1 Breneman,Tracy Ann. “Brazil’s Authoritarian Experience: 1964-1985; A Study of Conflict.”Conflict Research Consortium, Sept.
1995. University of Colorado -Boulder, Department of Sociology, www.colorado.edu/conflict/full_text_search/AllCRCDocs/95-1.htm 2 The Situation inBrazil. Central Intelligence Agency, 13 Feb. 1969, www.cia.
gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000753959.pdf.3 Power,Timothy J. “The Brazilian Military Regime, 1964–1985.” Oxford ResearchEncyclopedia of Latin American History, Oct. 2017,doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199366439.
013.413. 4 Langland,Victoria. Speaking of flowers: student movements and the making andremembering of 1968 in military Brazil. Duke Univ. Press, 2013 5 The Situation inBrazil. Central Intelligence Agency, 13 Feb.
6 Skidmore,Thomas E. The politics of military rule in Brazil: 1964-85. Oxford Univ.Press, 1988.7 Power,Timothy J.
“The Brazilian Military Regime, 1964–1985.” Oxford ResearchEncyclopedia of Latin American History, Oct. 2017,doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199366439.013.413.8 Guerchon,C.
W. “Institutional Acts of the Brazilian Government.” InternationalJournal of Politics, Taylor & Francis, Ltd., www.
jstor.org/stable/27868708. 9 Benson,Rodney. “Journalism: Normative Theories.” New York University,steinhardt.nyu.
“Democratizing Pressures from Below? Social Movements in NewBrazilian Democracy.” Latin American Studies Association, 17 Apr. 1997,pp. 2–5., lasa.
international.pitt.edu/LASA97/hochstetler.pdf.11 Hochstetler,Katheryn. “Democratizing Pressures from Below? Social Movements in NewBrazilian Democracy.” Latin American Studies Association, 17 Apr. 1997,pp.
pitt.edu/LASA97/hochstetler.pdf.12 Ibid.13 Ibid. Ultimately it can be seenthat Brazil as a country has constantly struggled with the balance of powerbetween the people and the political elite. The country had democraticallyelected a new president in 1963, only to have him thrown out of power and takenby the military.
During this time period (from 1964-1985) Brazil embarked on adictatorship defined by the repression of dissidents and a monopoly on mediasources. The government was successful in repressing the people of Brazil forover two decades through executive privilege and intimidation tactics, whichhas left a mark on Brazilian culture and politics. However, the ultimatedemocratization of Brazil can be largely attributed to the mobilization of thenational student union. Not only did the UNE act as a safeguard for democracy,maintaining a support for democratic values in times of strict repression, butthey were also majorly effective in mobilizing the correct political and ideologicalgroups in order to gain political leverage over the government. The UNE actedas the last line of defense against authoritarianism in Brazil, and althoughthey were successfully repressed for two decades, their perseverance andorganization culminated in the democratization of Brazil in 1985. The vast network of theUNE was majorly beneficial to the opposition of the military regime, as theinstitution had lines of communication that stretched across the country.Another reason why the student movement was so integral to the democratizationof Brazil is that the movement was effective in using their national platformto bring together the correct political factions in order to mobilize thepublic to speak out and protest against the regime’s authoritarian tactics. TheBrazilian elite were able to remain in power for so long because of the factthat they were effective in consolidating power through limiting the press andoutlawing protest within the country.
Simply put, there was nobody that heldenough political power to collapse the regime, and if the government believedthat might happen, they went to great lengths to intimidate opposition groupsinto submission. After the student movement was disbanded and theirorganization was consistently repressed and outlawed, the student movementquietly used the organization and network that had been developed in order toslowly gain the support of other factions against the military. The UNE showedmassive resiliency to the pressures of the regime and rather than succumbing tothe influence of the military, the political group shifted their strategy. Atthis point in time it was well known among the public and the administrationthat the UNE was the organizing force behind the anti-government sentiment somany people joined other opposition forces in order to “ventilate criticisms ofthe military regime without incurring more repression.
“10This stratification of opposition groups actually strengthened the oppositionbecause it allowed more people to focus on a broader scope, eventuallyprotesting issues like indigenous rights, women’s rights, and ecosystemprotection. Social movements at this time were expanding across Brazil andgathering more support as people saw the impacts of these political rallies.This is why the UNE was so unique to the democratization of Brazil because ofthe fact that it was able to communicate with and mobilize various groups thatmay have disagreed about legislative issues. One of these groups was theCatholic church, who supported a grassroots effort and to expose the weaknessesof the regime11.Once the student movement received the support of the catholic church itchanged the landscape of politics in Brazil because “no other institutionexcept for the military, enjoyed a nation-wide network of cadres, a system ofcommunications that functioned despite censorship and, unlike the military, aworld-wide organization on which it could draw for support and bank on for aninternational hearing12.”The student movement was essential in rallying these various social groups, andtheir influence on history is significant because of the fact that they wereable to mobilize groups that had more influence and communication with thepublic, which helped them to inform the public of the authoritarian regimestactics and policies.
“All of these elite actors together made political spacefor new actors by helping to shift the stamp of legitimacy from the militaryregime to its opposition13 After the UNE was disbanded in 1964, therewere still intellectuals that believed in democracy and although the governmenthad made it increasingly difficult to communicate with the national network,there was enough communication and organization to maintain the institutionunder the radar. The role of the student movement was essential fordemocratization efforts because it provided a platform for an educateddiscussion on domestic politics, ultimately upholding democratic values withinBrazil and pushing back against the government. The Brazilian government gavesignificant effort and resources to limit the political freedoms of thosedissidents, often using violence or intimidation tactics to directed at slowlydegrading democratic institutions and rule of law, especially in regards to thebalance of power8. Thispolitical direction was particularly important because democracy as a politicalsystem takes a long time to develop and become instilled in a society, but alsocan be destroyed extremely quickly.
