Jango: the multiple faces

Christiana Carvalho's photo


Commentary on the book by Ângela Maria de Castro Gomes & Jorge Ferreira

Writing a book about João Goulart is not an easy task. Many scholars research his private and political life and what we observe is a diversity of opinions in this regard.

In the book by Ângela de Castro Gomes and Jorge Ferreira, we perceive this variety through the testimonies of people who were always by his side and others who spared no effort to overthrow him from the Presidency. Therefore, the title of the book is very appropriate: Jango: the multiple faces.

With 275 pages, the book brings photos recording the period dealt with by interviews with people representing national politics, as well as those who shared their intimacy. In addition to testimonies, the book offers other documents that are part of Jango's political trajectory. It also includes a CD with a speech by João Goulart on May 31, 1963, in Juiz de Fora.

The authors are professors at Universidade Federal Fluminense and researchers at Cpdoc/FGV and CNPq, with several publications on laborism and populism – a term that, incidentally, they consider broad and, at the same time, limited to explain a period as complex as Jango's.

The focus of the book is Jango's public life, his connection with Getúlio Vargas, his adherence to getulist labor and his dedication to the PTB. Through this political trajectory, we identify the maturation of a representative speech of a reformist and pragmatic laborism. We also noticed the gathering of intellectuals and young politicians to this new political orientation, such as Darcy Ribeiro, Waldir Pires and Percy Penalvo, who continued to maintain a close friendship in exile.

The authors of the book followed a different path than many historians and journalists have taken lately (focusing primarily on Jango's private life). In the book, we do not find intimate information, such as about the syphilis he contracted in his youth, which jeopardized a promising trajectory as a soccer player, or the children he had with domestic servants. His nocturnal outings and furtive encounters with women are not mentioned. This helps to focus the debate on the public scene, avoiding an unfruitful gossip, present in other studies about the same character.

Through the resource of Oral History, the authors provide important testimonials regarding the public person of João Goulart, allowing the reader to draw conclusions about the investigated. The testimonies and documents are not simply dispersed, but follow a chronological sequence that follows Jango's political changes. With the aim of making the interviews more intelligible for the reader, the authors constantly clarify the events mentioned by the narrators.

The various testimonies allow for a plurality of opinions, fundamental for reflecting on João Goulart's actions in the 1950s and 1960s. This plurality followed by the authors prevented them from falling into a dangerous anachronism, frequent when talking about João Goulart: explaining his actions from a XNUMXst century mentality, in which praxis Politics no longer requires an emotional and even physical commitment to the collective projects of society. In this way, they escaped the trap into which some historians and journalists fell: trivializing the figure of Jango and oversimplifying his actions. For example, the profile of a Jango without projects, confused, incompetent, irresponsible and indecisive. Not to mention the stereotype of the womanizer, brothel-goer, alcoholic, crybaby and fearful.

By reading the book, we perceive João Goulart's Varguista origins, important to understand his political project - laborism. Jango embraces laborism and ties himself to Getúlio Vargas like a son to a father, still very young: he was elected state deputy for the PTB at the age of 27, in 1946; and Vice President of the Republic nine years later! Before meeting Vargas, in 1945, he was an oxen dealer in the confines of Rio Grande do Sul, already graduated in Law and a football lover. Only.

The book helps to understand Goulart's approach to Getúlio Vargas and his policy in Rio Grande do Sul, first. Soon, Jango assumes the state presidency of the PTB and goes on to found municipal directories in the state. At that moment, he developed a speech defending laborism, well expressed in his pronouncement on the occasion of the launching of the candidacy of Getúlio Vargas for president in 1950: “(...) the flame of laborism preaching justicialism and aiming for a Brazil where workers also had the opportunity to live like human creatures (…). A Brazil that did not belong only to the powerful (...) A Brazil of the poor and the rich” (p. 38).

Over time, Jango's laborism broadened and became increasingly clear, moving away from personalism and moving towards the defense of a broad democracy that would necessarily pass through the revision of the Brazilian Constitution. This is what we find in his speech on March 13, 1964: “This Constitution is antiquated, because it legalizes a socioeconomic structure that is already outdated, unfair and inhumane; the people want democracy to be expanded and the privileges of a minority to be put to an end; that land ownership is accessible to all; that everyone be allowed to participate in political life through voting, being able to vote and be voted for; to prevent the intervention of economic power in electoral contests and ensure the representation of all political currents, without any religious or ideological discrimination (…)” (p. 201).

Many scholars describe Jango as politically naive and radical in defending the revision of the Constitution. Perhaps they are right, pragmatically speaking. But when defending the revision, at that moment when economic power, together with the American embassy, ​​intervened through IPES and IBAD to weaken reformist labor; in which the communists were outlawed; in which several high-ranking officials openly colluded; in which the State was obliged to pay compensation in cash and in cash, for the purpose of agrarian reform; when there was a need to reform the State, but the Magna Carta it stifled any reformist initiative; Wouldn't João Goulart be consistent with the project he believed in?

