Log In


Military , politician , President

Getúlio Dornelles Vargas dominated the political history of twentieth century Brazil. He served as the 17th President of the country and his social, economic, and political reforms profoundly affected and altered the life of the nation.


Getúlio Dornelles Vargas was born on 19 April 1883 in São Borja, a small town in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Vargas was the son of General Manuel do Nascimento Vargas, a rancher of Azorian descent and a local political boss.


Vargas went to two military schools before entering the Porto Alegre Law School, where he graduated in 1909.


He was elected to the State Assembly where he worked for the state political caudillo, Borges de Medeiros, but resigned as a result of a disagreement with him and entered private law practice. In 1917 he returned to the Rio Grande do Sul State Assembly. He became majority leader and secretary of the Budget Committee in 1921.

In 1922, Vargas was elected a federal congressman, and in 1927 President Washingon Luis, after consultation with Borges de Medeiros, appointed Vargas federal finance minister. Borges de Medeiros then selected him as governor of

the state in the November 1927 gubernatorial elections. Vargas took office in January 1928. He eased the previous political tension between the state’s two political parties and assisted in the economic development of private industry.

In 1930 President Washington Luis of Sao Paulo refused to honor a previous political agreement to alternate the presidency of Brazil with the state of Minas Gerais. Angry political leaders from Minas Gerais established contacts with Borges de Medeiros, and a reluctant Getulio Vargas was offered as the candidate of the opposition Liberal Alliance.

Vargas accepted his defeat, but his supporters in Rio Grande Do Sul charged that the election had been stolen and began to plot revolution. They were joined by the tenentes revolutionaries of 1922 and 1924. and on October 4. 1930, an armed rebellion broke out. Less than a month later, the triumphant Vargas entered Rio de Janeiro. He dominated Brazil from 1930 to 1945.

Vargas, sensing that Allied victory was close, promised early in 1945 a return to democracy and presidential elections tor late 1945. Vargas then sought to create a new political power based on the labor unions and the working class. The armed forces removed Vargas from office on October 28, 1945, and he returned to Rio Grande do Sul.

In the election of December 1945, Vargas was elected senator; and as a senator, he maintained a low profile. Five years later, in 1950, he returned to the presidency in the free election.

Growing charges of fraud and corruption resulted in demands from civil and military opponents that Vargas resign. He refused, and on August 24, 1954, he committed suicide.


  • The revolutionary government suspended the 1891 constitution, disbanded all existing political parties and governed by decree. When Vargas (ailed to grant a constitution, Sao Paulo dissidents in July 1932 rose in a three-month-long armed rebellion.

    In May 1933, Vargas called for a constituent assembly which, after presenting Vargas with the new consititution also voted him president for the years 1934— 1938. On November 7. 1937. amidst maneuvers of various candidates for the presidential election of 1938, Vargas, with the backing of the military led by General Goes Monteiro, established a dictatorship, the Estado Novo.

    Vargas discovered that governing Brazil with a free press, an independent Congress, and a watchful military was much more difficult than being a dictator. However, he secured two major pieces of legislation: the law establishing Petrobras and blocking major foreign oil companies from developng Brazil's petroleum resources, and the law establishing the National Bank of Economic Development.

    Vargas embarked on a program of economic nationalism that reserved the mineral wealth of the country for Brazilians, enacted extensive labor legislation, exercised strict censorship, and suppressed all political opposition. When war broke in Europe in 1939, a strong faction inside the Brazilian government favored closer relations with the Axis powers. However, Vargas decided in favor of the United States when President Roosevelt promised the construction of a steel mill in return for use of air and naval bases in Brazil by U.S. military forces. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Brazilian shipping became the target of German submarines. On August 21, 1942, Brazil declared war on Germany. A Brazilian army of 25,(XX) men was sent to fight in Italy.