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President Getúlio Vargas


English version:

Liamara Soares da Silva

Getúlio Vargas, tela de A. Malagoli


      Getúlio Vargas  (1883-1954) – Getúlio Dornelles Vargas was born in São Borja, in the state of State of Rio Grande do Sul, on April 19, 1883. While building his political career, he had the chance to be the Minister of the Treasury, Governor of Rio Grande do Sul, and the head of the provisory federal government, taking office on November 3, 1930 . He formed the Ministry of Labor, Industry, and Commerce, and held an Assembly to create the Constitution, which was enforced on July 16, 1934 . Simultaneously, the Congress held indirect elections and Vargas became the President of Brazil.

      This period is marked by ideological polarization – on one hand the ANL – Aliança Nacional Libertadora [National Liberating Alliance], a leftist movement, and the AIB – Ação Integralista Brasileira [Brazilian Fascist Action], a movement inspired by Nazi-Fascism. The ANL was disbanded on July 11, 1935 . As the 1938 elections approached, the Paulista oligarchy presented a candidate. However, Vargas intended to keep his office in order to prevent a coup by communists who wanted to lead the country into Civil War.
On November 10, 1937 , Vargas accomplished a coup himself. He closed the Congress and announced the promulgation of a new Constitution to replace the one enforced in 1934. This new Constitution was already being developed before the coup. It was based on Poland ’s authoritarian Constitution – hence the name by which it became known – “The Pollack.” This was the start of the New State .

      The New State planned the disbandment of political parties, the appointment of intermediary men for the states, and the censorship of all materials shown in any means of communication by the DIP – Departamento de Imprensa e Propaganda [Press and Advertising Department]. This agency was also in charge of spreading the ideology of the New State . It would plan and choose the government’s advertising and control public opinion.

      In 1943, Vargas released the CLT – Consolidação das Leis do Trabalho [Consolidation of Labor Laws], which guaranteed that an employee could not be fired after he or she had been working for the same company for 10 years. In addition, it established workers’ right to weekly time off, regulated conditions for the employment of minors and women, and set guidelines for night work. Vargas created Social Welfare and, in 1932, he implemented the Carteira Profissional – a book which records the details of a person’s professional life– for employed minors under 16 years of age. The Consolidation also established an 8-hour workday.

      On March 19, 1931 , the Union Law was passed. Per this law, the Ministry of Labor should approve all union statutes. In other words, Vargas intended to have control over the workers’ movement in the same fashion as Mussolini did through his ‘Carta del Lavoro.’ By favoring laborers, Vargas intended to gain the people’s support, have control over the worker, and nullify leftist influences.

      The 1929 crisis hit the Brazilian economy very hard. There was a decrease in our exports and an increase in our coffee supply. This caused the price of the commodity to fall, causing Vargas to create the National Coffee Committee in 1931. It established the ‘sustenance policy’ through which the coffee surplus was purchased and burned. 17.2 million sacks of coffee were burned in 1937 and the years that followed, which helped to normalize its position in the international market. The government also invested in the agricultural sector as a solution to Brazil ’s dependence on foreign countries.

      World War II brought about the decrease in the supply of industrialized products. This helped to strengthen our national industries. A policy for the exploration of our national riches was established. The State would participate in the economic activities, especially in the essential sectors that were not in position to develop on their own, as was the case of steel refining.

      The economic measures had a nationalistic character, as for example, the foundation of the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional [National Steel Metallurgy Company]. The construction of the Volta Redonda Plant, financed by the U.S.A. , began in 1942 because Brazil forged a closer relationship with the United States at that time. In the same year, a Technical Committee visited Brazil to help with projects such as the Companhia Vale do Rio Doce for mineral extraction, and the Paulo Afonso Hydroelectric Plant. Vargas also created the National Oil Committee to control oil refinement and distribution as a way to reduce Brazil ’s dependence on the fuel produced abroad.

      In return, Brazil supported the Allied Forces during World War II. A consequence of this was the discontinuation of diplomatic relationships with the Axis nations. When German submarines sank two Brazilian merchant ships Brazil declared war on Germany on August 22, 1942 , and sent the FEB – Força Expedicionária Brasileira [Brazilian Expeditionary Force] to fight in Italy .

