Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Latin American History. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 24 February 2024

The Brazilian Military Regime, 1964–1985free

The Brazilian Military Regime, 1964–1985free

  • Marcos NapolitanoMarcos NapolitanoDepartment of History, University of São Paulo


Since its establishment in 1889, the history of the Brazilian republic was marked by the centrality of the armed forces, particularly the army, in political life. But between 1964 and 1985, the military was in direct command of the state, imposing indirectly elected generals as president. After overthrowing the reformist center-left government of João Goulart on March 31, 1964, the military installed a tutelary authoritarian regime to control civil society and the political system, serving as a political model for similar regimes in Latin America during the Cold War.

The military passed arbitrary laws and severely repressed left-wing political groups and social movements while also seeking to accelerate capitalist development and the “national integration” of Brazil’s vast territory. They intended to modernize Brazilian industry and carry out bold infrastructure projects. On the other hand, they faced strong opposition from civil society, led by political groups, artists, intellectuals, and press outlets of diverse ideological backgrounds (Marxists, liberals, socialists, and progressive Catholics). These groups were divided between total refusal to negotiate with the military and critical adherence to the policies of the generals’ governments, composing a complex relationship between society and the state.

Understanding the role of the military regime in Brazilian history requires a combination of historical research and historiographic criticism in light of the disputes over memory that continue to divide social and political actors.


  • History of Brazil
  • 1945–1991
  • Military History
  • Social History

The 1964 Coup D’état

The 1964 coup d’état overthrew the reformist government of President João Goulart and established an authoritarian regime controlled by the armed forces that lasted until 1985. The product of a conspiracy involving Brazilian social and political groups supported by the United States government, the 1964 coup fits into two distinct historical contexts. At the international level, given its forceful anticommunism, it reflected the impact of the Cold War on Brazilian politics and society.1 Domestically, the coup was the result of an authoritarian, exclusionary, and conservative political culture disseminated among the civilian and military elite since the establishment of the republic in 1889.

Crisis of the Post-1946 Republic

Brazil’s republican history was marked by the conservatism of its liberal-oligarchic elites, predominantly agrarian and linked to the agro-exporting primary sector of the economy (coffee, rubber, cacao). Brazilian society contained strong social contrasts, aggravated by the late abolition of slavery (1888), the concentration of rural property ownership, and political exclusion. Throughout the First Republic (1889–1930), only 2 to 5 percent of the population had the right to vote, since illiterates and women were not allowed to cast a ballot. Between 1930 and 1945, the corporatist-inspired government of Getúlio Vargas stimulated industrialization and the modernization of the economy, but society itself remained unequal with an insulated and exclusionary political system. The liberal-democratic republic that followed the fall of Vargas, with the franchise extended to literate urban workers, marked Brazil’s first genuine experience with democracy. The political system was characterized by large national parties and the predominance of charismatic leaders (dubbed “populists”), such as Getúlio Vargas himself, the former dictator who converted to the electoral political game and was elected president in 1950. Elites and the electorate were divided into two camps: (1) reformist nationalists, who advocated for state-led industrialization and granting some rights to workers; (2) conservative liberals who defended “free enterprise” and the preservation of traditional social hierarchies, based on land ownership and control of the labor movement. The armed forces were divided between the two ideological camps, but were generally anticommunist and elitist.2 The Brazilian Communist Party, founded in 1922 and operating illegally since 1947, had relative freedom of action during the “Republic of 46” and, as a rule, supported the nationalists and statist industrializing projects, making informal alliances with the Brazilian Labor Party as of 1955. The Republic of 46 was marred by political crises, such as the one that led President Getúlio Vargas to commit suicide in 1954 in response to the military’s ultimatum that he step down. The Juscelino Kubitschek government, elected in 1955, represented a brief moment of democratic stability, social peace, and a great industrializing leap forward.3 But political and economic problems returned in the early 1960s, just as urban and rural workers’ movements, their agency strengthened and newly resonant in the post-1945 system, began insisting on a number of social and political reforms.

The Conspiracy Against the João Goulart Administration

The ascension of João Goulart, leader of the Brazilian Labor Party and a political disciple of Getúlio Vargas, further aggravated political and social conflicts. Goulart, known as Jango by his colleagues and followers, was very popular with the labor unions (he had been labor minister for a short time between 1953 and 1954) and had a reformist reputation.4 Despite his moderate politics, Goulart was deeply distrusted by conservative elites and by segments of the military who saw him as an extreme leftist. Elected vice president in 1960, Goulart took office following the resignation of conservative president Jânio Quadros. At the time, electoral rules allowed the vice president to be elected without being on the same ticket as the presidential candidate, which had the potential to result in odd matches like Quadros-Goulart. The military opposed Goulart taking office, but after tense negotiations among the various parties in congress and the armed forces, he was allowed to be sworn in on September 7, 1961. The compromise was that Goulart would accept a constitutional reform creating a parliamentary system of government, which greatly reduced his powers as president. This model did not last long. Presidentialism was restored via a plebiscite convened by the government in early 1963. With full presidential powers, Jango promised to implement “base reforms,” a set of political and economic measures intended to more equitably distribute rural and urban properties, incorporate more voters into the electoral processes, modernize institutions of the economy and the state, and modify systems of higher education, banking, and fiscal administration.5 Conservative forces opposed these initiatives, especially “agrarian reform,” the central pillar of the “base reforms” agenda supported by leftists, including the illegal Brazilian Communist Party.6 Brazilian society split in two, and the right (national and multinational business, the traditional middle class, large landowners, and the Catholic Church) stood against Goulart government. The military was divided, but the high command tended to the right. The left, on the other hand, was equally heterogeneous, composed of radical nationalists, laborites, and communists, supported by the urban and peasant trade-union movements. The United States government was suspicious of Jango, concerned about Brazil’s independent foreign policy (sympathetic to “Third Worldism” and the countries of the socialist bloc), economic nationalism that threatened the interests of American companies, and the risk of another socialist revolution in the hemisphere, following in the footsteps of the Cuban Revolution.7 Beginning in late 1963, ideological polarization and political crisis undermined the Goulart’s ability to govern and the fragile institutional balance of his administration. The scene was set for the coup.

The Coup

The coup d’état of March 31, 1964, was the result of a confluence of conspiratorial groups that defended the forced removal of João Goulart, under the pretext that the country, with Goulart’s assent, was on the path to a “communist revolution.”8 João Goulart was not a communist or a radical, but he was considered indecisive and weak in the face of the crisis and the pressure for reforms from the left. The economy had been stalled since 1962, with inflation reaching 80 percent per year. The groups conspiring against Goulart had broad support in the Brazilian press, controlled by conservative and elitist liberals, in Congress, among the governors of the richest states, and the Catholic Church. High-ranking officers in the armed forces were part of the conspiracy, but the military only united around the plan to overthrow Goulart after a growing wave of political action among soldiers, corporals, and sergeants demanding better living conditions and an increase in pay. These junior officers carried out riots in military installations with the support of left-wing laborites like Leonel Brizola, former governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul and Goulart’s brother-in-law. During one of these crises involving junior officers, several generals rebelled on March 31, 1964. At the same time, civilian sectors saw in the military uprising the opportunity to overthrow the president. Between March 31 and April 2, 1964, the political situation was chaotic, with military troops on the move, failed and uncoordinated attempts to resist the coup, and a dearth of leaders capable of managing the situation within the law. Gradually, Congress, dominated by anti-Goulart conspirators, began coordinating with civilian and military leaders. When Goulart retreated to his home state of Rio Grande do Sul, Congress took advantage of the president’s absence from the capital to declare the presidency vacant, an opportunistic and unconstitutional measure since Goulart remained on Brazilian soil.9 Within the military, the supreme command of the revolution took shape, controlled by Marshal Artur da Costa e Silva. The moderate wing of the armed forces was represented by Marshal Castelo Branco, supported by civilians, parts of the clergy, conservative Catholic movements, and the US Embassy, the latter of which had played a key role the conspiracy. Much of the middle class took to the streets to support the coup.10 The left, which seemed well organized and strong, was stunned and unable to react. President Goulart and other leaders fled to Uruguay, and several left-wing politicians and trade unionists were arrested. On April 11, 1964, offering a legalistic façade for the coup, Congress “elected” the first president-general of the new regime, Marshal Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco. Before the “election” was held, dozens of legislators were removed from office by the military.11

