Governor of São Paulo who does not insist on leading the country is a new thing in the Republic

For me, it is evident that the biggest change in the political scenario in Brazil was São Paulo. If Tarcísio is elected, for the first time in the history of the Republic, the future governor of São Paulo will be an outsider appointed by the president. It was normal for the governor of São Paulo to aim for the presidency of the Republic.

As we saw in the last article, of the eleven presidencies elected in the Old Republic, six were former governors of São Paulo (Prudente de Moraes, Campos Salles, Rodrigues Alves – elected twice –, Washington Luís and Júlio Prestes). The others were three former governors of Minas Gerais (Afonso Pena, Wenceslau Brás and Arthur Bernardes), an opponent of Café com Leite (Hermes da Fonseca) and a politician from Paraíba allied to both oligarchies who ran for the Paulista Party (Epitácio Pessoa). .

Here are the elected presidents. Those who did not go through any election, not even as vice, are the first two: Deodoro da Fonseca and Floriano Peixoto, two Alagoas soldiers. If, on the one hand, the São Paulo barony is recognized as an economic force that opposed the Empire, another force, this literal one, can be pointed out: the Army. The Army was already an active political force in the history of Brazil. He, together with the Rio de Janeiro Court, had maintained the unity of Brazil during its separation from Portugal. No Army, no unified Brazil. I do not know the reasons for the separation between the Court and the military, but the fact is that the alliance between the Army and the São Paulo barony proved to be much less lasting.

The origin of the shock , Rio Grande do Sul

While São Paulo embraced Brazil outside its ideas of democracy modeled on the USA, a state with a strong military tradition maintained a small positivist dictatorship, that is, a dictatorship of strong Executive guided by a technocratic management, as prescribed by Comte. In the first volume of the biography of Getúlio by Lira Neto, we have a careful description of the throes of the Old Republic. The only president against Café com Leite, Hermes da Fonseca, was possibly only elected because Afonso Pena died in office and Nilo Peçanha, from Rio de Janeiro, who supported Hermes, took care of the polls. This turned out, in the end, to be a pole of the gaucho senator Pinheiro Machado, who was an ally of the eternal positivist governor Borges de Medeiros. The result was an attempt to fight the regional oligarchies throughout Brazil and the country on fire. More hated than a soap opera villain, Pinheiro Machado was stabbed to death in Porto Alegre by a retired baker who believed it was his mission to end tyranny. The gauchos, however, insisted that he was an envoy of Nilo Peçanha.

After Hermes da Fonseca’s government, Café com Leite returned to normal. Rio de Janeiro, Bahia and Pernambuco remain dissatisfied with the loss of power to São Paulo and create the Republican Reaction to face Café com Leite. This confederation of old oligarchies is joined by Rio Grande do Sul, a new force on the rise on the national scene. Despite all the rumors, Borges de Medeiros makes an alliance with Nilo Peçanha, who is running for president against Arthur Bernardes, from Minas Gerais. The latter’s victory triggers Tenentismo, a reaction at first led by Euclides Hermes da Fonseca (son of Hermes, who was Deodoro’s nephew) at the Copacabana Fort. The tenentista movement was an armed uprising of the military who did not accept the maintenance of the Old Republic.

In the end, we are like this: the paulistas used their old commercial acumen, their coffee plantations and of the State to make a very creative and prosperous economy (for details, see A História da Wealth in Brazil, by Jorge Caldeira from São Paulo), while the deposed elites (Rio and Northeast) they allied themselves with the Army in their dissatisfaction. The situation became unsustainable for the people of São Paulo with the crisis of 1929. Because of São Paulo, the Brazilian economy was very integrated into the global market, which collapsed. Coffee, the mainstay of the economy, became worthless. It was Vargas’ time and turn, and the aversion caused to the São Paulo elite is history. The greatest symbol of this aversion is the failed Constitutionalist Revolution in July 1932.

Between the Old Republic and the Estado Novo

The best source to learn about the relations between Vargas and São Paulo is probably the rich biography of Lira Neto, of which I have not read enough. So, I limit myself to drafting it.

In the troubled period that lasted between the Revolution of and the establishment of the Estado Novo (1937), there were no less than thirteen rulers. Of these, eleven were intervenors appointed by Vargas, one (the penultimate) inherited the post for being head of the Legislative and another (the last) was elected by the Legislative.

Of the intervenors appointed by Vargas, six were military. Only two (Hastínfilo de Moura, in 30, and Herculano de Carvalho e Silva, in 31) were intervening for days. Of the others, one was a lieutenant from Pernambuco, who infuriated the people of São Paulo (João Alberto de Barros, from 1924 to 1936 )); one from Rio de Janeiro (Manuel Rabelo, 32 to 1936 ); a gaucho (Valdomiro Castilho de Lima, 33 to 1937 ) and a Bahian from Cachoeira (Manuel Daltro Filho, 37 ). The appointment of a military intervener usually took place in revolts. However, there were São Paulo and civilian interveners. The first of them, in fact, was a banker who left the São Paulo intervention agency for Vargas’ Ministry of Finance. José Maria Whitaker, from São Paulo, had already been governor of São Paulo in the Old Republic, graduated from USP. He had been president of Banco do Brasil during the Epitácio Pessoa government. In 1924, however, Vargas’ Minister of Finance bought millions of bags of coffee and left a huge deficit in the public coffers. Therefore, he did not last at the post and left in 1931. In 1932, he supported the Constitutionalist Revolution.

