Brazil in the 1930’s Part 2

The new constitution was promulgated on July 16, 1934 and on the 17th the Assembly elected Getulio Vargas as president for a four-year term.

The general tone of the constitution did not satisfy the progressive elements of the country, both the democratic ones and the authoritarian and nationalist ones. Thus, while subversive extremist currents were accentuated in Brazil, the fundamentalist movement arose with a unitary, authoritarian and corporate nationalist program, which quickly gathered under its banner an impressive number of adherents in all the states of the Union. differentiating itself in this from the other political formations, all more or less restricted to the individual states and inspired by an egoistic particularism. The spread of subversive tendencies and the discontent existing in certain northern states that were considered neglected provoked a military rebellion at the end of 1935, in which it was possible to discover evident influences of a communist-type propaganda, partly supported by the Comintern. A wave of vigorous repression followed across the country, affecting not only the subversive elements, but also the most radical democrats.

Vargas’s energetic and active government work naturally did not eliminate the personal ambitions of some leaders (first of all General JA Flores da Cunha, governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul and companion of Vargas in the revolution of 1930), who, by attributing to the president the intention not to give up power at the end of the four-year term of office, fueled the opposition against him especially in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, San Paolo, Bahia, Pernambuco. This attitude of opposition was accentuated with the approach of the elections of January 1938 for the appointment of a new president to replace Vargas, whose powers, expiring on May 3, 1938, according to the constitution of 1934, could not have been renewed.. The electoral campaign soon began to degenerate in the summer of 1937 into bitter struggle, for which there was no lack of military preparations by the Rio Grande do Sul and similar countermeasures by the federal government. In the South American political climate this situation could lead to the worst violence. To this possible source of unrest was then added the communist danger and on 10 October the president obtained from Parliament the proclamation of a state of war to face the subversive threat. Vargas believed that the situation was serious enough to take action in the interests of the country’s tranquility. He took advantage of the exceptional powers conferred on him to intervene in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, from which the governor F. da Cunha was forced to flee and take refuge in Uruguay. Naturally, the opposition’s fear that the elections would be postponed or suspended grew, and on 9 November an open letter to the army and navy from Dr. Salles de Oliveira, opposition candidate in the presidential elections, in which the armed forces were invited to prevent a coup aimed at preventing the elections. Just the next day, President Vargas suspended the 1934 constitution, dissolved the federal parliament and state parliaments, and enacted a new constitution. The coup was received calmly throughout the country. The governors of the states, except those of Bahia and Pernambuco replaced by military commanders, made an act of solidarity with the government.

With the new constitutional charter, which, which entered into force on the day of its promulgation, should be subjected to a popular plebiscite, the Brazilian state has set itself on a clearly authoritarian and national basis. That centralizing tendency that had already manifested itself in the previous constitution is developed and deepened in favor of the federal government, both in the sphere of state governments and in that of municipal administrations.

The executive power is strengthened with the elimination of the ban on re-election of the president and with the ample powers granted to him by legislative initiative, to issue decree laws during the vacancy of the chambers, to dissolve Parliament. The power to proclaim a “state of emergency” and a “state of war” without the consent of Parliament, which cannot revoke or suspend these measures, makes the president the absolute arbiter of internal political life and order in the state. Vast powers the 1937 constitution then grants the government in economic and social matters, within the framework of the trade union-corporative order which constitutes the major innovation of the new constitution.

The kinship, at least formal, of the regime established by Vargas with the fascist-type authoritarian regimes is therefore evident. It is less clear, however, whether the new forms imposed on Brazilian life correspond to its substantial conditions and needs. G. Vargas, who enjoys undoubted national prestige, does not have behind him a party that supports him and carries out the necessary work of penetration, of faith and of doctrine, in the people; nor has so far bothered to form one, after having dissolved all existing ones with a decree of 3 December, including the integralist. In spite of their numerical mass and the undoubted ascendancy they were beginning to exert on the country, the green shirts they did not know how to gain control of his political life. Integralism provided Vargas with the economic and social doctrine poured into the new constitution, indicated and spread the need for unitary nationalism, but on the day of the coup he was not at the side of the president. Perhaps taken by surprise while they hoped a lot from the elections, instead of supporting the president, who had basically implemented their doctrine, the green shirts they held an unclear attitude, formally of membership, but detached. Struck by dissolution a month later, the integralist party broke up into two groups: one willing to collaborate with Vargas, the other thrown decisively into opposition. In February 1938 the government preceded numerous arrests of fundamentalist leaders and gregarious and affirmed the existence of a plot against the regime, to which General da Cunha would have been no stranger. Doctor Plinio Salgado himself, founder and leader of the integralist movement, fled abroad. In May 1938 a fundamentalist plot against the government, which resulted in an open assault on the palace of President Vargas (night from 10 to 11), was promptly repressed.

The first eloquent example of the coup d’état, in the unilateral decision of the government to suspend repayments and the service of foreign loans that will have to then be subjected to a new regulation. The art. 145 of the constitution then establishes that only banks and insurance companies with Brazilian shareholders will be able to operate in Brazil. This is another blow to Anglo-Saxon finance. To return to foreign loans, very heavy but without which, in truth, Brazil would not have reached where it is now, the government already in 1934 with the Aranha agreements had achieved a substantial reduction in the country’s obligations towards foreign creditors, bringing the loan service from 22 million pounds per year to a sum which in 1937-38 was to amount to 9 million pounds. A further reduction will follow the decisions of November 1937, improving the situation of Brazil’s trade balance and payments. Above all, it will affect the Brazilian economy and industrial development, which has already made important progress in the years of recovery, by the tendency of the Vargas government to replace the policy of foreign loans with a policy of investments that participate in the risks of production. Only in this way will foreign capital, necessary for the exploitation of Brazil’s immense resources, no longer constitute a burden and an obstacle to the progress of the great South American republic.

(p. 755 b). – Maurice of Nassau, appointed governor of Brazil in 1636, was not a prince: he was Count Giovanni Maurizio of Nassau of the German line, not to be confused with Count Maurice of Nassau, prince of Orange, statolder of Holland.

Brazil in the 1930's 2