Building the Regime

The coup was the product of a heterogeneous civil-military coalition that did not last long after the seizure of power. Economic and social conservatives had different objectives than the authoritarian sectors of the armed forces. The former wanted a swift military intervention to remove President João Goulart from office and repress the left, with general elections to be held soon thereafter in a “sanitized political environment,” as the newspapers put it at the time. The military, supported by technocrats and the business community, clearly had other goals. For them, all traditional politicians, especially those of the left, but also those of the right, were agents of political and institutional instability. The military preferred a centralized technocratic and tutelary government, with Congress and local politicians serving as supporting players in Brazilian politics. During the early years of the regime’s construction, which ran from 1964 to 1968, these two forces clashed, with the gradual assertion of an authoritarian, impersonal, and bureaucratic military regime with power centralized in the presidency, a position always held by a high-ranking general.12

Brazilian military men were heavily influenced by the National Security Doctrine, which was based on the policies of containing communism emanating from Washington.13 Since the early 1960s, they had also been enamored of the Counter-Insurgency Doctrine developed by the French during the Algerian War.14 The National Security Doctrine held that it was the responsibility of the armed forces to guarantee the stability of the state, supervise the political system to avoid ideological polarization, monitor society to counter the actions of communist “infiltrators,” and sponsor a general modernization of the economy to integrate into the international capitalist system of the Western bloc. The Brazilian military, historically anchored in positivist ideology, embraced state-led industrialization projects (which did not always fit into the classic liberal economic prescriptions) and also distrusted charismatic leaders who mobilized the masses. From the earliest days of the Brazilian military regime, the existence of different political factions within the armed forces was well known, although all were deeply anticommunist and cherished the military’s reputation for unity and cohesion.15 There was a group of more intellectual generals whose careers were more eminently bureaucratic within the high command. Dubbed the “Sorbonne” group by the press, alluding to the famous French university, these generals were more sympathetic to the civilian liberal tradition. General Castelo Branco was one of its leaders. The other important group was composed of generals more closely linked to the command of troops, generally more nationalistic and explicitly authoritarian. These two factions vied for political control over the officer corps (colonels, majors, and captains). None of the groups that controlled the political orientation of the armed forces favored ultranationalist and charismatic leaders, even if they were drawn from the military. The political tradition of the Brazilian military, in short, was positivist, not fascist. The military wanted to control the state and play a tutelary role for civil society, depoliticizing it and discouraging social mobilization around charismatic leaders and mass parties. According to this thinking, the political system should subsume itself to “national objectives” defined by the military.

The Regime’s Legal Framework

As part of this broad strategy, the institutionalization of the military regime was characterized by expanding the technical bureaucracy of the state and establishing a new set of legal norms. President Castelo Branco originally promised to hand off power to a successor elected by the people two years after his inauguration (April 15, 1964), but what in fact took place was the effective establishment of an authoritarian military regime through measures known as Institutional Acts. The president ultimately extended his term until March 1967 through a constitutional amendment approved in July 1964, a few months after he came to power.

Institutional Acts were always justified in the name of guaranteeing the aims of the “revolution,” as the military referred to the coup of 1964. Indeed, many right-wing members of the armed forces saw themselves as authentic “revolutionaries” who would build a new Brazil, although that terminology was traditionally linked to radicals on the left. The moment that the military seized power was seen as the zero-year of Brazilian national regeneration, although in practice the military preserved the longstanding privileges and powers of established elites.

During the twenty-one years of military rule, seventeen Institutional Acts were issued, all of which in some way reinforced the prerogatives and discretionary power of the executive branch, and the president in particular, to control Brazilian politics and society.16 They were each intended to keep Congress under the president’s control.17 After the first Institutional Act of April 9, 1964, which gave the president the power to restrict the political rights of citizens and legislators and to enact laws, initially for sixty days, other arbitrary decrees followed. Institutional Act No. 2 (October 1965) was one of the most important in the history of the military regime. In addition to abolishing the thirteen existing political parties, it established indirect elections for the presidency and further strengthened the power of the executive in constitutional, legislative, and budgetary matters. The act also granted military courts the authority to try civilians accused of crimes against “national security.” The president could close Congress and other legislative bodies around the country, dismiss congressmen, and decree a state of siege for 180 days without prior authorization. Complementary Act No. 20 of November 1965 imposed a minimum number of 120 deputies and 20 senators for the formation of a new political party. Given the number of deputies and senators who existed at the time, in practice, this measure imposed a two-party system that would last until 1980. By the end of 1965, deputies were grouped into two parties—the National Renovating Alliance (ARENA), the official party of the regime, and the “moderate” Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB)—both officially registered in 1966. Institutional Act 3 (February 1966) established indirect elections for governor and mayor in capital cities, further restricting the impact of voting rights. The two-party system eventually turned legislative elections into plebiscites indicating who favored and who opposed the military government.

Before handing power over to his successor, General Artur da Costa e Silva, indirectly elected by Congress, Castelo Branco promulgated the so-called Press Law, the National Security Law, and a new constitution, more authoritarian and centralizing. Thus, in spite of the post-hoc view of Castelo Branco as a “moderate” general, he institutionalized the military regime, based on control of the state and the political system as a whole as well as the curtailment of civil liberties. However, since state terror and censorship hardened by the end of 1968, with the implementation of the fifth Institutional Act, the previous period came to be seen as less restrictive, characterized by relative freedom of expression for the regime’s opponents. This conception, captured in the current expression “ditabranda” (“soft” or moderate dictatorship), needs to be assessed critically.

Marshal Artur da Costa e Silva promised to “liberalize” the regime and avoid issuing new Institutional Acts, which even many of the regime’s conservative technocrats saw as arbitrary “legal monstrosities.” However, challenged by opposition members of Congress and growing social dissatisfaction with the regime, led by the student movement and progressive intellectuals, the government became increasingly repressive over the course of 1968.18 Matters were made more complicated by the fact that some dissidents rejected peaceful protest. Part of the left opted for armed struggle against the regime.19 Amid the turmoil, the relative freedom of expression that remained in Brazil was buried by Institutional Act No. 5, the hallmark of an era of intense repression that would last until the end of 1978. Institutional Act No. 5 further strengthened the president’s power over the other branches of government and suspended habeas corpus for political prisoners, among other harsh measures. Other Institutional Acts enacted in 1969 allowed for the banishment of political prisoners exchanged for kidnapped diplomats and the death penalty for crimes deemed subversive.

It is important to stress that the Institutional Acts were not merely a “legalistic façade” for the regime, as if its actual power emanated solely from arms and violence. The Institutional Acts were essential for the strategy of avoiding the personalization of political power and guaranteeing some normative rules for political life.20 The military feared that power exercised without bureaucratic and legal rules would degenerate into internal disputes among opposing factions and ultimately divide high-ranking officers. Nevertheless, there was always tension within the armed forces when it came to deciding presidential succession.

