Ernesto Geisel

Ernesto Geisel

name=Ernesto Geisel

term_start=March 15, 1974
term_end=March 15, 1979
predecessor=Emílio Garrastazú Médici
successor=João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo
birth_date=birth date|1907|8|3|mf=y
birth_place=Bento Gonçalves, Rio Grande do Sul
death_date=death date and age|1996|9|12|1907|8|3|mf=y
death_place=Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro
spouse=Lucy Geisel
party=National Renewal Alliance Party - ARENA
order=32nd President of Brazil
vicepresident=Adalberto Pereira dos Santos

Ernesto Beckmann Geisel, pron. IPA2|eʁ'nɛstu 'bɛkmɐ͂ 'gajzew, (August 3, 1907 - September 12, 1996) was a Brazilian military leader and politician.

Early life and family

Born in Bento Gonçalves as the son of Lutheran German immigrants, Geisel along with his brother, Orlando (1905-1979, who would be later Minister of Army in the Médici's government), entered the army early and was the first of his class when he graduated from the Military College of Porto Alegre in 1925. He acquired a better military knowledge as he attended the Escola Militar do Realengo, graduated, in 1928, as first in his class and could take part in the artillery as an "Aspirante". Geisel witnessed and participated in the most prominent events of Brazilian history in the 20th century, such as the revolution of 1930, the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship and the 1964 military coup d'état that overthrew the leftist President João Goulart. In this military intervention, Geisel was an important figure and he became Military chief of Staff of President Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco. ["Ernesto Geisel." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998.]

Also in 1964 he became Lieutenant-General and in 1966 a 4 star-General. In 1969 he was made president of Petrobras, the state-owned oil company of Brazil.

Geisel married Lucy Markus, the daughter of an army colonel, in 1940. They had a daughter, Amália Lucy (later a university professor), and a son, Orlando, from whose death in a 1957 train accident his father never completely recovered. His widow died in an automobile accident in 2000. [pt icon [ Death notice] ]


In 1973 Geisel was appointed by President Emílio Garrastazu Médici and other military leaders to be the candidate of the National Renewal Alliance Party (ARENA) for the presidency. At that time, the president of Brazil was chosen by the military and then approved by the Congress in order to give an impression of free elections. Geisel was elected by a vast majority and was inaugurated on March 15, 1974 for a five-year mandate.

From 1968 to 1973, the Brazilian economy grew at a rate of more than 10% per year, the fastest in the world. But due to the oil shock crisis in 1974, development fell to 5%-6% per year. Because oil had to be imported, Brazil's foreign debt began to rise.

In the early 1970s, the radical leftists were tortured or even murdered, while the press was censored. By 1974 signals of guerrilla activities were silenced.

Sensing that military rule could not be prolonged indefinitely, Geisel and his Chief of Staff, Minister Golbery do Couto e Silva devised a plan of gradual, slow democratization that would succeed, in spite of all attempts and threats of the opposition offered by radical sectors of the military hierarchy.

The military regime's main censorship tool, the Fifth Institutional Act, which had given the government dictatorial powers, was renounced by President Geisel in the end of 1978.

In his 5 years of government, Geisel adopted a more pragmatic foreign policy. Despite being a conservative and deeply anti-communist, Geisel made significant overtures towards the communist bloc.

During Geisel's term of office, Brazil established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China and Angola, signaling a growing distance between Brasilia and Washington. Although both countries remained allies, Geisel was keen to seek alliances and, more importantly, economic opportunities in other parts of the Globe, especially Africa and Asia.

In 1978 Geisel appointed General João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo as his successor. He left office on March 15, 1979.

ee also

*1964 Brazilian coup d'état
*List of Presidents of Brazil
*History of Brazil (1964-present)


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