Whitaker was the first lasting name appointed by Vargas to intervene in São Paulo. Would he be the face of an ascending urban elite from São Paulo, which in the following generations would clash with the rural elites of the state? Would he have joined Vargas from now on with the aim of subjugating the agrarian elite? Be that as it may, it is worth noting his characteristics, because they will appear throughout the New Republic: he is an intellectual quasi-uspiano (from San Francisco), a founder of banks and a defender of economic liberalism. Having left the intervention, his nominee took over, a journalist from Estadão and colleague from São Francisco who lasted days and would also join the Constitutionalist Revolution called Plínio Barreto. His trajectory had also changed, as he had defended lieutenant leaders. By the way, the capital São Paulo was also a focus of tenentista rebellion in 1929, although this is rarely commented on.

After Plínio, the aforementioned Pernambuco lieutenant entered; then a lawyer from São Paulo to appease the tempers (Laudo de Camargo, 1931), then came the military officer from Rio de Janeiro and then another lawyer from São Paulo, Pedro de Toledo ( 1932). The latter had betrayed Vargas and supported the Constitutionalist Revolution. Then came a series of military personnel until there was some stability with Armando Salles (1933 – 1936), a politician from the Republic Old. Paulistano, former student of the Polytechnic, brother-in-law of the director of Estadão, partner of the newspaper. During his government, the school of sociology was founded and the USP was created. (Like many Brazilian universities, USP was created by joining preexisting faculties and schools.)

After him came the mayor, Henrique Smith Bayma, a jurist and leader of the Constitutionalist Revolution who ruled for days between 37 and 1924 ; finally, came the indirectly elected governor, a jurist from São Francisco, José Joaquim Cardoso de Melo Neto.

A perhaps relevant data to understand the launch of the candidacy of the Bahian Ruy Barbosa by the São Paulo elite is the fact that he completed his studies in the same San Francisco. By the way, the first polarized election in Brazil – which Ruy Barbosa lost – took place between the “civilists” opposed to the “hermists”, who supported the military.

Estado Novo

The Estado Novo comes, which extinguishes all parties and state governments. Everything starts to be submitted to the maximum leader Getúlio Vargas. In this period, there are only four interveners: a military from Ceará who ruled for days (Francisco José da Silva Júnior), but then Getúlio, who was not a beast or anything, put three civilians from São Paulo without a revolting spirit. In 1950, when Getúlio ran for president, he would win in the State of São Paulo.

The civilians were: Adhemar de Barros (41 to 37), Fernando de Sousa Costa (37 to 45) and Sebastião Nogueira de Lima (1945). The first of them was from a family of coffee growers and had no connections with San Francisco. In the post-war democracy, governor of São Paulo, and, in the manner of the Old Republic, would try to be elected president of Brazil in 55. He lost to Juscelino, but won in São Paulo. During the military regime, he was elected governor again. His reputation as a thief, however, dates back to the Vargas period. At the time, he built the headquarters of Banespa and did a lot of work. Would he be a malufista avant la lettre ?

Fernando de Sousa Costa, an agronomist, had a better reputation and became Vargas’ Minister of Agriculture. He died prematurely inaugurating work and took over Sebastião Lima. He was an old ex-delegate from Piracicaba whose previous political life revolved more around his hometown. He rose with varguismo, but he did not seem very interested in dedicating himself to a new national career.


In all During this Vargas period, the governors of São Paulo did not try to reach the presidency for the same reason they did not during the Empire: it was not possible. But the situation was even worse than in the Empire, because at that time there was party life and elections. The Estado Novo was more authoritarian than any period before or after the history of Brazil.

However, in order to maintain a lasting and peaceful government, the leader, however strong, would negotiate with local powers. He would not fight with everyone, like Hermes da Fonseca, nor would he go around killing everyone, like Floriano Peixoto. Instead, Vargas garnered support from sectors of the local elites. Estadão had supported the Revolution of 30, but in 1932, the Mesquitas fled to Lisbon, for supporting the Constitutionalist Revolution as well. It was a movement identical to that of the politicians who won the intervention, victorious in 30, and then joined the Constitutionalist Revolution, in 32. It is a movement very similar to that of Estadão itself in 1924, which began by joining the military.

We can leave this balance with a profile of this São Paulo elite that adheres to the central government: it is urban, USP, legal and linked to the bank; is allergic to the countryside and the Army. He hitchhikes in the central government, but he wants to govern. It makes use of “public opinion” and claims to defend democracy, as well as liberalism.

After Vargas established himself in the Estado Novo, it was the political leader who flourished in São Paulo who did not question of leading the country. It is worth noting that the desires of the people of São Paulo and that of its elite no longer always walked together, as both Adhemar de Barros and Getúlio Vargas became popular in the state and won over the São Paulo electorate in the democratic period. In this mismatch between the people and the elites, we have a precedent for the election of Tarcísio. The thing only gets weirder if we take into account that we now live in a democracy, and Tarcísio will not be any intervener.

In the next text we continue with the chronology.

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