The “Anos de Chumbo” (“Years of Lead”)

The hardening of the regime after Institutional Act No. 5 produced shockwaves throughout the repressive apparatus that presided over the political system and civil society. Congress was closed at the end of 1968, and censorship of the press and artistic works (songs and films, above all) became more rigorously enforced. President Costa e Silva fell ill in 1969 and was replaced in August by a military junta that prevented the vice president, a conservative civilian politician, from taking office due to the fact that he was not a member of the military. He had also been the sole vote against the promulgation of Institutional Act No. 5 in a decisive National Security Council (CSN) meeting the previous year.

As of that point, the military regime formalized the extralegal repression of political crimes. Financed by the business community, the regime’s strategy involved kidnapping militants, interrogating them under systematic torture, and executing them in extrajudicial fashion.21 This undertaking became known as Operation Bandeirante (OBAN), which brought together police and military personnel in the fight against left-wing guerrillas and the grassroots opposition as a whole. Notwithstanding the regime’s illegal and semi-clandestine actions, political prisoners continued to be tried in military courts under the National Security Law.

Guerrilla Movements and the Repressive Apparatus

In 1970, the repressive apparatus expanded, adding a new unit integrated into the army command known as Internal Defense Operations Center–Operation and Information Detachment (DOI-CODI). This move was partly a response by the military regime to the growth of leftist guerrillas who had been carrying out armed operations, mainly bank robberies and attacks on military units, since 1968. The military “hard line” did not believe it was possible to fight the guerrillas within existing legal rules, as harsh and arbitrary as they were. The extralegal DOI-CODI model spread to military headquarters in several Brazilian capitals.

The leftist guerrilla movement was composed of dozens of revolutionary groups, the majority being small organizations with a few hundred militants with no real firepower. The only organizations that developed truly bold actions were National Liberation Action (ALN, an offshoot of the Brazilian Communist Party—PCB), Popular Revolutionary Vanguard (VPR, which brought together Marxists and radical nationalists), and the Communist Party of Brazil (PC do B, a Maoist dissidence of the PCB). The first two carried out urban guerrilla actions, robbing banks and kidnapping foreign diplomats to be exchanged for political prisoners. The kidnapping of the United States ambassador, organized by ALN and a group called the October 8 Revolutionary Movement (MR-8), another PCB splinter organization, in September 1969, stood out as the most daring action of the Brazilian guerrilla movement. The PC do B, for its part, inspired by the Chinese Revolution, had been stealthily organizing a guerrilla base in the Amazon since 1967, which the military uncovered in 1971.

After some successes between the end of 1968 and the beginning of 1970, the armed organizations of the left were progressively dismantled and disbanded until 1974, when the cycle of guerrilla struggle against the regime ended. Repressive measures carried out with no legal or humanitarian considerations literally decimated armed left-wing organizations. The death of important guerrilla leaders like Carlos Marighela (a historic PCB militant who had broken with the party) in 1969 and Carlos Lamarca (a former captain of the Brazilian army who joined the guerrillas), was a blow to the armed left. Their assassinations vividly demonstrated the deadly efficacy of the campaign of state terror, inspired by the Counter-Insurgency Doctrine, waged against armed clandestine organizations. But other factors contributed to the rapid defeat of the armed resistance. For one thing, their social base of support was very small, concentrated in the more radical segments of the student movement, heavily repressed and surveilled by the police. There was little support from workers and peasants, despite the inflamed rhetoric of organizations who claimed to speak on their behalf. The clandestine and militarized structure of the guerrilla groups hindered more effective “mass action” among the popular classes. The Brazilian Communist Party itself, the most traditional and well-organized leftist organization in the country, did not support the armed struggle, preferring to concentrate on civil resistance to the regime. The guerrillas ended up socially isolated and politically fragmented, without the strength to face a trained army intent on defending the regime. The vast majority of people in the middle and working classes were focused on their jobs, earning money, and leading their lives in the best way possible, taking advantage of the impressive economic growth that began in earnest in 1969.

The “Economic Miracle”

In late 1969, the third general-president, Emilio Garrastazu Médici, took office. His administration was marked by the growth and institutionalization of the repressive apparatus, which did not limit its actions to fighting guerillas. The Médici government was also, paradoxically, the height of the military regime’s social prestige. Even soccer indirectly helped the government by stimulating a nationalist frenzy following Brazil’s triumph at the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico. Nationalist and patriotic rhetoric produced the discursive image of “Brasil Grande,” or “Great Brazil,” as if the military regime had finally succeeded in thrusting the country into the exclusive tier of developed nations and geopolitical heavyweights.22

After taming inflation, Brazil experienced astronomical economic growth between 1968 and 1973, driven by a process of industrial and agricultural expansion that masked enduring social inequalities.23 The biggest beneficiaries of this process, apart from major industrialists and capitalists, of course, were middle-class wage earners and some of the more skilled sectors of the working class. Indeed, for the middle class, there was essentially full employment, good wages, and widespread consumption of durable goods. The economy averaged 10 percent growth a year during that period, while government investment stimulated large infrastructure works (hydroelectric projects, roads, etc.), and abundant international capital flowed into the country. But the miracle also obscured many fragile points of the Brazilian economy. The country remained dependent on foreign technological expertise, imported oil, and multinational capital. In the absence of a consistent policy of income distribution, inequality increased. Indeed, the military itself, which tended to the right of the political spectrum, was historically unresponsive to disparities of income and wealth distribution. Rural holdings were still concentrated in the hands of large landowners and did not show the same rhythm of productive modernization the country as a whole was experiencing, with vast properties left unproductive for purposes of speculation. The exodus of landless rural workers caused large Brazilian cities to expand even more rapidly and chaotically, with inadequate infrastructure and employment opportunities to absorb so many people in such a short time.

Ultimately, the 1973 oil shock was fatal for Brazil’s rapid economic growth since the country imported about 90 percent of its petroleum. Inflation returned, and the government was forced to reallocate resources after 1974. After the crisis, it became clear to the military that the most important thing was to stimulate basic industries, especially the energy sector, and to become self-sufficient in that regard. The government also needed to stop subsidizing middle-class consumption. These policies became clearer during the administration of General Ernesto Geisel, which began in March 1974.24 The “miracle” was over.

Resistance from Society

One of the distinctive elements in the history of the Brazilian military regime was the formation of a vigorous social, cultural, and, to a lesser extent, partisan opposition, which took shape as early as the 1960s, shortly after the military seized power. Although it had considerable support, particularly among conservative sectors of the middle class, the regime ultimately lacked a durable social base of support. Members of the military, given their longstanding positivist formation, were never prone to mass mobilizations, preferring to exert bureaucratic and technical control over the apparatus of the state. The social order they sought to preserve necessarily involved the political demobilization of the society.

The coup was able to unite strains of public opinion that were likely held by a majority of the population, characterized by moralism, elitism, anti-reformism, and conservative Catholicism. Institutional constraints on rural and urban workers and the fragility of trade unions, despite the advances of the post-1946 republic, facilitated the coup’s political victory. However, young and intellectual members of the middle class, important players in the process of capitalist modernization, rejected the regime’s legitimacy.25 Soon after the coup, even many conservatives realized that the military had come to power with a political project of its own that restricted freedom of expression and political representation, classic principles of liberalism.

By 1965, it was clear that the cultural sphere in general, dominated by the intellectual left, opposed the military regime, as did many members of the press, which was otherwise marked by conservative editorial lines. In 1968, the student and labor movements took to the streets while the armed struggle attracted more radical sectors of the left inspired by the Cuban Revolution and Che Guevara’s travails across Africa and Latin America.

What in 1968 seemed to be an overwhelming resistance movement against the regime was effectively quashed after Institutional Act No. 5 ushered in the most violent and extralegal period of political repression.26 Street protests stopped, social movements and unions were closely watched by the political police and military intelligence services, and censors muzzled the arts and the press (particularly between 1969 and 1976). Economic growth appeased the large portion of society with no strong political opinions, making it difficult for the opposition’s critiques to gain widespread currency.

