Guide to Brazil

A brief guide to Brazil’s (several) political dynasties

Brazil's political dynasties
The Magalhães family is one of Brazil’s political dynasties

You can’t understand Brazilian politics without knowing the Portuguese word coronel (colonel). This term dates back to 1830s Brazil when the monarchy decided to create the National Guard in response to several separatist movements which erupted across the country. This force was sponsored by rich landowners, who bought their military ranks and became lieutenants or — if they had more money and prestige — colonels.

The government extinguished the National Guard in 1922, but the political influence and financial power of these men persisted. Not least because during Brazil’s First Republic, the central government articulated a deal with these...

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