politician (1898-1990), well-known communist
As a young man, Prestes studied in military schools until he joined the Army in 1918, where he successfully graduated as as a military engineer. In 1922, after a controversial victory by the official candidate Artur Bernardes in the presidential election, an insurrection in the Army lead by the lower ranks eclodes and Prestes supports the revolt. As a retaliation, he is sent to the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul in a bureaucratic function, but that does not stop him. In 1924, the legendary "Coluna Prestes" begins.
The Coluna was a march of about 1500 men that crossed the country from South to the Northeast, then back to the Southeast and finally West until it crossed the Bolivian border, where it ended. Where the Coluna passed, it promoted the diffuse, somewhat reformist, ideals of the insurrection. Thousands of people joined the Coluna, usually establishing themselves anywhere further along the way. The Coluna fought, and won, several battles against regiments of the regular Army, police forces and mercenaries hired by the government and local land owners, but failed to garner enough support to overthrow the government. When it was disbanded in Bolivia in 1926, the Coluna had crossed 23,000km, about two to three times Mao's Long March, and almost a decade before. The Coluna gave Prestes his nickname (to his friends at least), the "Knight of Hope".
While exiled in Bolivia, Prestes learned about marxism and was converted to the communist doctrine. He then moved to the Soviet Union until 1934, when he returned to Brazil to lead the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB). His new initiative, the National Freedom Alliance, grows as fast as its right-wing equivalent Brazilian Integralist Action. In 1935, he promotes the Intentona Comunista, a failed communist revolt of sorts which intended to overthrow then-president Getúlio Vargas. This revolt was crushed by the government. The PCB was declared illegal, as was the Alliance. Rebels in the Army are killed during and after the fight.
Prestes himself is arrested until 1945. His wife, Olga Benário, a Jewish German communist, is deported to Germany into the waiting hands of the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp, even though she was pregnant, and despite several attempted revolts and operations to free her before the deportation. She died in 1942 in a gas chamber, and became a martyr of the communists in Brazil.
Prestes then moved to become a senator in 1946, though he lost his political rights in 1947 after the Communist party came again under fire. In 1960, he once more tried to go back to politics, but the military coup in 1964 brought his aspirations to a halt. During the dictatorship, he lost an internal struggle in the PCB which greatly reduced his influence. He rejected urban guerrilla, and lost his leadership to Carlos Marighella. In 1971, he moved to exile in the Soviet Union until the general amnesty in 1979. Back to Brazil, he failed to return to his old political life. In 1990, he died of old age.
Luís Carlos Prestes has not left much of a direct legacy. As the military regime collapsed and Brazil became a democracy, so did the revolutionary brand of communism Prestes represented. The left moved largely to social democracy, best represented by the Worker's Party (PT), Brazil's first modern political party.
Famous words: "If Brazil and the Soviet Union had to fight against each other, I would join the Red Army".