Yet among those sectors of society responsible for cultural creation, systematizing knowledge, and disseminating information that could shape public opinion, the military regime lacked organic support. Even some conservatives were shaken by reports of torture and censorship. Meanwhile, after the defeat of the armed struggle, with lingering tensions, the left reformed itself.

Radical artists and intellectuals and those linked to the socialist and communist left played an important role in shaping criticism of the military regime, defining a particular line of sociocultural and political resistance.27 Paradoxically, cultural fields and education (especially higher education), where opposition forces were most active, benefited greatly from the military’s agenda of economic and institutional modernization. Universities grew, fostering creative new voices and consumers of leftist culture, which had been at the vanguard of the nation’s critical consciousness since the late 1950s.28 Means of communication expanded and became more sophisticated in areas like television, journalism, and the recording and publishing industries (often in association with multinational capital). All of these required qualified professionals, many of whom were drawn from the humanities or from artistic circles traditionally linked to the left, in many cases the Brazilian Communist Party. The regime and the conservative businessmen who controlled the media tolerated these individuals so long as they did not directly criticize the government or the armed forces or defend the guerrilla movement in any way. Within this limited sphere of tolerance, navigating the line between denouncing and serving the “system,” an important critical culture grew, helping to disseminate democratic values and condemn political violence to large segments of the middle class, often through coded language. Popular musicians and internationally recognized filmmakers, writers, artists, and playwrights stood out in this regard. Between the 1960s and 1970s, much of Brazil’s cultural creation emanated from the hearts and minds of the regime’s left-wing opponents.

Recognizing this fact, the regime developed an ambiguous cultural policy that offered financing for many opposition artists, especially after 1975, as part of the broader “political opening” (“abertura política”). This type of patronage, especially important for theater and film productions, allowed the government to approach opposition culture while keeping it dependent on public resources.29

Social Movements

In addition to cultural opposition to the regime, resistance also came from new social movements linked to lower-class communities and neighborhoods, stimulated by the progressive wing of the Catholic clergy. In the 1970s, inspired by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council issued between 1962 and 1965, and liberation theology, the Catholic Church played an important social role in cities and in the countryside, helping popular organizations and denouncing state violence against dissidents.30 Although a considerable part of the clergy supported the 1964 coup, the church as an institution was divided, with progressives making up a slight majority. Men like Dom Hélder Câmara, Dom Pedro Casaldaglia, and Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns, among others, became the public faces of Catholic opposition to the regime, fueling socially minded pastoral actions and the creation of Ecclesiastical Base Communities.

Drawing from this religious activism and longstanding involvement with the labor movement, the working class played an increasingly prominent role in denouncing the regime’s economic policies during the 1970s and 1980s.31 These groups also developed communal decision-making practices known as “base democracy,” which took up old leftist traditions that had been pushed aside by the centralizing tendencies of traditional communist parties. In neighborhoods of large industrial cities, starting with São Paulo, a new type of popular organizing emerged, centered around issues like the high cost of living, housing, health, and transportation, often linked to labor unions. Between 1978 and 1980, the reinvigorated labor movement staged unprecedented strikes in São Bernardo do Campo (São Paulo state), the industrial heart of Brazil. The strikes were notable for their defiant tone in defense of workers’ economic and social rights, neither of which were a part of the regime’s liberalizing agenda. The popular appeal of union leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva stood out as well, introducing the nation to the man who would be elected president of the republic in 2002.

Along with opposition rooted in the struggles of daily life, causes like feminism and gay rights came to the fore during the 1970s, reflecting broader resistance to the regime’s overbearing conservatism.32 Afro-Brazilian activists also became radicalized, as demonstrated by the emergence of the Unified Black Movement (Movimento Negro Unificado) in 1978.33 Environmentalists also became better organized and more visible in this period.

Liberal professionals, especially lawyers and public-health officials, were another important source of opposition to the regime after the defeat of the armed struggle. Along with non-manual workers, teachers, and intellectuals, they played an important role in shaping a democratic culture within the Brazilian middle class, traditionally conservative and elitist.

In the late 1970s, the confluence of grassroots social movements, labor unions, and non-manual workers (bankers); movements with new political and cultural demands (feminism, LGBT rights, environmentalism, racial consciousness); intellectuals; and militant socialist organizations converged in the formation of the Workers’ Party.34

The emergence of new opposition movements influenced by the left, and their ability to garner support from politically moderate groups and leaders, eventually demanded responses from the military regime that went beyond mere police repression.

Political Opening (“Abertura Política”) and the Democratic Transition

In 1974, support for the regime began to wane as the “economic miracle” came to an end and the consumption habits of the middle class were suddenly disrupted. Dissatisfaction among the working class (which was hit hardest by inflation), inadequate urban infrastructure, and the precariousness of public services also increased. The Geisel government represented the return to power of a military faction that favored a more institutionalized authoritarian regime, one that would not rely so heavily on force and direct police repression.35 According to this political project, power should be gradually handed over to moderate civilian sectors so that the regime’s principles of “security and development” could be consolidated without necessitating direct military control of the state.

The discussion of a “Brazilian political model” to carry out this undertaking began to be outlined in late 1973. But with the surprising defeat of the government party in the legislative elections of November 1974, the regime’s strategists realized the extent of social dissatisfaction with the military in power. The construction of Geisel’s preferred political process needed to follow certain steps, which the government decided could no longer be put off. The regime’s answer to rising social discontent was generically called “abertura” (“opening”).36 Before that, however, the military had officially referred to the process of liberalization as “distensão” (“distension”), which President Geisel made clear would be “slow, gradual and secure.”

Initially, “abertura” was conditioned on the destruction of any threat represented by what remained of the revolutionary left, armed or not. Indeed, the Geisel government, despite being remembered for initiating the democratic transition, was marked by the deaths and disappearances of leftist militants until early 1976, almost halfway through its duration. With the neutralization of armed guerrilla organizations, the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), which had never taken up arms against the regime, became the main target of repression between 1974 and 1976. Even though its members had been killed or tortured since 1964, the PCB was intently attacked by government forces as of 1974, resulting in the deaths of more than twenty leaders and militants.

At the same time, the regime eased its censorship apparatus and controls over civil society, allowing moderates to once again play a meaningful role in society, particularly in opposition to the regime. Middle-of-the-road voices had gradually been pushed far from the center of power, repelled by press censorship (including in many newspapers that had backed the 1964 coup), torture and political repression, and government constraints on freedom of expression. To win back support from some of these actors, the Geisel government softened its controls over the press and cultural life. It did not, however, dismantle institutions of censorship and repression.

The third stage of “abertura” involved carrying out a set of political reforms to guarantee the government’s control over the electoral college, which indirectly elected the president and was made up, in part, of members of Congress who had been directly elected. The Geisel government created, for example, the so-called bionic senators, appointed by the president and not accountable to voters. “Bionic senators” guaranteed a pro-government majority in the electoral college, tasked with dutifully electing another military general as president in the upcoming election. The Geisel government also sought to stifle debates over relevant national issues in legislative elections.

By 1977, however, growing opposition from the student movement and labor unions, backed by opposition leaders and widely respected professional and religious entities, led the government to move beyond this timid reform agenda. In October 1978, President Geisel announced both the end of Institutional Act No. 5 and a set of democratizing measures to be implemented by his successor, General João Baptista Figueiredo.

Political Amnesty

João Baptista Figueiredo took office as the social and economic crises were getting worse. While the uninterrupted flow of international capital enabled the Brazilian economy to respond relatively well to the first oil shock, the petroleum crisis in 1979, along with an increase in international interest rates in the early 1980s, had disastrous effects on Brazil and Latin America as a whole. The nation had developed new technology to produce automotive fuel from sugar cane, but oil was still an important commodity in the balance of payments. Inflation and foreign debt spun out of control, the balance of payments was thrown off once again, unemployment returned to haunt the working class, and middle-class incomes declined.

