Brazilian independence 1822
In 1807 the Portuguese king fled Napoleon’s troops and went to Brazil. In 1815 Brazil was equated with the mother country and in 1821 the king returned to Portugal. This period is also called the Kingdom of Brazil (1808-1821). The king gave Brazil to his son Pedro I in 1821, who declared Brazil independent a year later and declared himself emperor.
Empire of Brazil (1822-1889)
As Pedro I he now ruled Brazil. But in 1831 there was a military uprising and Pedro had to abdicate. He returned to Portugal and handed the throne over to his son, Pedro II. He was only five years old, but remained Brazil’s ruler until 1889.
The economy flourished, and coffee and rubber became important products sold in Europe. Pedro II also had roads, rails and telephone lines built. Allied with Argentina and Uruguay, Brazil defeated Paraguay in a bloody war (Triple Alliance War 1865-1870).
In 1889, however, there was a coup led by the military. Pedro II still stood for the old colonial power Portugal. Another reason was that Pedro campaigned for the abolition of slavery. This led to resistance from the large landowners. While Pedro was in Europe, his daughter Isabella passed a law in 1888 that abolished slavery. The emperor’s support from the large landowners was gone. Brazil became a republic.
In the reign of Pedro II. Brazil’s economy flourished. The rubber boom started in 1870. From the resin of the rubber tree one could make rubber since 1839. Rubber became an important raw material in the growing industry in Europe. In order to extract rubber, the trees have to be scratched so that the rubber, that is the milk sap of the tree, flows out.
In Brazil, the indigenous population in particular was forced to do this work. The village of Manaus on the Amazon became the center of the rubber trade and grew into a large city. The rubber boom ended around 1920 after the seeds of the carriage tree were smuggled into England, where they grew into little trees that were shipped to Asia. There succeeded plantations to create and so Asia was the new center of the rubber trade.
“Old Republic” (1889-1930)
The coup against the emperor was led by the military Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca. He became the first president of the new republic. Brazil was divided into federal states. The period up to 1930 is also called the “old republic”. The country was politically stable. Although the rubber trade declined, coffee and sugar cane were still important products. During the First World War, however, coffee prices collapsed.
Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945) and the following period until 1964
Resistance arose against the rule of the rich coffee plantation owners. The population felt excluded and disadvantaged. Getúlio Vargas led a revolt and came to power. In 1937 he proclaimed the “new state” (Estado Nuevo). He ruled dictatorially and the country was again centrally ruled. Although he also campaigned for workers’ rights, he was a staunch opponent of communism.
In 1945 Vargas allowed elections and did not run again himself. Several presidents followed at short intervals. Vargas himself was re-elected in 1950 and remained in office until 1954.
In 1961 João Goulart became president. The economic situation was difficult at the time, there were many illiterate people in the country and inflation was high. Goulart tried to implement land reform, which fueled fear of communism. He also fought against illiteracy. In 1964 the military staged a coup, supported by the USA.
Military dictatorship (1964-1985)
Marshal Branco was installed as the new president. Several laws consolidated the power of the military. Political opponents were persecuted, the press censored and new parties were banned. Marshal Costa e Silva, General Médici and General Geisel followed as presidents. A cautious democratization began under Geisel, which General Figueiredo continued. He was President of Brazil from 1979 to 1985. The problems were great: Brazil was in debt and suffered from inflation and corruption. In 1985 free elections were finally allowed.
Democracy (since 1985)
Inflation and corruption remained a problem even among the new democratically elected presidents. In 1991 Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay founded Mercosur. In this common internal market, for example, customs duties will no longer apply. Mercosur strengthened the economy of its member countries. People could buy less and less for their money, so the currency was reformed. This means that the money was worth more in the end.
Fernando Henrique Cardoso ruled from 1995 to 2003, under which the national debt rose again. In 2003 Lula da Silva was elected President. He is a member of the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores) workers’ party and remained in office until 2011. The Fome Zero program was launched to combat hunger and poverty. Economically, Brazil showed high growth for years. After two terms in office, Lula da Silva could no longer run for election.
Dilma Rousseff, also from PT, became the new President of Brazil in 2011. The economy grew more slowly now. She did not continue Lula da Silva’s social policy. In 2013 there were massive protests against the government. Also corruption was accused Rousseff. Nevertheless, she was re-elected and began her second term in 2015.
In May 2016, proceedings were initiated against Dilma Rousseff that removed her from her position. So she was deposed as president. Temporarily, Michel Temer took over the office. He was then elected President in August 2016. The 2018 elections had to be decided by a runoff, which Jair Bolsonaro won. He has been the President of the Republic since January 1, 2019. He is considered right-wing populist and repeatedly expresses himself hostile to women or racist.