Brazilian army waiting outside of Café Filho's residence to prevent him from reassuming the role of president . " Brazilian coup d'état "

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1955 Brazilian Revolution (Brazilian coup d'état)

The 1955 Brazilian coup d’état, also known as the Preventative Coup of November 11 or referred to as an “anti-coup” or a “counter-coup,” unfolded as a series of military and political events under the leadership of Henrique Teixeira Lott. This upheaval culminated in Nereu Ramos assuming the presidency of Brazil, a role he held until peacefully handing over power to Juscelino Kubitschek the following year. Remarkably, this bloodless coup revolved around the removal of Carlos Luz from the presidency due to suspicions of his involvement in a plot to prevent Kubitschek from assuming office, resulting in Brazil witnessing three presidents in the span of a single week.

The origins of this coup can be traced back to August 1954 when associates of then-President Getúlio Vargas attempted to assassinate opposition journalist Carlos Lacerda. In response to mounting pressure from the Brazilian Army for him to vacate the presidency, Vargas tragically took his own life on August 24, 1954.

Late on November 10, Henrique Teixeira Lott convened with other prominent army leaders, including General Odylio Denys, to deliberate on their response to Lott’s removal as minister. During these discussions, they contemplated how best to proceed. Ultimately, they reached a decision that General Denys would lead the army in seizing key strategic points throughout the country. However, in a sudden change of plans just hours later, early on November 11, Henrique Teixeira Lott reconsidered his role and resolved to personally lead the movement. He promptly issued orders for the deployment of troops to assume control of police facilities, telegraph operations, and the Catete Palace.

Brazilian coup d'état

Brazilian army waiting outside of Café Filho's residence to prevent him from reassuming the role of president . " Brazilian coup d'état "
Brazilian army waiting outside of Café Filho's residence to prevent him from reassuming the role of president . " Brazilian coup d'état "

Background

The roots of the coup took hold in August 1954 when associates of then-President Getúlio Vargas attempted to assassinate the opposition journalist Carlos Lacerda. Faced with mounting pressure from the Brazilian Army to step down, Vargas took a tragic step on August 24, 1954, by ending his own life. This event triggered riots in support of the now-deceased president, leading to Vice-President Café Filho assuming the presidential office. The Minister of War, Euclides Zenóbio da Costa, who had been involved in the effort to remove Vargas, resigned from his position. In his place, Café Filho appointed Henrique Teixeira Lott, a relatively unknown and apolitical figure.

The forthcoming presidential election was slated for October 3, 1955, and Juscelino Kubitschek, the governor of Minas Gerais, declared his candidacy. Military leaders, including Lott, had hoped for a single national unity candidate and penned a confidential memorandum to Café Filho, urging him to find such a unifying figure. As word of the memorandum began to leak to the public, Kubitschek interpreted it as a sign of military opposition to his candidacy. Unable to identify a suitable candidate, General Juarez Távora, the primary author of the memorandum, eventually decided to run against Kubitschek, while Café Filho pledged to remain neutral.

During the campaign, rumors circulated that Kubitschek had received support from communist factions. Notably, Luis Carlos Prestes, the wanted leader of the banned Brazilian Communist Party, had encouraged his followers to vote for Kubitschek in hopes of legalizing their outlawed party. Kubitschek, however, maintained that he had no intention of legalizing the communist party.

The election results showed a four-way split, with no candidate securing an outright majority. Kubitschek was declared the winner, but his opponents contested the results. They argued that a majority of votes was required for victory and sought to invalidate votes cast for Kubitschek by known communists. However, the Superior Electoral Tribunal had previously ruled that a majority of votes was not necessary for victory. Café Filho steadfastly refused to heed calls to overturn the election results.

On November 1, Colonel Jurandir Mamede delivered a public speech demanding the annulment of the election results. This incensed Lott, although he lacked direct authority to discipline the Colonel. On November 2, Café Filho, who had suffered a heart attack years earlier, fell ill with cardiovascular problems. Still unwell on November 8, Café Filho transferred his presidential powers to the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Carlos Luz. Luz had been a vocal critic of Kubitschek, and there were concerns that he might obstruct Kubitschek from assuming office. In response, Lott demanded that both Café Filho and later Luz take action against Mamede and threatened to resign. The media amplified the conflict between the two sides, making it difficult for either to find a compromise. On November 10, Luz ultimately decided not to discipline Mamede, prompting Lott to resign in protest, effective the following day.

Counterinsurgency

On the late evening of November 10, Lott convened with fellow army leaders, including General Odylio Denys. They engaged in deliberations regarding Lott’s removal as minister and initially concluded that General Denys would lead the army in seizing strategic locations across the country. However, a few hours later, in the early hours of November 11, Lott had a change of heart. He decided to personally lead the movement and promptly issued orders for troops to assume control of police facilities, telegraph operations, and the Catete Palace.

Observing ominous signs of an impending coup, Carlos Luz departed for the Navy Ministry. There, the Brazilian Air Force and Navy declared their continued support for Luz. Subsequently, Luz fled to the cruiser Almirante Tamandaré, which set sail for the island port city of Santos, São Paulo, where he hoped to organize resistance. As the Tamandaré began to exit Guanabara Bay, a nearby fort signaled, via flag, that it would not permit passage. Despite this warning, the cruiser disregarded it, and the nearby forts opened fire. Thankfully, none of the shots found their mark. Carlos Luz, concerned about potential civilian casualties, ordered the Tamandaré not to return fire.

In the afternoon of November 11, both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate convened and jointly voted to install Nereu Ramos, the Speaker of the Senate, as the new president.

By the morning of November 12, it became evident that forces loyal to Lott controlled the city of Santos, preventing the Tamandaré from landing. Defeated, Carlos Luz ordered the ship to return to Rio. Upon his arrival, Luz encountered Lott’s army and was compelled to pledge his resignation from the presidency before disembarking. Carlos Luz’s presidency had lasted only three days. Meanwhile, Café Filho remained in the hospital, aware of the coup’s unfolding events. He contemplated resignation after unproductive discussions with Lott but opted to await his doctors’ evaluation of his health.

On November 21, Café Filho’s doctors deemed him fit to resume work, and he issued a statement declaring himself president once more. However, upon his return to the capital, the military mobilized once again. The army encircled Café Filho’s apartment and the presidential palace, effectively placing him under house arrest. Shortly afterward, Congress reconvened and voted to remove Café Filho from office.

Following the vote, Ramos urged Congress to declare a nationwide “state of siege,” a declaration that was approved and subsequently extended until Ramos concluded his presidency. Petitions to Brazil’s Supreme Court seeking intervention were declined due to the country’s “state of siege” status.

Resolution

Ramos remained in the presidency until the following year when Kubitschek assumed office in January 1956. Those who had supported Luz during his brief presidency did not face significant punishment, although Colonel Mamede was briefly detained and subsequently assigned to a remote army recruitment post. Café Filho consistently asserted that he had never intended to obstruct Kubitschek’s inauguration. ” Brazilian coup d’état “

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