The dire economic situation swelled the ranks of the opposition, made up of moderate conservatives and the left, all of whom demanded a return to democracy. The Figueiredo government also had to contend with intense resistance to “abertura” within military ranks, where radical extralegal right-wing groups were proliferating, sheltered within the DOI-CODI repressive apparatus. These groups sponsored dozens of bombings on business entities, newspaper headquarters, and popular movements between 1979 and 1981.

The government nevertheless maintained the general guidelines of its controlled liberalizing agenda, which had three key components: (1) an amnesty law approved by Congress, (2) the return of a multiparty political system, (3) reinstating direct elections for state governors. Direct elections for president did not figure into the regime’s medium-term plans.

The government’s proposed amnesty law took advantage of the widespread desire to reintegrate former political prisoners and citizens who had had their civil rights suspended. An intense campaign in 1978 had placed the issue at the center of public debate. However, the government’s proposal excluded those accused of so-called blood crimes (that is to say, leftist guerrillas) at the same time that it exonerated agents of the state accused of what it called “connected crimes.” This legal euphemism for excesses carried out in the fight against subversives allowed the regime to amnesty torturers and murderers at the service of the repressive apparatus, preventing the legal investigation of human-rights violations. Protest from the left was of no avail, and Congress passed the amnesty law in August 1979.37

Next, the government put forth a political reform ending the two-party system in place since 1966. The regime’s strategy of overseeing the political system no longer involved tight controls over partisan activity, long restricted to the pro-regime National Renovating Alliance (ARENA) and the opposition Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB). As dissatisfaction with the government mounted in the late 1970s, the new plan was to divide the opposition as much as possible while preserving a single unified pro-regime party. That is effectively what happened following the government’s reform. The MDB was divided between liberal democrats and moderates, supported by a few leftist groups like the PCB, PC do B, and MR-8 (grouped together in the PMDB), socialists and sectors of the left linked to labor unions and social movements (together they founded the Workers Party, or PT, whose most prominent figure was the union leader Luis Inácio Lula da Silva), and laborites (affiliated with the Democratic Labor Party, or PDT, led by Leonel Brizola). The Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) remained illegal and saw its influence among intellectuals and trade unions decline, but it maintained an alliance with the PMDB. The official party of the regime remained united under an ironic new name: Social Democratic Party (PDS).

Despite its internal divisions, the liberal opposition represented by the PMDB won important state governments in the November 1982 gubernatorial elections. The results made the party, especially its moderate wing led by Tancredo Neves, an important interlocutor in the transition to democracy.

The Negotiated Transition to Democracy

Between 1983 and 1984, the regime and the opposition began discussing how the armed forces would ultimately leave power. But the military’s return to the barracks was not a simple political operation. Despite the economic crisis and the loss of political prestige, including among those who had supported the 1964 coup, the military still controlled the state, a significant part of the bureaucracy that distributed public funds to states and municipalities, and, of course, the repressive apparatus. Indeed, while censorship and state violence had eased since 1979, the institutional infrastructure that made them possible remained in place and could be reactivated at any time.

Conservative opposition groups (PMDB, the press, and the business community) did not want to end the regime in a way that might strengthen the more assertive parties and movements of the left, popular among intellectuals and street demonstrators but with little institutional or legislative influence. They preferred to negotiate with moderate sectors of the armed forces who were no longer interested in maintaining power at any cost. For their part, members of the military were wary of a crisis similar to what had happened in Argentina, where the armed forces were removed from power after losing the Falklands War and forced to suffer the humiliation of seeing their generals tried in civil courts for crimes against humanity. Such a scenario was unlikely in Brazil, but the military nevertheless aimed to ensure an honorable and negotiated exit. Their plan was to transfer power to a “dependable” civilian politician elected according to the rules set by the regime, namely, indirect elections without popular participation that would not risk bringing a radical leftist or laborite to office.

As these negotiations were taking place, the PT and more progressive sectors of the PMDB launched a campaign demanding the return of direct elections for president called “Diretas Já,” essentially, “direct elections now.” The opposition joined the campaign en masse, drawing thousands, and in some case even millions, to the streets in virtually every Brazilian city between the end of January and April 1984. The goal of the campaign was to force Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that would establish an immediate presidential election to determine General Figueiredo’s successor. The military regime opposed the measure and sought to control and disqualify the street demonstrations by, as always, depicting it as the work of “communist infiltrators.” Brazil’s main television network, Rede Globo, boycotted the “Diretas Já” movement. But the nation had changed, and anti-communist hysteria was not the mobilizing force it had once been for the middle class and in the political system as a whole.

The problem was that part of the PMDB was not fully committed to the pushing for direct elections. Calculating that it would be possible to defeat the PDS candidate in the indirect election scheduled for January 1985, the group led by Tancredo Neves began developing an alternative plan for the transition. If the constitutional amendment failed, the opposition would appeal to the Electoral College.

Ultimately, the amendment fell short on April 25, 1984. The government had successfully convinced a number of legislators to boycott the vote, thereby preventing the chamber from reaching the quorum needed to approve the amendment (two-thirds of Congress).

In the second half of 1984, despite the boycott of leftist movements and parties, the PMDB put forth Tancredo Neves as candidate for president, a moderate and experienced political leader who had never committed to the military regime. His running mate, José Sarney, represented the clientilistic interests that had long dominated Brazilian politics. He had broken with the government after supporting the regime for years. The PDS also nominated a civilian for president. His name was Paulo Maluf, the controversial former governor of São Paulo who had been accused of rampant corruption throughout his career. He was not President Figueiredo’s preferred successor.

Tancredo Neves easily won the presidential elections in January 1985, causing great popular excitement. But before his inauguration in April, the negotiated transition experienced a major setback. Tancredo fell ill and, after a long hospitalization, died in April 1985. Thus, José Sarney, lacking Tancredo Neves’s social standing and ability to negotiate, became Brazil’s first civilian ruler after twenty-one years of military rule. Sarney’s administration relied heavily on the military, leading many analysts to view him as the last president of the dictatorship rather than the first president of a new democratic system. This probably overstates matters, not least because, under Sarney, a democratically elected constituent assembly was called, with full political freedom, including legalized communist parties. In 1988, the new Federal Constitution of Brazil was promulgated, the most democratic in its history.

Yet the new democratic system left many enduring problems unresolved, including the effective lack of civil rights for the poor, widespread corruption, police violence, and income inequality.38 Furthermore, the economic crisis and rampant inflation, which reached more than 2000 percent a year, were not brought under control until 1994. Despite the institutional consolidation of Brazilian democracy since 1988, the nation’s political culture is still characterized by authoritarian tendencies, which helps to explain recent displays of nostalgia for the dictatorship. Such right-wing sentiments were especially palpable during the political crisis that engulfed the administration of President Dilma Rousseff (of the Workers’ Party), a former left-wing guerrilla in the 1970s. After winning elections in 2010 and 2014, she was removed in 2016 following a controversial and questionable impeachment process.

Discussion of the Literature

The academic literature on the coup and the Brazilian military regime is vast, with a long tradition of research dating back to the early 1970s. It includes numerous books published in several languages, primarily English and French, besides Portuguese. This body of work has largely been concerned with four major topics: (a) the coup d’état; (b) the political role of the armed forces in power; (c) guerrilla warfare, civil resistance, and repression; (d) cultural life under military rule. In addition to these thematic axes, there are few books that take a holistic approach, analyzing the broad dynamics of political, economic, and social life during the dictatorship.39

Three distinct views dominate the literature on the 1964 civil-military coup: the “collapse of populism” thesis, the “great conspiracy” thesis, and the “institutional collapse” thesis related to the notion of “radicalized actors.” Each of these emerged from seminal works in sociology and political science and were eventually adopted by historians, who until recently gave little importance to the coup as an object of historical research.

