Remember the legacy and history of Leonel Brizola, who would have turned 100

Journalist Caco Barcelos does not forget the visit of the then mayor, Leonel Brizola, to Vila São José do Murialdo, on the outskirts of Porto Alegre, where he lived with his family. That day, back in 1956, Brizola saw barefoot children, abandoned by the state, walking through the dirt-paved streets of the neighborhood. The speech to the residents showed their dissatisfaction.

“In Rio Grande, I have never seen a horse without a shoe. How can our children go barefoot? I have never seen an abandoned calf, but I see children sleeping on the street. This can no longer happen.” Brizola promised to give each of the children in the neighborhood a pair of sneakers. And he complied. “It was when I got my first kichute”, Barcelos said in an interview with his colleague Pedro Bial.

At the time, Brizola already demonstrated his obsession with public education. The schools created by him were called “Brizoletas” by the population. The children arrived at 8 am and left at 6 pm. In addition to curricular learning and food, students learned music and played sports. “I’m a big fan of his,” he confided.

Brizola, registered as Itagiba de Moura Brizola, would have turned 100 this Saturday, January 22. He was born in 1922 in the small town of Cruzinha, in Rio Grande do Sul, today called Carazinho. She barely got to know her father, a small farmer murdered by forces loyal to the president of the Province of Rio Grande do Sul, Borges de Medeiros, during the 1923 Revolution. Maragato leader who had fought against his father’s assassins. As he didn’t like his name, one day he decided to adopt it permanently. Itagiba became Leonel. Leonel de Moura Brizola.

Literate by his mother before entering primary school, Brizola arrived in Porto Alegre in 1936. He finished elementary school in 1942 and three years later passed the entrance exam for the School of Engineering of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, graduating as a civil engineer in 1949. In March 1950 he married Neusa Goulart, sister of the then state deputy and future president of the Republic, João Goulart.

Photo: Publicity/PDT

Politics has always been in their DNA. The career in this field was meteoric. In 1945, while still an engineering student, he joined the Brazilian Labor Party, the PTB. Two years later, he was elected state deputy. Re-elected in 1950, he ran for mayor of Porto Alegre in 1952, but was defeated. In 1954, he was elected federal deputy with a national record of 103,033 votes. In 1956, he once again ran for mayor of the Rio Grande do Sul capital. He won the elections with the slogan “No child without school”. His management increased the number of schools built and the supply of vacancies in the municipal network. In addition, for the first time, the city offered the population education in two shifts. Infrastructure and sanitation works in the periphery neighborhoods and around the Guaíba River were intensified.

In 1958, Brizola is elected governor of Rio Grande do Sul. He promoted a true revolution. Its priorities were literacy and an end to the shortage of places in public education, estimated at the time at more than 270,000.. To fill this gap, Brizola promoted agreements with private schools in exchange for receiving teachers and resources. A kind of Prouni of the time. In parallel, new public schools were built throughout the state, adding more than six thousand classrooms.

Brizola also clashed with multinationals. nationalized the company Bond & Sharewhich monopolized electricity in the metropolitan region of Porto Alegre, to create the State Electricity Company. privatized the International Telephone and Telegraphreplaced by Riograndense Telecommunications Company. Implemented the first agrarian reform project in the country with the creation of the Gaucho Institute for Agrarian Reform, the IGRA. In the first stage, among the more than 600 lots distributed for the settlement of landless farmers, Brizola included his farm, Pangaré.

In that same period, one of the most turbulent in Brazilian political history, with the resignation of President Jânio Quadros in 1961, Brizola’s political force crossed the borders of Rio Grande do Sul. When the military tried to prevent the inauguration of the then vice president João Goulart, who was on an official trip to China, Brizola reacts and creates the Legality Campaign: a group of radio stations spread across the country that, in defense of democracy, started to denounce from inside the Piratini Palace, headquarters of the gaucho government, the military coup attempt that was already approaching.