In his testimony, Hércules Correia, then leader of the Brazilian Communist Party, brings surprising information. At the height of the crisis, on March 31, 1964, when General Amauri Kruel called Jango to order him to officially dissolve the CGT and arrest all its leaders, the president asked Hércules Correia to listen to the conversation through the extension! According to Correia, “Jango did not accept. He responded right away, said no, he wasn't going to arrest him, he wasn't going to do that” (p. 225). Who would say! João Goulart, seen as a populist demagogue, without a reformist project, was meeting with communists (and with a card!) in his last hours in the Presidency! And facing a powerful military name!

Another revealing testimony that the book by Ângela de Castro Gomes and Jorge Ferreira brings is that of General José Machado Borges, commander of the III Army (Rio Grande do Sul), a character that books about the 1961 crisis generally describe as submissive to Brizola, in which he shows a certain haughtiness and even distance from the then Governor: “I had no relationship with Brizola. I didn't get along with him and thought he was a demagogue, as I still do; I never gave it importance. But when there was that Cadeia da Legalidade in Porto Alegre, I called him, because he started to agitate the people and the communists started to infiltrate. So I took an Armored Division that I had in Bagé and took it to Porto Alegre to act against the communists if necessary. And Brizola knew that. Then I decided to make a political decision to avoid a war and that's what I did. Around August 29, 1961, I had to support Brizola” (p. 146-7). The General's support for a legal way out of the crisis was essential to stop the ongoing military coup.

Regarding the political and military crisis that spread in March 1964, Abelardo Jurema, former Minister of Justice, comments that generals close to Jango proposed the appointment of General Lott to the Ministry of War, since, in his own words, this was “a man of discipline, a man of the centre, an anti-communist. (...) It was even through me, and he didn't accept it” (p. 213). On the other hand, General Ernesto Geisel saw in the serious military crisis a factor that could help the conspirators: “When it was announced that there would be a meeting between Jango and the sergeants, some comrades came to me with the proposal to block access to the Automóvel Clube. with elements of trust and prevent the meeting. I was against this, saying: 'Let the meeting take place: now, the worse the better for our cause.' The climate became agitated and tense, and many of those who were undecided, as we said, 'on the fence', decided for the revolution” (p. 226). Through reading the book, we also become aware of the actions of other senior soldiers and of a certain disarticulation of them in relation to the outbreak of the 1964 Coup.

The opinions of some interviewees on Jango's reaction to General Mourão's actions on March 31, 1964 are interesting for understanding João Goulart's analysis of the political situation at the time.

For Abelardo Jurema, then Minister of Justice, Jango had not yet understood the seriousness of the crisis and the violent nature of the coup. In his own words: “I think he opted for laissez-faire. He let the thing go, perhaps without thinking that it would turn out the way it did, in cassations, etc. He was thinking of past revolutions where there was always a composition. The biggest revolution in Brazil was in 1930, and everything ended in composition. But not this one. This came with repeals, with suspension of rights” (p. 214).

Raul Ryff, former Press Secretary of the Presidency, also shares this thesis: “And, according to Brizola, Jango would have told him there in exile: 'If I had known that all this violence was going to be committed against the Brazilian people, I would would have resisted anyway'. Naturally, he imagined that it would be like that fall of Getúlio: he would fall and such… he would go into exile on the farm, an exile within the national territory, a political exile, and then things would resume their normal ways. But that didn't happen. It was a coup of a new kind” (p. 199).

Everything indicates that Jango wanted to follow in Getúlio's footsteps, but times were different...

Jango: the multiple face leads us to conclude how distressing and humiliating the time the Goulart family was forced to spend in exile was. According to the reports of his daughter Denise Goulart and his wife Maria Thereza, time was slow to pass and the hopes of a return to Brazil did not fade. Each conversation, each contact, each piece of information was accompanied by the impatience of knowing whether the political conditions for the expected amnesty would already exist.

In 1967, with the formation of a Frente Ampla against the dictatorship by Carlos Lacerda, Juscelino Kubitschek and Jango, hopes grew, interrupted, however, with the AI-5, making the Front illegal. In addition to the sadness of being far from his homeland, Jango's exile was one of few friends and unpleasant heart problems.

In her statement, Maria Thereza Goulart comments on the family's concern for Jango's health. He had difficulties following the regimen advised by doctors of not smoking, not consuming greasy food and losing weight. Instead, Jango decided to follow a weight-loss regimen based on fat intake.

On January 27, 2008, the Folha de São Paulo brought an article about the possible assassination of João Goulart, through poisoning, which the Uruguayan military, in partnership with Brazilians commanded by Chief Fleury, would have carried out, mixing pills with potassium chloride (supplied by the CIA) to those that Jango took for the heart. It seems like a fanciful story, but one that the historian should not refute a priori. Investigation must be the historian's companion, as well as curiosity. Even if the historian, in this case, does not believe that Jango was a reformist, but only harmless to the military.

The book by Ângela de Castro Gomes and Jorge Ferreira is very timely nowadays, when we see an effort to diminish the political importance of João Goulart (and his political project), as well as we witness an open criticism of Socialism, which had so much importance in the twentieth century, even for having forced Capitalism to reform.

* Flavio Luis Rodrigues holds a PhD in Social History from FFLCH-USP.


Angela Maria de Castro Gomes & Jorge Ferreira. Jango: the multiple faces. Rio de Janeiro: Editora FGV, 276 pages.


See this link for all articles