In Brazil, after Goulart stepped down, manydemocratic institutions began to deteriorate paving the way for authoritarianismunder the new regime. It is important (in the eyes of the government) tohave political power to control media sources because of the fact that thepublic’s perception of the government is very important in maintaining powerwithin the nation, and when the government has the ability to control the mediaand control the information that reaches the public, it creates a significantroadblock to democratic transition9.The move by the government to try and limit the UNE’s powers was one of themost anti-democratic decisions made by the regime because of the fact thatdemocracy relies on an educated and informed discussion of politics. That exactsame reason why an educated and informed constituency is necessary to upholddemocratic values is the same reason why the UNE was absolutely integral to thedemocratic revolution in Brazil.
The vast network of intellectuals was able toremain committed to democratic values, and to utilize an organization that hadenough political power to push back against the authoritarian tactics of themilitary regime. Additionally,the Brazilian economy was much better (at first) than that of its neighborcountries, and it was indicative of public opinion on Brazil at the time, wherethe majority of Brazilians didn’t believe democracy was the most favorable formof government7.Due to the media control of the military, many people in Brazil didn’t evenrealize there was an issue with political corruption because of the fact thattheir country was flourishing economically, where wages were rising for allincome levels. The Brazilian government spent a disproportionate amount ofcapital to attempt to suppress the student movement and did so for two decades.While the regime ultimately couldn’t maintain control into the 1990s, it isapparent that the most common tactic used to consolidate power was to controlthe media and dissidents alike, and this occurred with moderate success. It isdifficult to discern how long the military regime would be in place if itweren’t for the divisive and violent tactics of the government, and it is clearthat the tactics were successful preventing democratization from 1964 – 1985. Ademocratic outcome in Brazil didn’t always look feasible.
The regimes ofBranco/Costa e Silva were successful in repressing the democratization ofBrazil for multiple decades, as well as leaving an authoritarian imprint on thenation3.The National Union of Students (UNE) was a unique player in the authoritarianperiod. The UNE was created in 1937 with the goal of representing highereducation, and bringing the entire country under one institution. The UNE wasseen as a way to empower students, and the students began to use this power toattempt to influence the Brazilian government on social issues such asinequality and war with relative success4.The vast nationwide network of students gave the UNE at least some amount ofnational recognition and political influence, and was subsequently theimmediate target of the Brazilian military regime, who attacked groups ofpolitical opposition with institutional acts directed towards outlawingprotest, expelling students from their housing, and ultimately fracturing themobilized group, which mitigated mobilization and protest during theauthoritarian period5.These acts were to keep the larger population blind to the repressive nature ofthese laws to maintain public support, and to ensure the media mostly coveredthe economic success of the country rather than the social and political issues6.There was a clear intent by the military to suppress the student movement inparticular as the UNE was viewed as one of the most threatening oppositiongroups to the regime. The Brazilian regime sent an extremely clear message thatthe foundation of a free and informed public wasn’t a value that was going tobe upheld, and further foreshadowed the institutional acts aimed at repressingthe freedoms and civil liberties provided to the people of Brazil.
In order to completely understand the complex politicaldynamic of Brazil, it’s important to evaluate the context of this conflictthrough a historical lens. Joao Goulart wasdemocratically elected in 1963 to a country that had many social issues, andwas fairly divided politically. After being elected, Goulart nationalizedprivate oil refineries, which was perceived as a move towards communism bycountries like the United States during a period when the region wasparticularly volatile to communist influence. This new political directiongreatly concerned the Brazilian military as they believed this leftward movewould significantly damage foreign relations with democratic allies, especiallythe United States1.In the following year, the military established a coup against Goulart, whogave up his post with little resistance to limit the impending violence if hewere to refuse to concede the presidency. After the coup, Brazil embarked on arepressive dictatorship led by Castello Branco, and followed by Artur Costa eSilva in 1968 that was focused on limiting free speech and politicalopposition, while establishing a narrative of anti-communism and nationalismwithin the regime. Similar to other repressive regimes around the world, thegovernment of Brazil all but censored the media, and intimidated groups thatspoke out against injustices committed by the government, which limited theability for any political dissident of the regime to voice any formal opinion. Brazilenacted many institutional acts that were focused on political purges,persecution of subversives, limiting elections, outlawing political parties,suspension of congress, and expanded presidential powers2.
Brazilhas a unique history in regards to the balance of power between the populationand the government. The military regime in Brazil spent a significant amount ofresources to repress opposition movements in Brazil, and it was largelysuccessful, maintaining control over the media and installing a multitude oflaws meant to retain power, which has left a mark on Brazilian culture andpolitics into the modern day. However, the União Nacional dos Estudantes(National Union of Students or UNE) hada significant role in aiding Brazil’s slow transition to democracy. Firstly,the UNE acted as a safeguard for democracy and free speech, slowly growing andmaintaining a support of democracy within the Brazilian population. The UNEhelped to provide levels of transparency within a country whose press wascompletely monopolized by a repressive regime.
Furthermore, the UNE was largelyresponsible for mobilizing the population and various political groups andintellectuals that catalyzed the democratization of Brazil. Ultimately, while it is valid to assertthat Brazilian tactics to repress the population and media were largelysuccessful in suppressing the democratization of the country for over twodecades, the student movement in Brazil served as a stronghold of democracy intimes of great repression, and eventually mobilized a plethora of differentsocial and political groups within Brazil, to the point where the regimecouldn’t repress them further.