The first explanation for the coup, based heavily on Octavio Ianni’s foundational book, focuses on the “collapse of populism.”40 This view gained particular currency between the late 1960s and early 1970s. Ianni and others who embraced this thesis understood João Goulart’s reformism as the coda to a political approach that had tried to reconcile the state with demands for redistributionist policies. Along those lines, leaders like Goulart hoped to subsume working-class demands under a broader agenda of national development.

The second interpretive line emphasizes the conspiracy at the core of the political crisis in 1964. Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira’s book is a notable example.41 In addition to detailed analysis of social movements and Goulart’s openness to their demands, the book chronicles the machinations of conspirators with an emphasis on political action by the United States against the Brazilian government. For her part, Ruth Leacock presents an innovative assessment of relations between the United States and Brazil from the Kennedy administration through the 1964 coup and beyond, demonstrating that by 1969, the American government’s relationship with the military regime had deteriorated significantly.42 Another author who focused intently on the conspiracy against Goulart was René Dreifuss in a book that began as a doctoral thesis at the University of Glasgow.43 Dreifuss analyzes the conspiratorial role of right-wing civilians in the Brazilian business community. Supported by extensive and previously unpublished documentation, the author elucidates the struggle for control carried out by the political leadership of the bourgeoisie associated with multinational capital, culminating in the seizure of state power.

In the 1980s, but especially in the decade after, new works by political scientists drawing on functionalist theoretical models pushed analysis of the 1964 crisis in other directions. By emphasizing the rationality (or lack thereof) of institutional actors, these scholars did not see the coup as the result of a flawless conspiracy or as the culmination of a coherent right-wing ideological project. Instead, they thought of the political crisis as primarily an institutional one, brought on by a break in the systems of political negotiation and the radicalization of actors who could not find space to reconcile conflicting visions. This current of analysis includes authors like Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos and Argelina Figueiredo.44

Regarding leftist movements that took up arms against the regime, there are three classic works. Jacob Gorender, a former guerrilla, wrote the first systematic history of the armed struggle, presenting the main events and impasses of the various groups with remarkable detachment.45 Sociologist Marcelo Ridenti draws on varied documentation to explore the composition and trajectory of armed organizations.46 For his part, Daniel Aarão Reis Filho, another ex-guerrilla historian, analyzed the structure and objectives of underground organizations, highlighting the lack of social support for the armed struggle.47

Military men as distinctive political actors and the armed forces as an institution have been carefully studied by João Roberto Martins Filho and Maud Chirio.48 The former revised the classic thesis that defined the political dynamics of the regime as a clash between hardliners and moderates, contributing to a more complex and nuanced understanding of power struggles within the military. Maud Chirio dedicated herself to studying the military’s extreme right wing, highlighting differences between the 1960s and 1970s and demystifying a theme that was always much discussed in political conversation but that had received scant historiographical attention.

Regarding cultural life under the regime, Marcelo Ridenti focused on the relationship between artists and political engagement, based on the concept of “revolutionary romanticism.”49 For his part, Marcos Napolitano analyzed the presence of leftist culture and art within the market, focusing especially on the music industry. Both sought to overcome the dichotomy of cooptation and resistance that have traditionally dominated accounts of relations between intellectuals and the regime.50 Rodrigo Patto Sá Motta published an original book on the relationship between universities and the regime, looking especially at the subtle steps both sides took to reach a kind of accommodation.51

In recent years, several new themes have been explored, opening up avenues of historical research on the military period. For example, recent studies have focused more intently on the repressive apparatus, notably in books by Carlos Fico and Mariana Joffily.52 Both have detailed the structures and practices of the dictatorship’s political police. Historians have also been working with newly available documentation to assess the participation and support of intellectuals and civil society in the regime.53 Another notable theme is the relationship between memory and history in the case of the military regime, with studies touching on the trauma of repression, the memories of the left, and the difficulty of reckoning with the past given the impunity of the regime’s torturers and the vicissitudes of the democratic transition.54

Beginning in 2004, two historiographical debates dominated public discourse in Brazil fueled, in part, by the activities of the National Truth Commission, which between 2012 and 2014 worked to prepare the Brazilian state’s official report on the period of the military regime. The debate revolved around two polemical assertions made by historian Daniel Aarão Reis Filho, an influential scholar of the dictatorship and a former guerrilla. His first point was that the political regime that prevailed during the dictatorship was “civil-military” in nature, not just “military.” Secondly, he posited that guerrilla groups cannot be included in the so-called democratic resistance to the regime since they sought to forcefully install a socialist system, referred to as a “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the Leninist terminology that guided the armed organizations.55

Although widely accepted in the public discourse and by the conservative press, such statements provoked vigorous academic debate since 2010. Regarding the nature of the regime, some critics of the “civil-military” terminology point to the vague and generic character of the concept of “civil.” The imprecision, they argued, might actually do more to confuse than clarify who the civilian sectors were that controlled the state along with the military.56 Other scholars accept the notion that the coup was civil-military in nature given the widespread involvement of civil society and the business community in destabilizing and conspiring against the Goulart administration, but prefer the term “military regime” or “military dictatorship” when referring to the post-1964 system.57 They argue that the center of political power and decision-making authority between 1964 to 1985 was controlled by high-ranking members of the military, although they had the support of many civilians in society and within government bureaucracies (especially businessmen, technocrats, judges, and politicians). For these scholars, civilian support, qualified and socially diffuse, is not enough to define the nature of a political regime.

As for the argument that the revolutionary armed struggle should not be included in definitions of “democratic resistance,” the most forceful response came from Marcelo Ridenti.58 For Ridenti, the guerrilla movement was essentially an act of resistance to the military regime since before 1964 there were no influential groups on the left actually prepared to carry out an insurgent revolution in the short term. While he avoids citing armed groups as part of the “democratic resistance,” Ridenti asserts that these organizations did contribute to the general democratic struggle against authoritarianism by denouncing the regime as illegitimate.

Primary Sources

Most archives related to the Brazilian dictatorship are well organized and accessible, both in and out of Brazil. The records of the US Department of State and other government entities compiled by Brown University and the State University of Maringá (UEM) stand out. In Brazil, the political police archives of each state are well preserved, especially the DOPS collection in the state archives of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. As a rule, such material is held by state archives since each state administered its own political police. Files from the Federal Police’s Division of Censorship, useful for the analysis of state control over the press and cultural production, can be found at the National Archive in Brasilia. The National Archive also holds large collections of records pertaining to the National Information Service (SNI); the Assessorias de Segurança e Informação (ASI), intelligence-gathering units installed in every government entity to monitor the federal bureaucracy; and the intelligence centers of each of the three military branches, which acted directly to suppress dissent against the regime.

Collections linked to social movements and the left as a whole (parties and organizations, social movements, trade unions, and armed groups) are scattered across three major archives: Arquivo Edgar Leuenroth AEL/UNICAMP, Centro de Documentação e Memória-CEDEM/UNESP, and Centro de Pesquisas Vergueiro (CPV-São Paulo). The first contains the records of the student movement and the enormous documentation generated by the Brasil: Nunca Mais project, which systematized information on human-rights violations. At CEDEM, there are vast holdings regarding the Brazilian left in exile, on the labor movement, and on the campaign for political amnesty. Centro de Pesquisas Vergueiro, for its part, maintains important documentation related to union and popular neighborhood movements influenced by the Catholic Church.

