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The military dictatorship period represented a break from the populism of the previous 30 years.

1961 – João Goulart takes office

– Left-wing tendencies, nationalist politics and sympathies to Communist Bloc deemed too radical by the military

– His Basic Reforms plan – calling for greater state interventionalist policies – was the main reason for his fall

  • “Education reform: aimed to combat adult literacy with the widespread use of the pioneering teachings of Paulo Freire and his method. The government also proposed to hold a university reform and prohibited the operation of private schools. It was imposed that 15% of the income produced in Brazil would be directed to education.
  • Tax reform: control of profits transfer by multinational companies with headquarters abroad; the profit should be reinvested in Brazil. The income tax would be proportional to personal profit.
  • Electoral reform: extension of voting rights to illiterates and low-ranking military officers.
  • Land reform: properties larger than 600 hectares would be expropriated and redistributed to the population by the government. At that time, the agricultural population was larger than the urban.
  • Urban reform: it was stipulated that people could own only a single house. Those who had more than one urban property would have to donate them or sell their properties at low prices.”

March 31, 1964 – military regime takes over, Goulart flees to Uruguay


– economic policy: “The main thrust of the military regimes’ economic policy was to rely less on the exportation of primary goods and to pur- sue economic growth by facilitating the production of more manufactured goods, such as consumer durable goods, for the domestic and foreign markets.10 In order to have export led growth, Brazil had to modernize its industrial base and build a comprehensive infrastructure which could support this industrialization” (325, Galano).  This was a renewal of import-substitution industrialization and export promotion growth models.  It is important to note that the consequential investments (in energy, steel, telecommunications, transportation, mining and agriculture) entailed a large quantity of borrowed capital, leading to great debt burdens in the 1980s.

–  guidelines: economic development, opposition to radical nationalists and populists, and to Communism

–  Brazil realigns with US, breaking relations with Soviet Bloc countries

– censorship of media, torture and disappearances of political activists, trade unionists and journalists; restrictive Constitution, stifling freedom of speech and political opposition

– hard-liners pushed for purging of legislators, suppression of direct elections and firing of civil servants as part of a “long recuperation”; moderate military believed in a brief period of reorganization to return Brazil to “the electoral democracy recently endangered by irresponsible politicians” (172, Modern Latin America)

– military dictatorship intended to transform Brazil into a modernized capitalist economy; great economic growth 1968-1973 (manufactured goods replace coffee as country’s leading export (172, MLA)) but soaring debt, record high inflation levels, and rising inequality 1974 and after

1964-1967 – Humberto de Alencar Castello Branco

– attempted to maintain democracy and not stay in power beyond the remainder of Goulart’s term; planned to restore civilian rule in 1966 yet military argued for a prolonged stay in power

– forced by military hard-liners to purge Congress of left-wing and populist supporters

– credited with laying the foundation for the economic growth seen in the 70s, dubbed the “Brazilian Miracle”; banking system overhauled, Central Bank created, stock market and government securities market institutionalized, export regulations simplified; Campos (planning minister) argued that “capitalism had not failed in Brazil because it hadn’t yet been tried” (172, Modern Latin America)

– suppressed populist left but laid foundation for future authoritarian governments

– Ato Institucional (Institutional Act) 1: executive has unchecked ability to change the constitution and remove anyone from office, AI 2: president elected indirectly (essentially current president hand picks next president)

– Abolished political parties and replaced them with the military government’s party (National Renewal Alliance Party) and a single opposition party (Brazilian Democratic Movement)

See below link for an interesting article from Time magazine in 1965, praising Castello Branco and his Minister of Economic Planning, Roberto de Oliveira Campos’ economic reforms which entailed eliminating of government subsidies, ending wage hikes, increasing foreign direct investment in the country and gaining the aid and support of the World Bank, IMF and the US.


1967-1969 – Artur da Costa e Silva

– Institutional Act #5: suspends habeas corpus, shuts down branches of government other than the executive, declares nationwide state of siege

– 1969 – US Ambassador to Brazil kidnapped, rebels demand release of imprisoned dissidents, increase in protests leads to greater measures of counter-insurgency

– avid recruiting of foreign investment, repression of labor unions (i.e. authoritarian regime used to carry out its harsh/rapid/unpopular version of economic development)

1969-1974 – Emílio Garrastazu Médici

– by the end of 1970, minimum wage so low, Brazilian workers with their wages tied to it lost 50% of purchasing power compared to 1960

– Brazil broadens its international presence

– Time of great economic growth – the Brazilian Miracle (1968-1973); GDP growth up to 11% annually

– Greatest human rights abuses – persecution and torture of dissidents, harassment of journalists, and press censorship

  • Perpetrators of human rights abuses have not yet been brought to justice, and current presidents have taken much less action than in neighboring countries such as Chile and Argentina

1974-1979 – General Ernesto Geisel

– less oppressive rule – “the maximum of development possible with the minimum of indispensable security”

– continued large investments in infrastructure such as highways, dams, and telecommunications

– opens Brazil up to foreign oil companies for the first time since the 1950s

– economic policy of import-substitution industrialization with export expansion

– 1973: World oil shock

– 1977: Geisel renounces military alliance with the US

– creates electoral college, allows exiles to return, restores habeas corpus, repeals extraordinary powers granted by AI #5

1979: Amnesty Law signed which granted amnesty to those convicted of political crimes between 1961 and 1978

Second oil shock of 1979 further increases Brazil’s debt burden

1980s – fall of other Latin American dictatorships, chronic inflation and stagnant economy, pro-democracy movement gains hold

1979-1985 – João Baptista

– continues democratization

– in 1982, Brazil has the largest foreign debt in the world, $87 billion (172, Modern Latin America)

1983-1985 – government imposes austerity program in conjunction with IMF (see specific conditions on pages 339 and 340, Galano) , enables Brazil to make interest payments on debt and earn a trade surplus, but leads to economic decline and increasing inflation (rising to triple digit levels in 80s, up to record high 2,398% in 1990)



1984 – democratic presidential elections held, José Sarney becomes next president

– Tancredo Neves elected with Sarney as vice-president but Neves fell ill the day before the inauguration so Sarney took office; Neves died one month later

1988 – democratic Constitution of 1988 passed


Comments on: "Political and economic policy during the military dictatorship 1964-1985" (1)

  1. […] were heavy-weights against the a dictatorship that was very popular in the seventies for allegedly creating an “economic miracle“. It was all an […]

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