>The <em>Estado Novo</em></h3> <p>The regime known as <em>Estado Novo</em>, or New State, drew clear inspiration from the fascist governments in Portugal and Italy. Vargas put pressure on the independence of Brazil’s three executive powers, as he closed down Congress, banned political parties, and imprisoned opponents. His own appointed governors were charged with appointing mayors, and the <em>Estado Novo</em> created its own court for national security. He also heavily censored the press, and, thanks to the newly formed Department of Press and Propaganda (DIP), began to craft his “Father of the Poor” image.</p> <p>Despite Vargas’ fondness of Germany and Italy, Brazil joined the Allies once the U.S. entered the conflict, tipping the scales in favor of the Allies.</p> <p>By 1941, heavy losses for Brazil had already damaged the <em>Estado Novo</em> regime – and Vargas’s reputation along with it. In 1943, 76 politicians, intellectuals, and businessmen from Minas Gerais signed the <em>Manifesto dos Mineiros</em>, criticizing the dictatorial regime and demanding a return to democracy. Threatened with a military coup, Vargas finally stepped down in 1945.</p> <p>But the free elections of 1945 were not the end of Getulio Vargas, who was elected Senator and recorded the highest number of votes of any candidate. By 1951, he was elected President of Brazil by popular vote.</p> <p>Unfortunately for Vargas, his new government quickly became regarded as one of the <a href="">most corrupt entities</a> in our country’s entire history. His closest government appointments provoked a series of accusations, and the President himself became the focus a negative campaign by journalist Carlos Lacerda. During that period, Lacerda was the victim of an assassination attempt. The journalist attributed the hit job to Vargas’ security chief, generating a political crisis that led to the President’s loss of support among many sectors of the elite – including the military.</p> <p>With his reputation in shreds and pressure from both the military and the press to step down, Vargas vowed he would never resign. At dawn on August 24, 1954, he shot himself in the heart. In his suicide note he left the infamous line, “I leave this life to enter into history.”

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