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“Inflation, profiteering, and corruption are rife, and the food situation and (closely connected therewith) the transportation situation are most serious, as is also the housing problem… The present regime does not at present command a sufficient majority, or perhaps sufficient constructive talent to initiate the drastic measures which alone could save the situation.”
The above happens to have been written in January 1946, by the British embassy in Rio de Janeiro, about Brazil.
The Bonus Book of the Week is “Brazil, The Fortunes of War, World War II and the Making of Modern Brazil” by Neill Lochery. This wordy and redundant volume described how a South American leader, Getulio Vargas– through cleverly navigating: relationships with war alliances and foes, and tricky political issues– was able to modernize his country by the Postwar Era, compliments of American taxpayers.
In late 1937, Brazil got a new Constitution. Vargas, duly elected leader since 1930, had gotten friendly with the United States in exchange for agreeing to fight Italy and Germany when war came. However, by May 1938, there occurred a failed coup against him; perhaps partly because he had banned all political parties except his own. His enemies included the Communists and the Fascist Green Shirts (Integralistas), and he wasn’t exactly buddy-buddy with two of Brazil’s top military leaders.
One conflict Vargas faced in September 1939, was that he couldn’t afford to make trouble because: Brazil’s military was weak, Brazil traded with both Germany and the United States, and it had immigrant communities from Germany, Italy and Japan. Vargas’ speech at the May Day parade in 1940 didn’t go over too well with the United States, as his language was that of a Fascist; he sounded like he was siding with Hitler and Mussolini. This was deliberately calculated to tease FDR, in order to secure financing for a steel mill in Brazil.
By the time of the infamous December 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, Brazil had still yet to receive the bulk of the weapons it was due from Germany and the United States. Brazil had a fuel shortage, and the U.S. supplied Brazil with most of its fuel. Other wartime hardships and plot twists abounded; 1942 was a year crowded with incidents, too numerous to mention here.
Suffice to say, in autumn 1945, when dissatisfaction with Vargas reached critical mass among military leaders and many ordinary Brazilians, there was distrust that he would actually hold free and fair elections. They were scheduled to be held in December 1945.
Read the book to learn what happened in August 1954, and about the cast of characters and propaganda that shaped the history of Brazil just before, during and after WWII (hint: public relations schemes included wartime visits to Brazil by Walt Disney and Orson Welles, thanks to Nelson Rockefeller.).