The Centro de Informação e Documentação Científica at the Pontifíca Universidade Católica de São Paulo (CEDIC-PUCSP) and the Escola de Comunicações e Artes at the Universidade de São Paulo (ECA/USP) hold valuable collections of left-wing press (referred to as “alternative press”). Meanwhile, the National Library and the Brazilian Digital Newspaper Archive (Hemeroteca Digital) keep full collections of mainstream press outlets, crucial for studying this period and understanding the dominant conservative view of the coup and the regime.

The archive of the Brazilian army holds extensive military documentation, especially pertaining to Military-Police Inquiries (IPMs), which were persecutory investigations mainly carried out in the early years of military rule to go after individuals involved with social movements, leftist parties, and the fallen administration of João Goulart. The IPMs gathered extensive documentation from various social movements immediately prior to the 1964 coup.

Many secret military records remain inaccessible or purportedly missing, especially those relating to military operations against leftist guerrillas.59

Links to Digital Materials

Reference Websites
  • Memórias da Ditadura—general reference site with information on various aspects of the regime and lesson plans for teachers.
  • Dicionário Histórico-Biográfico Brasileiro/CPDOC/FGV (RJ)—important source for biographical and historical information on the history of the Brazilian republic.
  • Centro de Documentação Eremias Delizoicov—reference site with information on individuals killed and disappeared by the repressive apparatus during the military regime.
  • Opening the Archives—a joint project by Brown University and Universidade Estadual de Maringá to digitize and index thousands of documents regarding Brazil produced by the US government during the military regime.
  • Arquivos da Ditadura primary sources on the military regime compiled by journalist Elio Gaspari, focusing especially on the presidents, their advisors, and the intelligence-gathering and repressive apparatus.
  • Universidade Virtual do Estado de São Paulo—special reports on the coup and the regime, with rich visual documentation and interviews with specialists.

Further Reading

  • Alvarez, Sonia. Engendering democracy in Brazil: Women’s Movements in Transition Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.
  • Alves, Maria Helena Moreira. State and Opposition in Military Brazil. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985.
  • Codato, Adriano. “Uma história política da transição brasileira: da ditadura militar à democracia.” Revista de Sociologia e Política 25 (November 2005): 83–106.
  • Davila, Jerry. Dictatorship in Latin America. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
  • Dunn, Christopher. Contracultura: Alternative Arts and Social Transformation in Authoritarian Brazil. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.
  • Fico, Carlos. O Grande Irmão: da operação Brother Sam aos anos de chumbo. O governo dos Estados Unidos e a ditadura militar brasileira. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2008.
  • Green, James. We Cannot Remain Silent: Opposition to the Brazilian Military Dictatorship in the United States. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.
  • Huggins, Martha K., Mika Haritos-Fatouros, and Philip G. Zimbardo. Violence Workers: Police Torturers and Murderers Reconstruct Brazilian Atrocities. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2002.
  • Joffily, Mariana. No centro da engrenagem. Os interrogatórios na Operação Bandeirante e no DOI de São Paulo (1969–1975). Rio de Janeiro: Arquivo Nacional, 2013.
  • Langland, Victoria. Speaking of Flowers: Student Movements and the Making and Remembering of 1968 in Military Brazil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.
  • Leacock, Ruth. Requiem for Revolution. The United States and Brazil (1961–1969). Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1990.
  • Martins filho, João Roberto. O palacio e a caserna: a dinamica militar das crises politicas na ditadura (1964–1969). São Carlos: Editora UFSCAR, 1995.
  • Napolitano, Marcos. 1964: história do regime militar brasileiro. São Paulo: Editora Contexto, 2014.
  • Napolitano, Marcos. “Recordar é vencer: as dinâmicas e vicissitudes da construção da memória sobre o regime militar brasileiro.” Antíteses 8, no. 15 (November 2015): 9–44.
  • Napolitano, Marcos. Seguindo a canção: engajamento político e indústria cultural na MPB. São Paulo: Anna Blume/FAPESP, 2001.
  • Parker, Phyllis. Brazil and the Quiet Intervention, 1964. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979.
  • Patto, Rodrigo. As universidades e o regime militar: cultura política brasileira e modernização autoritária. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2014.
  • Ridenti, Marcelo. O fantasma da revolução brasileira. São Paulo: Editora UNESP, 2010.
  • Reis filho, Daniel. Ditadura e democracia no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2014.
  • Stepan, Alfred. The Military in Politics: Changing Patterns in Brazil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974.
  • Serbin, Kenneth. Secret Dialogues. Church–State Relations, Torture and Social Justice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.
  • Skidmore, Thomas. The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil (1964–1985). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.


  • 1. Luiz A. Moniz Bandeira, O governo João Goulart. As lutas sociais no Brasil (São Paulo, Editora UNESP, 2010), (8ª).

  • 2. João Roberto Martins Filho, “Forças Armadas e política, 1945–1964: a ante-sala do golpe,” in O Brasil Republicano, vol. 3: O tempo da experiência democrática, eds. Jorge Ferreira and Lucilia de Almeida Neves Delgado (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2003), 97–126.

  • 3. Claudio Bojunga, JK: o artista do impossível (Rio de Janeiro: Objetiva, 2010).

  • 4. Jorge Ferreira, João Goulart: Uma biografia (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2011).

  • 5. Jorge Ferreira and Angela de Castro Gomes, 1964: o golpe que derrubou um presidente, pôs fim ao regime democrático e instituiu a ditadura no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2014).

  • 6. José Luis Segatto, Reforma ou revolução: as vicissitudes políticas do PCB (1954–1964) (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilização Brasileira, 1995).

  • 7. Joseph Page, A revolução que nunca houve (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 1972); Ruth Leacock, Requiem for Revolution: The United States and Brazil (1961–1969) (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1990); and Carlos Fico, O Grande Irmão: da operação Brother Sam aos anos de chumbo: O governo dos Estados Unidos e a ditadura militar brasileira (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2008).

  • 8. Rene Dreifuss, 1964: a conquista do Estado (Petrópolis: Vozes, 1981); and Carlos Fico, O golpe de 1964: Momentos decisivos (Rio de Janeiro, Editora FGV, 2014).

  • 9. David Ribeiro, Da crise política ao golpe de Estado: Conflitos entre o Poder Executivo e o Poder Legislativo durante o governo João Goulart (FAPESP/Editora Hucitec, 2015).

  • 10. Janaina M. Cordeiro, Direitas em movimento: A Campanha da Mulher pela Democracia e a ditadura no Brasil (Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV, 2009).

  • 11. Marcos Napolitano, 1964: história do regime militar brasileiro (São Paulo: Editora Contexto, 2014).

  • 12. Napolitano, 1964.

  • 13. Joseph Comblin, A ideologia de segurança nacional: O poder militar na América Latina (Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 1978).

  • 14. J. R. Martins Filho, “Military Ties between France and Brazil during the Cold War, 1959–1975,” Latin American Perspectives 41 (2014): 167–183; and Maud Chirio, “Lutter contre l’ennemi interne: la longue histoire d’une obsession de la droite brésilienne,” Revue Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [En ligne], Colloques, mis en ligne le 25 janvier 2016, Paris, consulté le 26 octobre 2017.

  • 15. João Roberto Martins Filho, O palacio e a caserna: a dinamica militar das crises politicas na ditadura (1964–1969) (São Carlos: Editora UFSCAR, 1995); and Maud Chirio, A política nos quarteis: revoltas e protestos de oficiais na ditadura militar (Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2012).

  • 16. Maria Helena Moreira Alves, Estado e oposição no Brasil (1964–1984) (Petrópolis: Vozes, 1984).

  • 17. Antonio Carlos Rego, O Congresso Brasileiro e o regime militar (Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV, 2008).

  • 18. Maria Ribeiro Valle, 1968: o diálogo é a violência. Movimento Estudantil e ditadura militar no Brasil (Campinas: Editora Unicamp, 2008).

