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The Age of Mass Politics, Economic Expansion

Joao Goulart, Juscelino Kubitschek, futuristic city, Brazilian economy, Social Democratic Party

Vice President Joao Cafe Filho completed the remaining 17 months of Vargas’s term. In the 1955 presidential elections, the Social Democratic Party and the Brazilian Workers Party formed a coalition. This coalition elected the governor of Minas Gerais, Juscelino Kubitschek as president with Joao Goulart, Vargas’s controversial labor minister, as vice president. Kubitschek campaigned on the slogan “fifty years in five,” promising to achieve fifty years of progress during his five-year term. Arguably, he succeeded. During the late 1950s the Brazilian economy surged forward as heavy industries—iron, steel, and automobiles—and basic infrastructure—roads, communications, and construction—expanded. The Kubitschek government helped finance many of these modernization projects by printing currency that had no financial backing. The government printed enough unsupported currency to accelerate the cycle of inflation, which eventually led to major economic problems for Brazil.

Kubitschek’s most vivid and enduring legacy is Brasilia, a new capital city built on the plains of central Brazil. Many Brazilians thought that a new capital in the interior of Brazil would stimulate development in the region. Although the idea of moving the capital into the interior dated from the 18th century, it was Kubitschek who convinced the legislature to accept the idea and to fund it. Between 1956 and 1960, Kubitschek personally supervised the construction of this modern, futuristic city, located 800 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Inaugurated in April 1960, Brasilia now has more than 1 million inhabitants.

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