Iris Rezende – From student leader to governor

Image: Andrés Sandoval / Jornal de Resenhas


Preface to the recently published biography of the politician from Goiás, by Cileide Alves

It was past time for the history of Goiás to receive research that did justice to the political trajectory of Iris Rezende Machado. Fruit of her master's thesis at UFG, supervised by Noé Freire Sandes, Cileide Alves offers us the biography Iris Rezende – From student leader to Governor (Cânone Editorial, 2020), with a long and successful part of the career of this important politician from Goiás, survivor of the oscillating seesaw of political uncertainties.

From 1958 to 1983, a period covered by our author, we have several passages in the life of Iris Rezende. From her childhood in the countryside to her apprenticeship in student circles, Cileide unveils her political ascension with minute details, family life, ups and downs, until she consecrated herself as the successor of Pedro Ludovico Teixeira in the political structure of Goiás.

There were about eighteen meetings between the author and her object of study, held between the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2008 [1], in which we can notice Iris's taste, little by little, for the narrative, for the memories, for the recovery of memory and for the natural forgetting of what she would not like to be remembered. Halbwachs is key to understanding the collective memory that hovered over Iris's political life at important moments in its history and also to seek the memory of the Iris group to justify certain passages, reminding us that memory is changeable according to time. and the group with which we relate.

Thus, Cileide investigates Iris's autobiographical account, highlighting the influence that her group had on him, although its centralizing characteristic was increasingly present in each phase of his victorious career. They are specific memories and narratives of Iris's political and family life at an important moment when he was, once again, in full political ascension, that is, in 2004, imbued with an individual purpose to be recognized by posterity.

It is a long journey “finger-sculpted” by Iris, from the student movement to his impeachment in 1969, at the height of his popularity, and his victorious return as governor in 1983, sustaining his career until 1998. explain the trajectory of Iris Rezende Machado: the construction of the image of the charismatic leader connected to the people, the traditional party politics influenced by Pedro Ludovico Teixeira and the widespread idea of ​​a good administrator inspired by the government of Mauro Borges Teixeira. Alongside these premises, the reading of the political group and its opposites: conflicts, ruptures and disputes.

The hard life in the countryside shows us an Iris connected to the countryside, to the countryside, a manual worker, in the hard work of everyday life, days equaling days, his coming to Campinas later obtaining a job as a mason, which, for him, who worked even 13 hours a day on the farm, Monday through Saturday, was something wonderful. Gradually, he joined the student movement and began to demonstrate his ability to exercise politics in the community, starting with the Evangelical Christian Church, writing minutes and breaking strict rules of youth behavior, such as promoting dances and movie screenings. From there, it was natural for the student movement.

Iris begins her insertion in politics at a time when it was only possible to glimpse two sides: either if she was a supporter of Pedro Ludovico or his opponent. Iris begins her trajectory as president of two academic societies, at Liceu de Goiânia and at Escola de Comércio de Campinas. Félix de Bulhões and Castro Alves, respectively, in July 1954.

The scenario of young Goiânia was still one of pressure on the government of Pedro Ludovico, where everything was still precarious and the capital had a meager 80 thousand inhabitants, which was already considered a great population growth. Everything was missing, water, basic sanitation, asphalt, transport… it was in the words of an illustrious visitor: “Goiânia, a beautiful city that enchants and seduces us. There is no water during the day, there is no electricity at night!”

On the political scene, Pedro Ludovico, leader of the PSD (Social Democrat Party), launched José Ludovico de Almeida, Juca, as his successor in the government in confrontation with Galeno Paranhos, deputy for Catalão, linked to the UDN (National Democratic Union)/PSP (Progressive Social Party). Juca is victorious, but there are questions about the election, opening a crisis in ludoviquismo. Cileide always draws a parallel between Iris's political life and the historical process of the time, which shows us that, initially, Iris was against Pedro Ludovico's government, although she refused to run for office, even invited by the opposition. For him, only a divine explanation could reveal this gift of not accepting to get involved in positions at times that would later prove to be problematic. Power for him comes from God and the people, and political practice is done by an ideal, a vocation. His concern with the social, according to statements to Cileide Alves, comes from his Christian faith, from the biblical teachings he received from his family and the Church.

