Estado Novo (Brazil)

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The term Estado Novo ( Portuguese : "New State" ) was the self-designation of the authoritarian dictatorship founded by Getúlio Vargas in Brazil from 1937, but is also used to denote the entire Vargas era from 1930 to 1945. Central features of the “New State” were nationalism , authoritarianism , centralism and anti-communism , but also populism and the welfare state . Similar to the Portuguese Estado Novo under António de Oliveira Salazar , the Vargas regime showed characteristics of clerical fascism .


Brazil was hit hard by the global economic crisis that began in 1929 , especially with the drop in coffee prices . The population grew dissatisfied with the oligarchic system of the first Brazilian republic, which had existed since 1889. In the presidential election in 1930, the popular politician Getúlio Vargas ran against the candidate of the government camp , Júlio Prestes . After the victory was announced by Prestes, a revolt broke out in the state of Rio Grande do Sul , which quickly spilled over to the then capital, Rio de Janeiro . The Brazilian military sided with the insurgents, overturned the old government and named Vargas president on October 24, 1930.

The policy of the new ruler was initially aimed strongly at the urban middle class and against the rural landowners . Inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the USA , Vargas pursued a demand-oriented economic policy with nationalist and protectionist features. The industrialization of Brazil was also strongly promoted. In addition, Vargas carried out a series of social reforms that earned him the nickname “Father of the Poor”. The new economic and social policy was perceived as very successful and once again increased the president's popularity.

In 1934 a new Brazilian constitution came into effect, which was more centralized and further strengthened the power of the head of state, especially against the powerful old elites in the periphery . In his second term in office, Vargas and many of his supporters went through a strong "shift to the right", which was expressed in a rapprochement with the far-right integralists and militant anti-communism . In September 1937, under the pretext of an allegedly imminent attempt to overthrow the communist regime, the president had a state of emergency declared and given dictatorial powers. He then suspended the constitution, banned all political organizations and proclaimed the "Estado Novo".

From then on, Brazil was under martial law for eight years , and Vargas used his absolute position of power to build a repressive police state . The independence of the judiciary was restricted, as was traditional Brazilian federalism . The dictator resolutely continued to modernize the state and the economy. In addition, he tried to establish a national identity for Brazil, which was expressed, among other things, in the promotion of the Portuguese language and the integration of the indigenous people . With further social reforms , including the implementation of the eight-hour day in 1943, Vargas strengthened his support among the population.

When the Second World War broke out , Vargas initially declared Brazil's neutrality, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor , the country became increasingly entangled in events due to its close political and economic ties to the USA. After Brazilian merchant ships were sunk by the Axis powers in 1942, the public demanded ever louder for entry into war. This was decided in January 1943 after a meeting between Vargas and Franklin D. Roosevelt. In July 1944 a Brazilian expeditionary force was sent to Italy .

After the war, Vargas saw the popularity of the war returnees as a threat to his regime and tried to keep them out of the public eye as much as possible. The victory of the Western Allies supported by Brazil made calls for redemocratization among the Brazilian people louder. Vargas tried to accommodate this mood with concessions, but was finally deposed by the military on October 29, 1945. The responsible Minister of Defense, Eurico Gaspar Dutra , was finally elected President in January 1946. Getúlio Vargas later became the Brazilian head of state again, but was unable to build on his former power. The “Estado Novo” project ended with his first dismissal.


  • Stefan Rinke, Frederik Schulze: Brief history of Brazil (= Beck'sche series 6092). CHBeck, Munich 2013.
  • Walther L. Bernecker , Horst Pietschmann , Rüdiger Zoller: A Little History of Brazil ( Edition Suhrkamp Volume 2150). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-518-12150-2 .
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