      The participation of the FEB in World War II was important to Brazil ’s democratization process. The fight against European fascism was used to incite the fight against Getulio’s New State . In 1943, Getulio appeared to be in favor of the country’s re-democratization, but only after the end of the war.
In October 1943, Minas Gerais politicians wrote a Manifest repudiating the New State . It was the so-called “Manifest of the Mineiros”(*), and in 1944 reports about the Brazilian troops in Italy started to arrive in Brazil . They contained accounts of the desire for re-democratization.

      On February 1945, the 1937 Constitution was amended to include an act that allowed calling presidential elections. Two candidates opposing the government soon appeared. Eurico Gaspar Dutra was the candidate supported by the government.

      At that time three political parties were created, the UDN – União Democrática Nacional [National Democratic Union], against Vargas, and the PSD – Partido Social Democrático [Social Democratic Party] and the PTB – Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro [Brazilian Workers’ Party], based on Vargas’s ideals. On April 22, Vargas gave amnesty to all political prisoners, and on May 28th, he set a date for the elections for the following 2nd of December.

      The opposition feared Getulio might prohibit the presidential elections and the conspiracy to depose him expanded. Getulio was actually deposed on October 29, 1945 as the army surrounded the Catete Palace and forced him to resign. The President of the Supreme Court, José Linhares, took office and President. Vargas found exile in São Borja.

      Dutra was elected President, and Rio Grande do Sul, São Paulo , and six other states elected Getúlio Senator. His choice to be a Senator was to oppose Dutra’s government. He won the elections and took office as President again on January 31, 1950

      From the very beginning of his office, he found strict opposition. He never managed to get the necessary support to carry out the reforms he wished to establish. Getúlio began the campaign to nationalize the oil under the slogan “Oil is ours.” The campaign culminated with the creation of Petrobrás, our national oil company, in 1953. It would keep the monopoly of perforation, extraction and refinement, whereas private companies would be in charge of the distribution.

      At this time, Vargas started to continually confront foreign companies that were being accused of sending excessive amounts of profit abroad. In 1952, a decree established a maximum of 10% of earned profits for such remittances.

      In 1953, João Goulart was appointed Minister of Labor. He aimed to create a policy to bring workers closer to the government. He considered increasing the minimum wage by 100%. The campaign against the government had a new target now, João Goulart. The military did not like Jango, as was he was popularly known. On February 8, they handed a Manifest to the Ministry of War, the “Manifesto dos Coronéis” [Manifest of Colonels]. Under the pressure of the military, Getúlio agreed to dismiss João Goulart.

      There was even more pressure on Vargas, but he tried to help the workers more than ever. On May 1, 1954 , he increased the minimum wage by 100%. The opposition unsuccessfully tried to impeach the President.

      The conservative press, especially the Jornal Tribuna da Imprensa owned by Carlos Lacerda, initiated a violent campaign against the government. On August 5, 1954 someone tried to kill Lacerda, but killed Major Rubens Florentino Vaz. The incident had wide repercussions and the result was a serious political crisis. The investigations demonstrated that Gregório Fortunato, head of Getulio´s guard body was involved. Fortunato was arrested.

      The opposition’s pressure increased. The military forces and the Congress demanded Getúlio’s resignation. An increasingly tense climate led Getúlio to shoot himself in the heart on August 24, 1954 . Before committing suicide, Getúlio wrote a letter, which was, in fact, his political will. In this document, he mentions things such as: “Hatred appeared against the fair minimum wage increase (…)” ”They don’t want the worker to be free.” “They don’t want the people to be independent.” “I gave you my life. I now offer you my death. I don’t fear anything. I will serenely give my first step into Eternity, and I will leave life to go into History.”

Lázaro Curvêlo Chaves

(*) Mineiros – people born in the state of Minas Gerais.

Versão para a Língua Inglesa de:                                Edição na Língua Inglesa
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Matrícula JUCESP No. 1147


Portuguese version: Click here!

Carta Testamento de Getúlio Vargas, em portugês. Clique aqui.



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