The tanks began to roll into Rio de Janeiro on the morning of April 1, 1964, some of them from the neighboring state of Minas Gerais, others from São Paulo. The Brazilian capital had moved to Brasília, the new planned city in the country’s interior, a few years prior, but Rio remained the effective center of power, and somewhere in the city, President João Goulart was clinging to power.
Goulart, a leftist who became president in 1961, had spent the days prior on the phone with a top military officer, Gen. Amaury Kruel. The general was hoping to prevent the collapse of Brazil’s government by urging Jango, as Goulart was known to Brazilians, to fire prominent leftist officials and institute a slate of reforms that would please both the military and the centrist establishment in Congress that opposed Goulart’s shifts to the left.
Goulart refused. The military marched.
By the next morning, Goulart had fled to Porto Alegre. A few days later, he was in Uruguay. Brazil’s democracy had collapsed.
Five decades later, on the evening of Oct. 28, 2018, members of the Brazilian military were parading through the streets of Rio again. Green Army jeeps honked their horns and flashed their lights; soldiers standing atop them waved Brazilian flags as adoring crowds cheered their arrival.
This time, though, the military was not coming to depose a president, but to celebrate him. Jair Bolsonaro, a federal congressman and former Army captain, had just won the election to become Brazil’s 38th president. [Continue reading…]