  • 19. Jacob Gorender, Combate nas trevas.: a esquerda brasileira, das ilusões perdidas à luta armada (São Paulo: Editora Atica, 1987); Marcelo Ridenti, O fantasma da revolução brasileira (São Paulo: Editora UNESP, 2010); and Daniel Aarão Reis Filho, A revolução faltou ao encontro: Os comunistas no Brasil (São Paulo, CNPq/Brasiliense, 1990).

  • 20. Napolitano, 1964.

  • 21. Carlos Fico, Como eles agiam: Os subterrâneos da Ditadura Militar: espionagem e polícia política (Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2001); and Mariana Joffily, No centro da engrenagem.

  • 22. Carlos Fico, Reinventando o otimismo (Rio de Janeiro, Editora FGV, 1997).

  • 23. José Pedro Macarini, A política econômica da ditadura militar no limiar do milagre brasileiro. Série “Textos para Discussão”, 99, Unicamp, Campinas, set/2000.

  • 24. Carlos Lessa, A Estratégia de Desenvolvimento 1974–1976: Sonho e Fracasso (Campinas, São Paulo: Unicamp. IE, 1998).

  • 25. Napolitano, 1964.

  • 26. Zuenir Ventura, 1968: O ano que não acabou (Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, 1988).

  • 27. Marcelo Ridenti, Em busca do povo brasileiro (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 2000).

  • 28. Rodrigo Patto Sá Motta, As universidades e o regime militar: cultura política brasileira e modernização autoritária (Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2014).

  • 29. Tunico Amancio, Artes e manhas da Embrafilme: O cinema estatal brasileiro em sua época de ouro (1977–1981) (Niteroi: EDUFF, 2000); and Miliandre Garcia, “Políticas culturais no regime militar: a gestão de Orlando Miranda no SNT e os paradoxos da hegemonia cultural de esquerda (1974–1979),” in Comunistas brasileiros: cultura política e produção cultural, 1st ed., eds. Marcos Napolitano, Rodrigo Czajka, and Rodrigo Patto Sá Motta (Belo Horizonte: UFMG, 2013), 131–151.

  • 30. K. Serbin, Needs of the Heart: A Social History of Brazil’s Clergy and Seminaires, 1st ed. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006).

  • 31. Eder Sader, Quando novos personagens entraram em cena: Experiências, falas e lutas dos trabalhadores nos anos 1970 e 1980, 4th ed. (São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2001).

  • 32. Amelinha Teles and Rosalina Santa Cruz Leite, Da guerrilha à imprensa feminista: A construção do feminismo pós-luta armada no Brasil (1975–1980) (São Paulo: Intermeios, 2013); and James Green, Ditadura e homossexualidade. Repressão, resistência e busca da verdade (São Carlos: Editora UFSCAR, 2014).

  • 33. David Covin, The Unified Black Movement in Brazil (1978–2002) (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company Inc., 2006).

  • 34. Lincoln Secco, História do PT (Cotia: Ateliê Editorial, 2011).

  • 35. Napolitano, 1964.

  • 36. Alfred Stepan, Os militares: Da abertura à Nova República (São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 1986).

  • 37. Lucas Oliveira, As dinâmicas da luta pela anistia na transição política (PhD diss., University of São Paulo, 2015).

  • 38. Luis Carlos Bresser Pereira, A construção política do Brasil (São Paulo: Editora 34, 2014).

  • 39. Thomas Skidmore, The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil (1964–1985) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990); Napolitano, 1964.

  • 40. Octavio Ianni, O colapso do populismo no Brasil, 2nd ed. (Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Civ. Brasileira, 1971).

  • 41. Luiz Allberto M. Bandeira, O governo João Goulart. As lutas sociais no Brasil (São Paulo, Editora UNESP, 2010), (8ª).

  • 42. Ruth Leacock, Requiem for Revolution: The United States and Brazil (1961–1969) (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1990).

  • 43. Rene Dreifuss, 1964: a conquista do Estado (Petrópolis: Vozes, 1981).

  • 44. Wanderley G. Santos, Sessenta e quatro: anatomia de uma crise (Rio de Janeiro: IUPERJ/Vértice, 1986); Angelina Figueiredo, Democracia ou Reformas? Alternativas democráticas à crise política (São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 1992).

  • 45. Jacob Gorender, Combate nas trevas.: a esquerda brasileira, das ilusões perdidas à luta armada (São Paulo: Editora Atica, 1987).

  • 46. Marcelo Ridenti, O fantasma da revolução brasileira (São Paulo: Editora UNESP, 2010).

  • 47. Daniel Aarão Reis Filho, A revolução faltou ao encontro: Os comunistas no Brasil (São Paulo, CNPq/Brasiliense, 1990).

  • 48. João Roberto Martins Filho, O palacio e a caserna: a dinamica militar das crises politicas na ditadura (1964–1969) (São Carlos: Editora UFSCAR, 1995); Maud Chirio, A política nos quarteis: revoltas e protestos de oficiais na ditadura militar (Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2012).

  • 49. Marcelo Ridenti, Em busca do povo brasileiro. Artistas da Revolução, do CPC à Era da TV (Rio de Janeiro, Editora Record, 2000).

  • 50. Marcos Napolitano, Seguindo a canção: engajamento político e indústria cultural na MPB (São Paulo: Anna Blume/FAPESP, 2001).

  • 51. Rodrigo Patto Sá Motta, As universidades e o regime militar: cultura política brasileira e modernização autoritária (Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 2014).

  • 52. Carlos Fico, Como eles agiam. Op. cit.; Mariana Joffily, No centro da engrenagem. Op. cit.

  • 53. Tatiana Amaral Maya. Os cardeais da cultura nacional : o Conselho Federal de Cultura na ditadura civil-militar (1967–1975) (São Paulo : Itaú Cultural : Iluminuras, 2012); Reis Filho. Ditadura militar, esquerdas e sociedade (Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 2000); Denise Rollemberg and Samantha Quadrat. A construção social dos regimes autoritários. Legimitdade, consenso e consentimento no século XX. Brasil e América Latina (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilização Brasileira, 2010).

  • 54. J. A. Teles, “Entre o luto e a melancolia: a luta dos familiares de mortos e desaparecidos políticos no Brasil,” in Desarquivando a Ditadura. Memória e Justiça no Brasil, vol. 1, 1st ed., eds. Cecília MacDowell Santos, Edson Teles, and Janaina Teles (São Paulo: Hucitec, 2009), 151–176.; Marcos Napolitano, “Recordar é vencer: as dinâmicas e vicissitudes na construção da memória do regime militar brasileiro,” Antíteses 8, no. 15 (November 2015): 9–44; and Lucas Oliveira, As dinâmicas da luta pela anistia na transição política (São Paulo: Intermeios Cultural, 2015).

  • 55. Daniel Aarão Reis Filho, Esquerdas, ditadura e sociedade (Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar, 2000); and Reis Filho, Ditadura e Democracia no Brasil (Zahar: Rio de Janeiro, 2014).

  • 56. Demian Melo, “Controvérsias historiográficas sobre o processo político brasileiro no pós-1964 e os desafios do tempo presente,” Revista Espaço Plural 27, no. 13, 2012,: 39–53.

  • 57. Carlos Fico, O golpe de 1964: Momentos decisivos (Rio de Janeiro, Editora FGV, 2014); and Marcos Napolitano, 1964: História do Regime Militar brasileiro (São Paulo: Editora Contexto, 2014).

  • 58. Marcelo Ridenti, “Resistência e mistificação da resistência armada contra a ditadura: armadilhas para os pesquisadores,” in O golpe e a ditadura militar 40 anos depois (Bauru: EDUSC, 2004), 53–66.

  • 59. Lucas Figueiredo, Militares e civis na ocultação dos documentos da ditadura, Coleção Arquivos da Repressão no Brasil (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2015).