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Military Rule & Democratic Reform in Brazil Video

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  • 0:02 Modern Brazil
  • 1:07 Economic Crisis
  • 1:45 Goulart & Rebellion
  • 2:43 Military Rule
  • 3:39 Democracy
  • 4:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will track the political events of Brazil from the 1950s to the 1980s. It will focus on the conflict between reform and military rule, while also defining the Abertura Process.

Modern Brazil

For most of us living in the U.S., the idea of violent coups toppling governments is something we've only heard about. We've seen it on the news, but we've never seen it on our streets. Since the Constitution's ink has dried, it's been our go-to document.

The same cannot be said of Brazil, a country that's switched from democracy to military rule many, many times. In today's lesson, we'll explore this interesting history as we study the military rule and democratic reforms of Brazil from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Today the country of Brazil is a Federal Republic, a group of states who've placed themselves under one central government. Fitting with this, Brazil has a National Congress, members of whom are elected by the people.

This is the picture of Brazil today. However, this has not always been the case. In fact, for much the 1960s to the 1980s, Brazil was a military-controlled state under the thumb of rulers who didn't quite think things like constitutions and rights were all that necessary.

Economic Crisis

To discuss these regimes, we'll start with the 1950s. During the 1950s, a man named Kubitschek was the president of Brazil. As president, he did a rather good job bringing prosperity to the land. His tenure saw Brazil's coffee trade boom, industry improved, and even a new capital built in the city of Brasilia.

Sadly for him and Brazil, this all changed when world coffee prices took a nose dive in the late 1950s. Like often happens when an economy tanks, a new president was elected in 1960. Not able to fix the problems he inherited, this new guy resigned within a year!

Goulart & Rebellion

The next up to bat was João Goulart. Interestingly, history tells us that Goulart was a leftist, which in the 1950s, pretty much meant he had ties to socialism or communism. Despite how strong these ties were or weren't, this made Goulart dangerous in the eyes of the U.S. In no uncertain terms did Uncle Sam want a communist in his neighborhood.

As Goulart's government continued to fail economically, the people of Brazil got restless. When this restlessness turned to revolution, many think the U.S. saw it as a great chance to get rid of Goulart. Adding to this theory, a good bit of folks think the United States backed the rebels.

Whether or not this is true, the rebels were successful in ousting Goulart. In his place would come Castelo Branco, a Brazilian military leader who just so happened to start his rule with a rather big bankroll from several American corporations.

Military Rule

At the onset of his rule, Castelo Branco assured the people of Brazil he would only serve out the remainder of his predecessor's term. He'd then step down to an elected president. Sadly, like lots of political promises, this proved false. Rather than bringing democracy, he delivered a military regime. In fact, by the mid-1960s, he had abolished all opposing political parties and stripped his critics of their rights. Yes, he went by the term 'president', but many assert the term 'military dictator' would have been more appropriate.

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