Iris belongs to a generation that participated in the process of urbanization and modernization of the state with the construction of Goiânia, an incipient but continuous development of capitalism in Goiás. His profile, from the beginning, is of a politician who acts by instinct, carved in action, or as he himself prefers to say, by vocation. Iris did not fit either to the left or its opposite, she kept her distance from this polarization. He initially joined the PTB (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro) of Vargas and was the most voted councilor in 1958 with 1.548 votes, for his “ease of speaking directly to the people and for his good oratory”. In reality, in addition to her individual requirements, there was, at that moment, a strong desire for renewal and, as Cileide observes, Iris already campaigned for a future as a deputy. As a result of his performance, he was elected mayor of Goiânia. It was just the beginning...

The administrations of Juca Ludovico and José Feliciano pushed the state towards greater economic development, investing in electricity with Cachoeira Dourada, roads, 1.458 km of highways, among others, which enabled greater productivity and production flow.

According to Cileide, at that moment Iris approached mayor Jaime Câmara and leader Pedro Ludovico Teixeira, which was effected by the skillful hands of the first lady, Gercina Borges, with whom Iris began to ask for votes in Campinas for Pedro's candidate. Ludovico, his son Mauro Borges. In 1961, Iris left the PTB and joined the PSD, which brought him closer to Ludovico. The PSD was then the hegemonic party throughout the state. The framework for the promising future of Iris Rezende was built.

In addition, with the rise of Mauro Borges to power, Goiás expands its economic production, promotes reforms in administrative structures, the so-called MB Plan, creating public companies, enabling what, historically, we call “a greater insertion of the regional in the national plan”. ”.

It is important to highlight that the historical antecedents of the Mauro Borges government, such as the construction of Goiânia and the March to the West, facilitated the insertion of the Economic Development Plan, since Goiás was, until then, the result of a disorganized economy and highly lacking in planning. This led Mauro Borges to create secretariats and municipal bodies, causing a veritable administrative revolution. This plan, as ambitious as it was effective, established an intimate relationship between the state and municipalities, in a political marathon, in which nothing happened outside of this relationship, laying bare the most inept face of cartorialism and politics that impeded the functioning of the state apparatus.

Mauro suffered fierce opposition, as the vices of the time were being overcome. As usual, nobody wanted to give up their islands of dreams and favors enshrined in the public apparatus. But all the government measures that would come to put the state on the path of modernization would be preceded by administrative reform. The aim was greater organization, greater efficiency, austerity, rationalization, competence and productivity. Measures capable of giving Goiás the basic conditions of market competitiveness. To do so, bodies would have to be created or regulated, giving them a character of socioeconomic development.

This is the example that was present in Iris's astute gaze. For him, Mauro was the mirror, the example of a new political mentality. His insertion in ludoviquismo was a preamble to be the future political substitute of the biggest leader. Iris went from the most voted and virtually unknown councilor, in 1958, to an experienced politician in 1962. With his popularity and the confidence of the Ludovico family, he would combine good votes with prestige with the new political group. The result was that he stood out as the most voted state deputy of 1962. With the blessings of Pedro Ludovico and Mauro Borges, he became president of the Legislative Assembly, which he presided from April 1964 to the same month of 1965.

He accompanied the deposition of Mauro Borges by the military and became, according to his own declaration, a friend of Ribas Júnior, without this leading him to collude with the military. Iris followed a different path from the PSD. While Pedro Ludovico's supporters adopted a more monotonous tone with the military, Iris gave a totally oppositional speech. Thus, in 1965, when Otávio Lage was elected governor by a narrow margin against Peixoto da Silveira, Iris became mayor against Juca Ludovico. Juca had broken with Pedro for not supporting his intention to extend his governorship for another two years.

