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Brazil, From Moderator to Director, 1930-85

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From Moderator to Director,

There is a debate over whether the military appropriated the moderating power during the Old Republic (1889-1930). Many historians emphasize the moderating role as early as 1889, with the argument that the army claimed the emperor's moderating power, which had allowed him to intervene in and resolve political conflicts. Some argue that the military did not assume a moderating role until after 1930, primarily during the 1937-45 period of the quasi-fascist New State (Estado Novo) of Getúlio Vargas (president, 1930-45, 1951-54). According to the revisionist view, the army in 1889 did not intend to play a moderating role. However, after the collapse of the army in 1930 and its subsequent rebuilding, the military accepted the ideology of the poder moderador . The debate is important because the revisionist view suggests a more grudging acceptance by the military of the moderating role.

According to political scientist Alfred C. Stepan, the military played a moderating role in civil-military relations during the coups of 1930, 1945, 1954, and 1964; during the abortive intervention of 1961; and in 1953, when the minister of war, General Henrique Teixeira Lott, guaranteed President Juscelino Kubitschek's inauguration as the democratically elected president (1956-61) on January 31, 1956. The pro-Kubitschek faction within the military was actually the largest and most influential. The military viewed itself as "the people in uniform" (o povo fardado ), inextricably a part of the political system. Civilians, in turn, generally accepted the military's moderating function as legitimate.

In the 1930 coup, military officers of a reformist bent supported Vargas after he declared the previous elections fraudulent and assumed the presidency. As the army reorganized itself, discipline was shaky. During the decade, there were sixteen barracks revolts and seventy-two other instances of agitation, conspiracy, and protest. Between 1931 and 1938, at least 624 officers and 1,875 soldiers were expelled from the army. Thus, one of the principal reasons for General Góes Monteiro and General Eurico Gaspar Dutra's support of the dictatorial Estado Novo in November 1937 was to reestablish control and discipline in the army. Whereas the turmoil of the 1890s had ended in the "politics of the governors," that of the 1930s ended in the imposition of Brazil's first long-lived authoritarian regime (1937-45).

Ironically, the second coup in 1945 was against Vargas. The military moved to intervene a third time in 1954, again to remove Vargas from office, an action that led to his suicide. In its fourth intervention, in 1955, an anti-Kubitschek faction of the military, defeated by the larger pro-Kubitschek military faction led by General Lott, failed to stop Kubitschek from assuming the presidency. In the fifth intervention, in 1961, three military ministers were unable to block João Goulart (president, 1961-64) from succeeding Jânio Quadros (president, January-August 1961). The sixth intervention came on March 31, 1964, when the military overthrew left-of-center Goulart. By that action, the military shifted from the moderator model of civil-military relations to direct military government.

The 1964 military coup was clearly different from that of the previous five military interventions. For the first time in the twentieth century, the Brazilian military assumed political power. As Stepan has noted, the military became the director and not the moderator of politics. Instead of maintaining the status quo, the military sought to transform the system. That transformation required a new professionalism (profissionalismo novo ) for the military, which had no experience in long-term governing. The major vehicle for that new role was the War College (Escola Superior de Guerra--ESG). Emphasizing internal security and national development, the ESG is an advanced training program for senior officers and civilians.

Political scientist David V. Fleischer, referring to the security and development ideology of the military regime from 1964 to 1985, points out the continuity in the evolution of civil-military relations that can be traced to the nineteenth-century positivism of the military activists who founded the republic under the slogan of "Order and Progress." This continuity extends, Fleischer notes, through the growing economic nationalism in the 1930s and the Estado Novo to the Kubitschek era. In the latter era, autonomous development became a priority to ensure national security.

From 1964 to 1985, the military dominated the presidency. The army imposed its candidates for president and governor, and a docile Congress or an electoral college approved them. These candidates included Humberto Castelo Branco (president, 1964-67), Artur da Costa e Silva (president, 1967-69), Emílio Garrastazú Médici (president, 1969-74), Ernesto Geisel (president, 1974-79), and João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo (president, 1979-85). Both Médici and Figueiredo were former intelligence chiefs.

The military based its original plan of government on a moderate degree of civilian support and complete military unity. With time, military government exacerbated factionalism within the military. That division centered on adherents to and dissenters from the ESG ideology. The pro-ESG members of the military, the so-called Sorbonnists, were politically moderate and wanted to maintain democratic forms and institutions. They aided in returning the presidency to civilian government. Presidents Castelo Branco and Geisel best represented this faction. In contrast, the hard-liners within the military favored suspension of democratic processes and were more nationalistic. They argued against a high degree of foreign political and economic dependence in attaining the goals of security and development. The hard-liners were hesitant to return political power to civilians. Presidents Costa e Silva and Médici best represented this faction within the military.

Data as of April 1997



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