Leonel Brizola

Leonel de Moura Brizola (Passo Fundo, Rio Grande do Sul, January 22, 1922 — Rio de Janeiro, June 21 2004) was a Brazilian politician. He was governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul from 1959 to 1962 and served two terms as governor of Rio de Janeiro state (1983–1987 and 1991–1994). He was also vice-president of the Socialist International, as well as Honorary President of that organization for a few months, from October 2003 until his death.


A disciple of former Brazilian presidents Getúlio Dornelles Vargas and João Goulart (brother of Brizola's wife, Neusa Goulart), Brizola began his political career as a member of the Brazilian Labour Party ("Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro" or PTB). He inherited from Vargas a preference for populism, which politicians often used in mid-20th century South America. During the presidency of Goulart (1961–1964) Brizola was an important supporter of his brother-in-law, first as governor and later as a deputy in the National Congress of Brazil. Brizola gained nationwide visibility by twice acting in defense of democracy and Goulart's rights as president. First, when Jânio Quadros resigned from the presidency in August 1961, the Brazilian military ministers in the Cabinet attempted to prevent Goulart from becoming president. Brizola then forged a pool of radio stations in Rio Grande do Sul, the so-called "cadeia da legalidade" (legality chain), which revealed to the country the intentions behind the Cabinet ministers' actions. This first coup failed, and Goulart was inaugurated as president.

In April 1964, when a coup d'état successfully overthrew Goulart, Brizola was the only governor to offer support for the president, sheltering him in Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul with the hope that democracy would be restored. (Governor Miguel Arraes of Pernambuco also supported Goulart, but Arraes was detained as soon as the coup was declared.) Because of his connection with Goulart, the military regime exiled Brizola in 1964; he went to Uruguay, where Goulart had gone into exile earlier that year.

But Brizola did not find peace in Uruguay, since the Brazil's new military government pressured the authorities of Uruguay to seize Brizola. In 1977 he was deported from Uruguay for alleged "violations of norms of political asylum". After spending some time in the United States, Leonel Brizola went to live in Portugal.

In the late 1970s the Brazilian military dictatorship was dying, and an amnesty of Brizol'a exile was announced. Brizola returned to Brazil and founded a new party, the Democratic Labour Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista, PDT). The party joined the Socialist International in 1986, and since then the party symbol contains a hand with a red flower (symbol of SI).

In the last decades of his life, Brizola ran for president twice. In 1989 he finished third, losing the second position by a very narrow margin to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Fernando Collor de Mello was elected). He was very popular in his home state of Rio Grande do Sul and in his adopted home state of Rio de Janeiro, but never got more than 2% of the votes from São Paulo state. In 1994 he finished fifth (the winner was Fernando Henrique Cardoso). Four years later he was Lula's running mate: they lost to Cardoso.

In 2002 Brizola supported the candidacy of Ciro Gomes for president. Gomes finished third, while Lula was elected president. The PDT was has had a weak showing against new parties in Brazil's political sceneFact|date=February 2007, so Brizola became a secondary figure in his last years. Despite supporting Lula at some periods during his career, Brizola's last public acts were criticizing Lula for what he termed neoliberalist policies and for neglecting traditional left-wing and workers' struggles.

Brizola died in 2004, after a heart attack.

Brizola and the enforcement of laws in Rio de Janeiro slums

During Brizola's period as Rio de Janeiro State governor (1983-1986), he adopted a radicially new policy for police action in the poor suburbs and slums (favelas) within the Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area. Alleging old relations and modus operandi were founded on repression, conflict and disrespect, he ordered the state police to be soft on those areas and not to enforce some laws of the military government (that was, at the time, represented by president João Baptista Figueiredo).

This decision was controversial, and allegedly made suburbs and slums an open territory for organized crime, represented by huge gangs like Comando Vermelho ("Red Command") which were born through the association of common convicted prisoners and leftist militia prisoners in the 1970s.

Darcy Ribeiro, a politician who strongly agrees with Brizola's views on urban housing, argued that "slums are not part of the problem, but part of the solution" and that the dissetlements of people of the slums should be stopped.

External links

* [http://www.socialistinternational.org/9Press%20Releases/Brizola/Brizola-E.html Socialista International honours the memory of Leonel Brizola]

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