The city hall of Goiânia was considered until then as a “tomb of politicians”. It was almost a simple department of the state government, without funds or autonomy. Iris' proposal was to produce “practical actions that would provide well-being to the population”. A major obstacle loomed: Governor Otávio Lage. Among them, Goiânia waiting for actions to meet their needs. Iris's proposal was to cause a real administrative revolution with ads to “pave a street a day”, create health clinics, housing for migrants, urbanization, schools and squares. Everything the city lacked. For Iris, it was the chance to stand out in front of a PSD that had been torn apart by the military's impeachment and the defeat of Peixoto da Silveira by Otávio Lage. Iris, in the shrewd view of our author, envisioned the position of future governor.

The first attitude – to increase the ITU (Imposto Territorial Urbano) and the IPTU (Imposto Predial e Territorial Urbano) – became a hornet's nest. He took advantage of the rise of TV and its widespread communication and justified the increases. It was lucky that, at the time, the military government developed tax actions that gave municipalities 20% of the new (Tax on Circulation and Goods) ICM, reinforcing municipal funds.

The apple of Iris's eye would become the construction of affordable housing. Vila Redenção was born, at the time of the Cancer Hospital Foundation, conceived by the Alagoan physician Alberto Augusto de Araújo Jorge. To make Iris even more excited about the Arena, president Castello Branco visits Vila Redenção. Iris, points out Cileide, attests that this type of popular housing was what prevented the slumming of Goiânia.

From there to what would become Iris' biggest mark, it was just a jump: the mutirão was born. In the wake would come the Mutirama Park project, the duplication of Avenida Anhanguera, between Dergo and 24 de Outubro, the asphalt connection between the center of the capital, Fama and Campinas... For his architectural projects, if Pedro Ludovico had the genius Attilio Corrêa Lima and Armando Augusto de Godoy, Iris had the talent of Eurico Godoi, author of several modern projects for the young capital.

It is important to highlight that the mutirão means the emblematic synthesis of the rural and the urban, already envisioned by Mauro Borges and made the most significant brand of Iris. The merging of these two spheres has always been a hallmark of Goiânia, an extremely modern capital, in Art Deco, stuck in the interior of Campinas. This mixture of country and city, hinterland and coast, tradition and modernity was the mirror of the politician that was projected, the result of the same dialectics of the time.

In addition to popular actions, Iris assembled a fine team of her extreme confidence and the idea of ​​always governing with the people. Noise at inaugurations and good use of the media were aimed at setting a style and attracting votes. The firm centralization to appoint her team also set him apart at a time when this was party tutelage.

Cileide Alves reinforces two important points for us to understand the irist context of the time. Iris's political ability to convince Pedro Ludovico to give him autonomy to choose his team and the crisis generated by the complaint made by the engineer Irapuan Costa Júnior about Cohab (Companhia de Habitação Popular). Directed at the time by Nion Albernaz, the complaint generated an immense crisis in the municipal government and a seismic shock in Iris's friendship with Nion. Therein lies the nexus for understanding Iris's impeachment in 1969 by the military, sewn together with excellent skill by our author.

The “show” that Iris put on in conducting work in front of the city hall, her growing popularity and her clear demonstration of wanting to run for governor in the upcoming elections, created, as Cileide attests to us, the basic conditions for her impeachment in 1969. all of this, the heightening of tempers between Iris and Otávio added, to the whole, a knot that was difficult to untie.

Without wanting to create a spoiler In this preface, we announce that the analysis made by the author of the letter sent by Otávio Lage about Iris to Minister Gama e Silva, together with the ingredients already mentioned, lead us to a summary understanding of the reasons for Iris’s impeachment, which left, at the time , perplexing the political circles and a deep scar to bother the voters of Goiás for ten years.

