In 1863 and 1864, historical and political contradictions in the River Plate region led to civil war in Uruguay, creating tensions with neighboring nations in the region. The Brazilian government intervened both politically and militarily in Uruguay to address the interests of ranchers in its province of Rio Grande do Sul, to distract the attention of the Brazilian citizens from domestic problems, and to preserve the political influence of the Empire of Brazil on Uruguay. This action by the Empire clashed with the new Paraguayan policy of political interference in the River Plate region and resulted in the declaration of war against Brazil by Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López. This conflict broadened into the Paraguayan War.
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.
Since the implementation of the Brazilian Republic in 1889, its history has been shaped by the political role of the armed forces, particularly the army. From 1964 to 1985, the Brazilian military was in direct command of the state, appointing generals as presidents through indirect elections. After overthrowing the center-left reformist government of João Goulart, on March 31, 1964, the military imposed an authoritarian regime of tutelage of the political party system and of civil society, which served as a political model for similar regimes in Latin America during the Cold War.
The military imposed arbitrary laws and cracked down on leftist political groups and social movements. They sought to boost capitalist development and “national integration” within the vast area of Brazilian territory, modernizing industry and updating the nation’s infrastructure. However, the military encountered strong opposition from civil society, which was led by political groups and the press, as well as intellectuals and artists from different ideological backgrounds (Marxists, liberals, socialists, and progressive Catholics). These groups were divided over whether to refuse to negotiate with the military or to take a critical stance in relation to the policies of the military governments, resulting in complex social relationships.
Social actors and contemporary politicians continue to vie for ownership of society’s memories of the period, making it necessary to combine historical research with historiographical criticism for understanding the role of the military regime in the nation’s history.
Wilma Peres Costa
The effort of searching the effects of the War of the Triple Alliance against Paraguay on the building up of Brazilian national identity challenges the historian with a paradox: why the military victory promotes the fall of the political regime instead of strengthening it. The article tries to deal with some dimensions of this paradox underlining the distinctive characteristics of this war in the ongoing warmongering in the Platine region—the huge numbers of conscripted soldiers (“the Total War”), the hybrid political character of the alliance (Brazilian monarchy and Argentinian Republic), the opposition of most of the conservative classes, and the unveiling of slavery as a strategic weakness for the country—are some of the themes treated in order to explain how the empire lost both the battle of worldwide moral support and the battle of legitimacy inside the country. The massive recruitment coming from all parts of the country could bring the empowerment of ordinary people in the postwar decades, but the monarchical elites took careful steps to ensure that these sectors were quickly demobilized and also not to receive medals and other military honors. The postwar era was one of unfolding of an endemic crisis leading to contest of monarchical institutions. They came from military sectors, but also from regional elites, besides bitter criticism from middle-class intellectuals. Racial arguments filled an outstanding part in this period, leading to the giving prestige of “scientific” racism and the negative diagnosis for the future of a modern nation founded in a racially mixed society.