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Military Rule, Moderate Leadership

robbing banks, foreign diplomats, ransom, generals, military leaders

The military intervened with two primary objectives: to eradicate the left and to rebuild the collapsing economy. Military leaders split between political hardliners and moderates over how to achieve these goals. Led by General Humberto Castello Branco, who was named president, the moderates dominated the early years of the regime. Rather than shutting down civilian politics completely, the military attempted to purge the system of “undesirable” elements. They arrested and imprisoned people they perceived as opponents of the regime. Many fled the country. The military dismissed thousands of civil servants, military personnel, and politicians from their jobs and prohibited suspected political opponents from voting or holding office.

The military hoped that these actions would be enough to silence their opponents. This was not the case. By 1968 growing political opposition—even from former supporters of the military government—increasingly called for a return to civilian rule. Even the Supreme Court and the Congress, whose membership had been approved by the military leaders, began to exhibit signs of independence. The Supreme Court ordered the release of three students who had been detained by the government, and the Congress refused to allow the trial of one of its members who had criticized the military. University students in Brazil mounted huge demonstrations against the generals in 1967 and 1968. In addition, a small guerrilla movement developed, based largely in the cities. Its members kidnapped U.S. ambassador Charles Burke Elbrick and demanded a ransom and the release of political prisoners held by Brazil’s military government. Over the next four years guerrillas continued their campaign against the government by kidnapping foreign diplomats, bombing government buildings, and robbing banks to finance their activities.



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