Geisel, Ernesto


Geisel, Ernesto
▪ 1997

      Brazilian army general and politician (b. Aug. 3, 1908, Bento Gonçalves, Brazil—d. Sept. 12, 1996, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), was president of Brazil from 1974 to 1979, the fourth of the five generals who ruled the country from 1964 to 1985. Although he had participated in the coup that installed the military dictatorship, he was instrumental in readying the country for the return to democracy. Geisel was a career army officer and had a part in both the 1930 military coup that installed the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas and the overthrow of Vargas's government 15 years later. He then held a number of important offices and, following the 1964 coup, served the first three military presidents in several capacities. In 1969 Geisel became president of Petrobrás, Brazil's national oil corporation. He modernized the company, increasing its production and leading it into an international role. After assuming the presidency of Brazil, Geisel began liberalizing the government. He permitted open legislative elections in 1974, relaxed censorship and repression, and brought some civilians into his administration. Though the "Brazilian miracle" of economic growth that had been taking place was fading, Geisel worked to develop domestic industry and lessen the country's dependence on trade with Europe and the U.S.

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▪ president of Brazil
born Aug. 3, 1908, Bento Gonçalves, Braz.
died Sept. 12, 1996, Rio de Janeiro

      army general who was president of Brazil from 1974 to 1979.

      A career army officer from an immigrant family of German Lutherans, Geisel joined the military coup led by Getúlio Vargas that overthrew the elected government and installed a dictatorship in 1930. Geisel supported Vargas for 15 years, serving in a variety of military and civil administrative posts, but in 1945 he played an important part in overthrowing Vargas's government. Over the course of the next 15 years he held several important offices, including deputy chief of the military staff of the presidency and military representative to the National Petroleum Council, gaining a reputation for incisive leadership. He participated in the military coup of 1964 and became chief of Pres. Humberto Castelo Branco's military staff. In 1969 Geisel took charge of Petrobrás, the national oil corporation, expanding its scope and increasing production dramatically.

      Placed in the presidency by the military oligarchy (March 15, 1974), Geisel risked their opposition by beginning a gradual liberalization and demilitarization of the government, permitting open legislative elections in 1974, meeting with opposition leaders, and relaxing censorship. He outlined a new economic policy, “pragmatic nationalism,” which called for shifting emphasis from exports to the development of domestic industry, such as mining, agriculture, and transportation networks. Although there had been some initial indications that he might be succeeded by an elected civilian president, Geisel and his supporters saw that they would encounter fierce resistance from more conservative military elements. Accordingly, Geisel opted to consolidate the “decompression” of the regime and keep the liberalization process from getting out of control. To this end he outmaneuvered opponents of democratization and secured the election of a loyal associate, Gen. João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo, as his successor in 1979. After Geisel left office, he continued to play a major role in Brazil's petrochemical industry.

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Universalium. 2010.

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