Getúlio Vargas was probably the most important Brazilian ruler of the 20th century. He was part of the Revolution of 1930 and ruled Brazil - first as president and then as a dictator - until 1945. In 1950 he was again elected President, this time in a democratic process. However, he did not finish his mandate and shot himself in 1954, after a public crisis involving an attempted murder of one of his opponents.

Vargas was a very popular man, even during his roughest times of the dictatorship, and was called "Father of the poor". He was also a brilliant statesman and was responsible for some big steps of the process of bringing Brazil into the 20th century and out of a strictly rural economy. Vargas was also responsible for big improvements on worker-related legislation.

Getúlio Dorneles Vargas was born on April 19th, 1883, in São Borja, Rio Grande do Sul (southern state of Brazil). Son of general Manuel do Nascimento Vargas, he attended military school in Rio Pardo, after serving the Army in Porto Alegre, the state capital.

After leaving the Army, he attended Law School in Porto Alegre and graduated there in 1907. Getúlio worked as a public prosecutor in Porto Alegre until 1908, when he set up his own law practice in São Borja.

In 1909, he entered public life and was elected state representative. He refused an invitation to become State Police Chief Officer. In 1911, he got married to Darcy Sarmanho Vargas and they had several children.

In 1917, he was reelected to the State Assembly. During the revolution that rocked Rio Grande in 1923, he organized and was the lieutenant of the republican forces that supported President Borges de Medeiros.

On that same year he was elected federal representative of his home state and quickly became leader of his colleagues. In 1926, during the Washington Luís administration, he was chosen for the role of Economics Ministry. He resigned in 1927 after being elected as governor of Rio Grande do Sul.

Shortly after, he was chosen as a candidate of the Liberal Alliance to run for presidency with Washington Luís. After the election, in which him and his partner were defeated, a crisis followed and there was uproar all over the country. People said the voting was a fraud and revolution followed.

The 1930 revolution led Vargas to power and he became Provisory President on November 3rd. He ruled the country under this title until 1934, when he issued the new Federal Constitution and was elected President of the Republic.

During the years that he ran the country constitutionally, some fascists organizations began to spread in Brazil and the Communist Party reacted quickly. Trouble followed, with both sides creating a serious crisis in 1935, with the attempt of a Communist Revolution.

In 1937, while the presidential elections were planned, the government received a warning that the communists planned to take over during the elections. Vargas was quick to answer to take advantage of this to create the 'New State', on November 10th, 1937. He prohibited political parties and quickened a complete reorganization of the whole government body. His policies turned to state intervention in economy and economic nationalism, which created several state companies, like the National Oil Council and the National Steel Company.

With the start of World War II, Vargas kept Brazil neutral until 1941, when he signed a deal with the US, securing US financing to build the first steel company of Brazil. In exchange, Brazil allowed the north americans to set up military bases in the Northeastern region. After some Brazilian ships got bombed by German submarines, Brazil declared war on Germany in 1942 and sent a few battalions to fight in Italy. Vargas ruled the country until October 29th, 1945. This period became known as the 'Vargas Era'.

After being forced out of government, Vargas was elected senator of the states of São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul. He was also federal representative of both states and of Minas Gerais, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Federal District and Paraná.

He run for Presidency again in 1950, this time on the Brazilian Labour Party (PTB) and was elected in October 3rd, 1950, with 3.829.560 votes. His term began on January 31st, 1951.

His second term in power was marked by the return to a nationalist direction and the fight to keep state monopoly in oil, with the creation of Petrobras and political radicalization. Vargas had many opponents and one of the fiercest was journalist Carlos Lacerda. In 1954, Lacerda suffered an attempt of murder and this triggered the final crisis of the government.

It was discovered that the responsible for the attempt was none other than Vargas own personal guard. Suffering pressure from the Military and other parts of society, Vargas decided to kill himself. This he did on the presidential palace, with a shot through the heart. His suicide letter became famous, with the finishing sentence "I leave life to enter history", and the people mourned him bitterly.


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