Who is who

Collor (Fernando Affonso Collor de Mello)

4The first democratically elected president after military rule, who was forced to resign after a corruption scandal.

Fernando Affonso Collor de Mello was president of Brazil from 1990 to 1992. In 1989 he defeated Lula in a very close presidential race. The first democratically elected president of Brazil in 29 years, Collor spent the early years of his government battling inflation, which at times reached rates of 25% per month. His measures against inflation were very radical: he confiscated all the population’s savings: “no money, no inflation” was his motto. It was not successful.

In 1992, Collor was accused by his brother Pedro of corruption, leading to investigations by both congress and the press. The crescendo of evidence of bribery and misappropriation of state funds led to popular demonstrations and civil disorder across the main cities of Brazil. In October, the congress voted to suspend him. While an impeachment process was ongoing in the senate, Collor resigned on December 29, 1992.

FHC (Fernando Henrique Cardoso)

Sociology professor who was president from 1995-2002 on the wave of his successful Plano Real. 

FHC started his political career in the left wing student movement in Sao Paolo in the late 50s and early 60s. After the military coup, he fled Brazil. In exile he gained fame as a leftist intellectual and sociologist. In 1973 he returned to Brazil and entered the oppostion party MDB (later PMDB ). During the last years of military rule he campaigned for direct presidential elections, and combined various political posts with his scientific work.

He had always been on the left wing of the MDB/PMDB and in 1988 was one of the instigators of the new left wing party PSDB . After the first democratically elected president Collorwas forced to resign due to a corruption scandal in 1992, FHC became Minister of Foreign Affairs. Seven months later he switched to the Finance Ministry. There he masterminded the Plano Realwhich brought inflation down from 2,150% to a couple of percentage points and kept the new currency Real at a fixed 1:1 exchange rate with the US Dollar.

Jango (Joo Belchior Marques Goulart )

The presidents whose plans for basic reforms pronted the military coup of 1964

Jango was the last left-wing president of Brazil until the October 6, 2002 election of Lula. A former estancieiro (farmer with huge properties of land), Goulart was elected to the Rio Grande do Sul state legislature in 1946 with the PTB . He later served as minister of justice and the interior. In 1953 he was appointed by President Get?lio Vargas as minister of labour, industry, and commerce. Despite being rich, Goulart was very popular among low classes and made connections with labour unions. Vargas took advantage of that just when the left wing sectors were deviating from his government. As minister of labour, Goulart proposed an increase of 100% in minimum wages.

JK (Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira)

The president who built Brasilia

A prominent Brazilian politician who was President of Brazil from 1956 to 1961. He was born in Diamantina, Minas Gerais. Although trained as a doctor, he was elected to the House of Representatives in Minas Gerais state in 1934. However, with the advent of Get?lio Vargas fascistEstado Novo in 1937, he was forced to go back to practicing medicine.

Even so, he was appointed mayor of Belo Horizonte in 1940. He was again elected to Minas Gerais’ House of Representatives in 1945, and became governor of the state in 1950. In 1955, he ran for president with the slogan Fifty years of progress in five, and won.

José Dirceu  (José Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva)

From radical, to respected politician, to symbol of the Mensal?o corruption scandal.

When young, José Dirceu was a kind of pop star: the long-haired radical militant of the 1960s and 70s was well known as a student leader and a Don Juan. He had many girlfriends at the same time and followed the teachings of free love. He even got involved with a girl who was a spy working for the Department of Security, a girl his friends called the Golden Apple.

He was arrested in 1968, when he was a candidate for the presidency of UNE (Uni?o Nacional dos Estudantes – National Students Union). He was freed in 1969, along with other political prisoners, in exchange for Charles Elbrik, then US Ambassador to Brazil, who had been kidnapped.


Vargas (Getlio Dornelles Vargas)

The ultimate politician, who made his own death a political act.

Getlio Vargas is without doubt the most influential Brazilian of the twentieth century. He became president after the 1930 revolution that ended the First Republic. As an arbitrator between the various power blocks he had considerable personal power. In 1937 he took complete control of the country and instigated the Estado Novo. After World War II he was forced to step down and redemocratize the country. He made his comeback as elected president in 1951. Amidst rising pressure to resign in the aftermath of a failed assassination attempt on a political rival by one of his trustees he committed suicide in 1954. The popular reaction after his death ensured the continuation of his political projects in the following years.