Coup-driven change?

juraci e agildo barata em 1930

Ernesto Geisel (far right) with Juracy Magalhaes, Agildo Barata and other prominent figures of the ‘1930 Revolution’

I am increasingly concerned by the upsurge in demands for a military or political coup to overthrow the Dilma Rousseff/PT administration. I arrived in Brazil shortly after the end of the 1964 coup – which its perpetrators and sympathisers called a ‘revolution’. It lasted 21 years and left deep scars (physical and metaphorical) on the Brazilian people. History shows that coups have been a standard form of regime change in Brazil since the early nineteenth century. It’s time for a fresh start and a different approach

Years ago, when I was working on a biographical project about political figures in Bahia for the late Brazilian historian Consuelo Novais, I noticed that at least one of the generals who took part in the 1964 coup had also played an important role in the so-called Revolution of 1930 that overthrew the First Republic and brought Getulio Vargas to power.

That got me thinking. Brazil negotiated the independence of the south, but had to fight to free the northeast and north from Portuguese rule (with the help of Lord Cochrane, but that is another story for another post). The first Brazilian emperor, Pedro I, was the son of the ousted Portuguese king, Joao (John) VI. Pedro was forced to abdicate in favour of his son, Pedro II, who was ousted by the 1889 coup that established the First Republic. Are you sensing a pattern here?

When I suggested to Consuelo Novais that the 1964 coup was just another link in a chain of ‘regime-change revolutions’, she interrupted me vehemently and said that, no, it was the Americans who engineered it. Admittedly, the CIA played a key role, but a seed has to fall on fertile soil…

That is why I am extremely concerned about the current machinations to remove Dilma from office (Brazil is a first-name culture). Although the PT (Workers’ Party) has been in office far too long and may well have rigged the last elections as its opponents claim, it would be salutary for Brazil to see her mandate through and elect an anti-corruption candidate from another party. However, as I have written elsewhere, all of Brazil’s political parties are alike in that respect. None is less venal than any other, and all of them have (or would, given an opportunity) looted the public coffers. Eliminating corruption in politics requires a cultural sea change.







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