The impeachment came one week after the inauguration of Mutirama. It brought, according to Cileide, a shock for the whole city. Iris did not believe that this could happen since she had a good relationship with the military. The city revolted. It didn't fit in his discernment to strike a blow at a time when his preferred candidate was demonstrating, more and more, competence in the work carried out, falling into popular taste. It doesn't hurt to remember that the capital is a sounding board for the entire state. Iris's popularity went beyond the limits of Goiânia.

After being impeached, Iris devoted himself to law, acting in jury courts which, according to him, was a way of remaining close to the people, of speaking to the people, a way of continuing to do politics. He filled auditoriums. He was seen, heard, loved... This was how the myth was built, the result of serious work, anointed by the people and with an enormous amount of revolt in the face of the unjust removal. The “hero” settles down and, in the following ten years, the hope of his return was the way for the people, at the right time, to wash their souls. Future dividends would follow, there was no doubt.

The death of Pedro Ludovico in August 1979, a few days before Iris was granted amnesty, put an end to almost half a century of political activity by the most important leader in Goiás life. As there is no power vacuum in political history, Iris, still without amnesty, was certainly the natural successor, anointed while still alive by Pedro Ludovico, who had chosen him as a candidate for governor in the elections to come. In addition to considering Iris as a great administrator, Ludovico saw the wronged leader as a victim of the dictatorship, a feeling that Mauro Borges was unable to awaken, over ten years, in the popular imagination.

Ten years later, Iris symbolized the administrative junction of Mauro Borges with the leadership of Pedro Ludovico's political practices. In the background, there was the symbolism of the modernization of a state in full process of affirming its agricultural process with nuances of insertion in the modern national capitalism. Modernity, more than a yearning, was a necessity.

Iris then observes that the historical process in Goiás, ten years later, also had another protagonist: Henrique Santillo. Cileide draws attention to the fact that the “cassation of Iris in 1969 removed him from politics at the moment when Santillo began his militancy”. With the main political leaders impeached, the Santillo brothers structured themselves from Anápolis. Iris found in Henrique Santillo not only a leader, but a solid politician with a senator's mandate. Also like him a victorious candidate in all elections. He was, therefore, the natural candidate for governor if the changes did not take effect. The waters of redemocratization were murkier than they might have seemed for Goiás at the time.

Cileide allows us a wide and detailed analysis of the political period that was designed for the envisioned election. The disputes between the groups, the figure in the middle of the political trampoline of Mauro Borges, the rupture of Santillo and his group in their brief passage through the PT (Workers' Party), the return to the PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), the difficulty of coexistence in the tumultuous party, incapable of sheltering ambitions as distinct as they are legitimate, the past and the present, face-to-face, the desired future in the turmoil of two leaders so apt and so different. Two politicians with positions differentiated by time and the exercise of militancy. Water and oil that the party glass could not adequately house.

On the other hand, the PDS was astonished by the direction of the political process and the PT was in its infancy. The PDS, led by Ary Valadão, was the symbol of uncontested support for the military dictatorship, composed, for the most part, of former Arena, anti-Ludavico, a true political Babel. Our author shows us the history of the party, its supporters, its militancy and its rise throughout the military governments, giving us a clear idea of ​​what forces would confront each other in the next elections.

As the art of politics never ceases to surprise us, Cileide sheds light on Irapuan Costa Júnior's move into the PMDB, along with Iris, Mauro and Santillo. It would be a case of adapting the phrase: reading is believing! As if the rift between Iris and Santillo wasn't enough, the senator's return leads him to apply for the post of lieutenant governor to someone of his free choice. Mauro Borges had already done so on behalf of Derval de Paiva. Iris, after a great wave of conflicts, beats the gavel in favor of the nomination of Santillo, that is, the businessman Onofre Quinan. On the other hand, the problems were not minor. Otávio Lage clashes with Ary Valadão and takes the lead, along with the federal government, in the polls. Otávio Lage is the candidate, but, as Cileide rightly observes in relation to him, if “in 1965 the military regime was important in his victory, in 1982 this bond was contagious”.

