Vargas, Getúlio Dorneles

Getúlio Dorneles Vargas

b. 19 Apr 1882, São Borja, Rio Grande do Sul [1]
d. 24 Aug 1954, Rio de Janeiro

Title: Chefe do Governo Provisório da República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil (Head of the Provisional Government of the Republic of the United States of Brazil)
Term: 3 Nov 1930 - 20 Jul 1934
Chronology: 3 Nov 1930, installed as Head of the Provisional Government, private ceremony, Catete Palace, Rio de Janeiro
  17 Jul 1934, elected President of the Republic by the National Constituent Assembly, Tiradentes Palace, Rio de Janeiro
  20 Jul 1934, took the oath of office at the session of the National Constituent Assembly, Tiradentes Palace, Rio de Janeiro
Getulio Dorneles Vargas was born into the family of military hero and mayor of Sao Borja Manuel do Nascimento Vargas. Young Getulio decided to follow his father's example and joined the army at the age of 16. In 1903 Vargas abandoned his military career and went to study law and social sciences. In 1907 Vargas graduated from the Faculty of Law in Porto Alegre and got the job as public prosecutor in the same city. Put on the list of the Rio Grande Republican Party (Partido Republicano Rio-Grandense), Vargas was elected to the state legislature (1909-1913). He refused to accept reelection in 1913 and returned to his law practice at Sao Borja. After his third election as state deputy (1917-1922), Vargas was elected to the federal Chamber of Deputies (1923-1926), where he worked for some time on the committee for finance. In 1926 Vargas assumed the office of finance minister (15 Nov 1926 - 17 Dec 1928) in the government of Washington Luis Pereira de Sousa, which he retained until his election as president of Rio Grande do Sul (25 Jan 1928 - 9 Oct 1930). Vargas campaigned unsuccessfully as a Liberal Alliance candidate for the presidency in 1930. He was defeated by the pro-governmental candidate Julio Prestes de Albuquerque, but later in the year Vargas emerged as a leader of the Revolution, which rolled from Rio Grande do Sul to Rio de Janeiro and forced Washington Luis to step down. The military junta assumed the functions of president on 24 Oct 1930. Vargas and his troops from Rio Grande do Sul (gauchos) entered the capital on 31 Oct 1930. Julio Prestes was prevented from taking office and on 3 Nov 1930 the junta handed the power to Vargas as Head of the Provisional Government. The Constitution of 1891 was abolished, all federal and state legislatures were dissolved and a direct government of the states was introduced. Vargas appointed his provisional governors (interventores), who replaced governors in all states except for Minas Gerais. The Provisional Government launched a reform of laws and state institutions including promulgation of a new electoral law extending franchise. In 1932 a group of the military revolted against Vargas starting the Constitutionalist Revolution in Sao Paulo aimed at restoring the power of coffee oligarchs. The state was plunged into a war with the governmental troops which lasted for few months. Seeking for legitimacy of his regime, Vargas permitted elections to the National Constituent Assembly convened on 15 Nov 1933. The Assembly approved a new Constitution establishing a presidential republic with limited autonomy for the states. Promulgation of the Constitution took place at the Tiradentes Palace, Rio de Janeiro, on 16 Jul 1934. The next day the Assembly elected Vargas president for the term ending 3 May 1938. A revolt of Communists and military radicals broke out in Pernambuco and then in Rio de Janeiro in November 1935. The government quickly suppressed the uprising and introduced martial law. Vargas was granted extraordinary powers and tribunals were set up to try rebel leaders. As his term was about to expire in 1938, Vargas used a threat of Communist revolution as a pretext for coup d'etat. In a broadcast of 10 Nov 1937 he stated that he was assuming extraordinary powers. A new Constitution was introduced on the same day by presidential decree transforming the nation into a corporative state. In this period, the Estado Novo (New State), as it became known in history, was strongly influenced by fascist regimes in Portugal and Italy. The National Congress was forcibly dissolved. Vargas banned opposition political parties, imposed control over press and radio, established secret police and carried out other oppressive measures. Despite the fascist nature of his regime, Vargas disapproved of the movements openly calling for setting up a fascist state and threatening his personal authority. The government harshly crushed the revolt of integralists (fascist radicals) in 1938. Vargas positioned the state as a mediator between the classes. Brazilian urban workers were provided with basic social welfare protections including a minimum wage and pensions. An ambitious Five-Year Plan of economic development called for rapid industrialization. The state actively participated in the regulation of national economy promoting collaboration between employers and workers under the centralized direction of the government. Protectionist measures and investments gave a boost to national industries, especially iron and steel. Brazil maintained neutrality in World War II until 1942, when on 22 Aug 1942 a state of war with Germany and Italy was proclaimed. Besides participating in the defense of the South Atlantic, Brazil agreed to send troops to Europe and the Brazilian Expeditionary Force set foot in Italy in July 1944. Citing the country's state of war, the Vargas regime suspended much of the labor legislation, but promised a return to constitutional norms after the war. Political life revived in 1945, when Vargas promulgated a law on presidential and parliamentary elections, and political parties launched their electoral campaigns. However, the military perceived that Vargas would attempt to retain power even after the elections. War minister Pedro Aurelio de Gois Monteiro headed the military coup of 29 Oct 1945. Unable to cope with the rebellion within the army, Vargas signed his resignation soon after midnight on 30 Oct 1945 and temporarily retired from the political scene. Under transitional regime of José Linhares Vargas was elected senator from Rio Grande do Sul (1946-1949) on the list of the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democratico). Retaining wide popular support, Vargas went into semiretirement until 1950, when he emerged as the successful presidential candidate of the Brazilian Labor Party (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro). He took office on 31 Jan 1951 and assigned primary importance to economic problems. The government announced that the nation was embarking on a ten-year recovery and industrialization plan. However, Vargas found it difficult to implement the new economic scheme in the country where different political groups challenged his policies. Those who had voted for Vargas in 1950 were disappointed with the delays while ultra nationalists and Communists tried to impede the plans for foreign investments. As a constitutional president restrained by the authority of the National Congress, he had to defer to the activities of political parties and public opinion, and was unable to keep his promises. He was successful in creating the national oil company, Petrobras, and significantly increasing minimum wages, but the new political environment hampered his political course. In 1954 Vargas faced an opposition of the National Democratic Union (Uniao Democratica Nacional), the military and the press including Vargas' most vocal critic, newspaper editor Carlos Lacerda. A political crisis caused by the murder of one of Lacerda's close political friends broke out in August 1954. The investigation revealed the involvement of some of the president's bodyguards. The army leaders called for resignation of Vargas, a demand supported by vice president Joao Cafe Filho. When Vargas' proposal to take a leave of absence for the time necessary to improve the political situation was rejected, he chose to take his own life instead of resigning. He shot himself at 08:30 on 24 Aug 1945, dying almost immediately afterwards.

Candidate Popular vote (1 Mar 1930) [3]
Júlio Prestes de Albuquerque 1,091,709
Getúlio Dorneles Vargas 742,794
11 others 2 or more votes

[1] Vargas had his year of birth altered from 1882 to 1883. This falsification including scratched-out date on military documentation was only publicly disclosed on the occasion of his centenary [2, p. 3436].
[2] Dicionário Histórico-Biográfico Brasileiro (1984)
[3] Dicionário do voto (2000)
  Image: contemporary photograph.
Last updated on: 26 Jun 2009 02:58:09