With the support of the regional Armed Forces, he organized paramilitary committees – and encouraged the resistance of the population with weapons, if necessary. The Piratini turned into a bunker. Brizola was opposed to the switch from presidentialism to parliamentarism, as demanded by the military. After twelve days under the threat of civil war, Goulart accepted the proposal and assumed the presidency of the Republic. At that moment, Brizola sealed his departure into exile, which would take place with the military coup of 1964. Initially, he took refuge in Uruguay and, later, in Europe.

The old caudillo would only return to Brazil 15 years later, in 1979, with the amnesty in force. Knocked out by the then witch of the Planalto, General Golbery do Couto Silva, who did not give him back the PTB, Brizola founded the Partido Democrático Trabalhista, the PDT.

His political pretensions were not limited to Rio Grande do Sul. The boy from Carazinho decides to bet on a very high risk move: being a candidate for governor of Rio de Janeiro.

For the doctor Eduardo de Azeredo Costa, secretary in his first government in Rio de Janeiro (1983-87) and later, in the second term (1991-94), both Brizola and the PDT ran the risk of being restricted to regional politics if he remained in Rio Grande do Sul. “It was necessary and there were conditions for him to exercise national leadership from Rio”. Also according to Costa, Brizola did not immediately believe that he would have the electoral conditions to win a dispute over Guanabara. The strategy was to seek the support of small parties on his behalf.

In 1982, Brizola ran for governor of Rio de Janeiro with Moreira Franco (MDB), a candidate supported by the military regime with the consent of the Rede Globo. One fact stood out in this dispute: the company hired by the Regional Electoral Court to count the votes, Proconsult, associated with former collaborators of the military regime, tried to rig the election by manipulating blank and null votes to favor Franco. The farce was dismantled because the PDT maintained a parallel investigation and denounced that the “official” numbers did not coincide with reality. At the time, the Brazilian newspapermain competitor from O Globo, gave rise to the facts. And Brizola was elected with 1.7 million votes.

After this episode, relations between Brizola and Roberto Marinho became even more tense. “There were attempts at understanding between them, but it was not possible. The pipe makes the mouth crooked”, says Costa. The former secretary defines the practices of Globe, during the Brizola governments, as the worst possible. “The boycott of Carnival, after the construction of the Sambódromo, and of the CIEPS (the Integrated Centers of Public Education, nicknamed Brizolões) were the most complex”. He also insists that journalistic coverage “gave a microphone to the gangs that operated within the police” to deconstruct the image of the government and its Human Rights policies. “THE Globe supported barbarism.”

Photo: Publicity/PDT

In Rio, Brizola dreamed of implementing CIEPS throughout the state. His obstinacy to education was due to the belief that it was the only method capable of provoking a social revolution. “His dream was to take children off the street and put them in quality schools” reiterates Costa. He believed the elite would surrender to evidence that violence against the poor was bad business.

His second government in Rio was marked by tensions. Brizola maintained a cordial relationship with the then president Collor de Mello and was a critic of the CPI that was investigating the involvement of PC Farias in the corruption scheme that ended up overthrowing the president. classified the process of impeachment as “coup”. Politically, it suffered enormous wear and tear. It did not repeat the same performance as the previous management.

In 1989, in the first direct election to the presidency of the Republic after redemocratization, Brizola disputed and was in 3rd place. In 1994, he suffered another defeat and in 1998, as Lula’s vice president, he lost to the reelection of the toucan Fernando Henrique Cardoso. In 2000, he runs for mayor of Rio de Janeiro. He gets just over 9% of the votes. In 2002, he runs for a Senate seat, but again fails to get elected.

Brizola died on the night of June 21, 2004, in Rio de Janeiro, a victim of a heart attack. His body was buried in São Borja, Rio Grande do Sul, at Jardim da Paz Cemetery, where his wife Neusa and former presidents of the Republic, Getúlio Vargas and João Goulart are buried. The trajectory of one of the most brilliant Brazilian public men ended.

About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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