The dispute between the two, Iris and Otávio, in 1982, took on much larger contours than a simple election. It was a whole past that had barely been swallowed that was at stake. In several interviews with our author, Iris states that she always saw “spiritual habits” in the events that surrounded her life. For him, the fact that he was impeached and, shortly afterwards, the military suspended the direct elections for governor that he would run for was a good sign of fate, which placed in his path the politician to whom he attributed part of the responsibility for the suspension of his political rights.

Deep down, a feeling of justice for Iris reigned in the opinion of most analysts. It was a way of repairing what the military had done. It was an election riddled with symbolism. It is worth inserting the words of our author to summarize the period: “The 1982 election had several political symbologies. It marked the reunion of the voter with the polls to choose a governor, 17 years after the victory of Otávio Lage, the last democratically elected. It was the first election after Ernesto Geisel started the redemocratization process in 1979. It represented the return of multi-partyism, as only two parties, Arena, for the government, and the MDB, for the consented opposition, were authorized to contest legislative elections and municipalities from 1965 to that date. Four political parties qualified to dispute the election in Goiás: PDS (former Arena), PMDB (former MDB) and the newcomers PT, of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and PDT, of Leonel Brizola. Also in that historic 1982, Brazil would find itself again with politicians banished by the military regime, exiles allowed to return and those impeached, all amnestyed” [2].

For Goiás, it was a way of resuming the path of modernization advocated by Pedro Ludovico in the 1930s. It was as if the bridge between the decimated past was once again built towards the desired future. There was a new feature in the state between the accelerated passage from rural to urban, between agriculture and agro-industrialization. In the historical democratic process, the desire for change is irreversible in any society.

There was no surprise. Iris wins with a lead of 494 votes. Between thanks to important cities and the setting up of the secretariat, a reconciliation, already made in the campaign: Iris invites Nion Albernaz to be the mayor of the capital. Cileide makes a wide sampling of the comings and goings of the appointment of the new secretariat, giving us an overview of the moments lived by the new governor and his determination in each choice. The new political leadership in the state was consolidated and the successor of Pedro Ludovico was anointed. Iris would imprint her managerial stamp, unlike her political icon. He centralized above the party, he had no intermediaries.

Dream come true, it was time to affirm once and for all, now with or without divine blessing, its administrative efficiency in a state that longed for achievements in all areas and that could attest once and for all to progress and modernity, idealized by Pedro Ludovico, delivered in the hands of his successor.

We have, finally, not only a book about Iris Rezende Machado, but a work about a significant period of the historical process in Goiás from the perspective of politics, with the fabric of someone who knows the subject and gives us the best of his analysis. It also reveals the minutiae of the transition process in Goiás after the military dictatorship. The protagonism of the analyzed rulers appears as a portrait on the wall of time so that the look of history understands the modernity thought and realized, the setbacks of the process and its dynamics in the bridge between centuries.

PS: I dedicate this preface, with the author's consent, to Noé Freire Sandes (1961-2020), who was unable to do so. I hope I was up to par.

* Nasr Fayad Chaul is a retired professor at the Faculty of History at UFG. Author, among other books, of Caminhos de Goiás: from the construction of decadence to the limits of modernity.


Cileide Alves. Iris Rezende – From student leader to governor (1958-1983). Goiânia, Canon editorial, 2020.


[1] The eighteen meetings in these two years took place during the research for the author's master's degree. The dissertation “Endorsement of the Past: Iris Rezende – Memory and Politics (1958-1982)” was defended in the Graduate Program in History at UFG, in 2008, with guidance from Noé Freire Sandes. For the realization of this book, other interviews were conducted with Iris Rezende, after the defense. (Author's note).

[2] ALVES, Cileide. Iris Rezende – From student leader to governor (1958-1983). Goiânia, Canon Editorial, 2020, p. 365.

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