Getúlio Vargas

Getúlio Vargas
Getulio Vargas (1930).jpg
Vargas in 1930
14th and 17th President of Brazil
In office
3 November 1930 – 29 October 1945
Vice PresidentNone
Preceded byMilitary Junta of 1930
Succeeded byJosé Linhares
In office
31 January 1951 – 24 August 1954
Vice PresidentCafé Filho
Preceded byEurico Gaspar Dutra
Succeeded byCafé Filho
Senator for Rio Grande do Sul
In office
1 February 1946 – 30 January 1951
13th President of Rio Grande do Sul
In office
25 January 1928 – 8 October 1930
Vice PresidentJoão Neves da Fontoura
Preceded byBorges de Medeiros
Succeeded byOsvaldo Aranha
Minister of Finance
In office
15 November 1926 – 17 December 1927
PresidentWashington Luís
Preceded byAníbal Freire da Fonseca
Succeeded byOliveira Botelho
Federal Deputy for Rio Grande do Sul
In office
3 May 1923 – 15 November 1926
State Deputy of Rio Grande do Sul
In office
20 November 1917 – 25 January 1923
In office
20 November 1909 – 25 January 1913
Personal details
Getúlio Dornelles Vargas

(1882-04-19)19 April 1882
São Borja, Rio Grande do Sul, Empire of Brazil
Died24 August 1954(1954-08-24) (aged 72)
Catete Palace, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Cause of deathSuicide by gunshot
Resting placePraça XV de Novembro, São Borja, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Political partyRio-Grandense Republican
Brazilian Labour
Darci Sarmanho (m. 1911)
ChildrenLutero (1912–89)
Jandira (1913–80)
Alzira (1914–92)
Manuel (1916–97)
Getúlio Filho (1917–43)
Alma materFree Faculty of Law of Porto Alegre
Military service
Allegiance Brazil
Branch/serviceBrazilian Army
Years of service1898–1902
Unit6th Infantry Battalion

Getúlio Dornelles Vargas (Portuguese: [ʒeˈtulju doʁˈnɛlis ˈvaʁɡɐs]; 19 April 1882 – 24 August 1954) was a Brazilian lawyer and politician, who served as President during two periods: the first was from 1930 to 1945, when he served as interim president from 1930 to 1934, constitutional president from 1934 to 1937, and dictator from 1937 to 1945. After being overthrown in a 1945 coup, Vargas returned to power as the democratically elected president in 1951, serving until his suicide in 1954. Vargas led Brazil for 18 years, the longest of any President, and second in Brazilian history only to Emperor Pedro II among heads of state. He favored nationalism, industrialization, centralization, social welfare and populism – for the latter, Vargas won the nickname, "the father of the poor".[1] Vargas is one of a number of populists who arose during the 1930s in Latin America, including Lazaro Cardenas and Juan Perón, who promoted nationalism and pursued social reform.[2] He was a proponent of workers' rights as well as a staunch anti-communist.

Vargas was brought to power by political outsiders and the rank-and-file of the Armed Forces in the Revolution of 1930; this was a reaction to his loss in the presidential election earlier that year. His ascent marked the end of the Brazilian Old Republic and the São Paulo-Minas alliance-dominated coffee-with-milk politics. He successfully influenced the outcome of the Brazilian presidential election of 1934, and used fears of a Communist uprising to institute an authoritarian corporatist regime in 1937 known as the New State, modeled on Mussolini's Italy and Salazar's Portugal. Vargas went on to appease and eventually dominate his supporters, and pushed his political agenda as he built a propaganda machine around his figure.

Vargas sought to transform Brazil from a plantation-based economy into an industrialized powerhouse, using government intervention. His embrace of developmentalism was expressed not only in strong rhetoric, but also by lending protection to domestic industries and by devoting much state funding to investment aimed at kick-starting "strategic" sectors and setting up the necessary infrastructure. Vargas created state monopolies for oil (Petrobras), mining (Vale), steelmaking (National Siderurgy Company), alkalis (National Alkalis Company) and automobiles (National Motors Factory). His policies shaped the Brazilian economic debate for decades, from the governments of Juscelino Kubitschek and leftist João Goulart to the right-wing military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985. The protectionist trend was reversed by the 1990s with the liberal reforms of Fernando Collor de Mello and Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

With the global rise of democracy in the aftermath of World War II, Vargas stepped down in 1945 and was succeeded by José Linhares the same year. Nevertheless, the economic growth that occurred under his administration made him a popular figure in Brazilian politics even after his resignation. His popularity awarded him a late presidential term in 1951, but growing political strife over his views and methods caused Vargas to become stressed, leading to his suicide by gunshot in 1954. He was the first president in the country to draw widespread support from the masses and is regarded as the most influential Brazilian politician of the twentieth century.[3] He had also been a lawyer and landowner who occupied the 37th chair of the Brazilian Academy of Letters from 1943 until his death in 1954.


Getúlio Vargas' parents: Cândida and Manuel Vargas.
Photographed with his wife Darci Vargas in 1911, during the period known as Brazilian Belle Époque.

Vargas was born in São Borja, Rio Grande do Sul, southern Brazil, on 19 April 1882, to Manuel do Nascimento Vargas and Cândida Dornelles Vargas. His father had origins in São Paulo, being a descendant of early São Paulo families ("paulistas"): he was a descendant of Amador Bueno, a noted paulista from the colonial Brazilian era.[4] His mother was descended from a wealthy family of Azorean Portuguese descent.[5]

The son of a traditional family of "gaúchos", he embarked on a military career. Vargas enlisted as a private in 1899 in the sixth infantry battalion and later joined the military college at Rio Pardo. Vargas then turned to law school at Porto Alegre in the Rio Grande, and while there he published a political newspaper, O Debate. Vargas was the chosen orator in his graduating class of 1907 and was immediately appointed district attorney. In 1909 he opened his own law office in São Borja.[6] Entering Republican politics, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Rio Grande do Sul and later to the federal Chamber of Deputies in 1922, where he became the floor leader for his state's delegation in Congress. He served as Finance Minister from 1926 to 1928 under President Washington Luís, from which post he resigned to enter the gubernatorial race in his home state. Once elected Governor of Rio Grande do Sul, he became a leading figure in the national opposition, urging the end of electoral corruption through the adoption of the universal and secret ballot. As Governor of Rio Grande do Sul he distinguished himself as an excellent administrator. During his term as governor he reorganized the agricultural system. He established a state mortgage and agricultural bank. He also created the department of agriculture in his state. Vargas also worked hard to improve schools and infrastructure during his term as governor.[6]

He and his wife Darci Lima Sarmanho, whom he married in March 1911, had five children: Lutero, Alzira, Jandira, Manuel e Getulinho. According to legend, Vargas' real love was not his wife, but Aimee de Sa Sottomaior,[7] later Aimée de Heeren, recognized by the international fashion press as one of the world's most glamorous and beautiful women. The relationship was a Brazilian state secret, although Vargas did mention her in a diary published after the death of his wife. Aimee de Herren, later living between France and the United States and admired by other famous statesmen such as the Kennedy brothers, never confirmed nor denied the rumor.[8]

Although he would later involve the Catholic Church closely with the state, Vargas was firmly agnostic.[9]