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Brazil’s Dictatorship: It All Started with a Referendum

Brazil's military regime The proposed division of the state of Pará in northern Brazil into three states was turned down in a plebiscite. At least for now there will not be the new states of Carajás and Tapajós.

Pará’s Regional Electoral Court released final numbers showing that 66.6% of the voters in the state had rejected the proposed division. Out of 4,848,000 eligible voters, 1.2 million abstained – around 25%.

It is estimated that the plebiscite cost R$19 million, including the cost of deploying federal troops to some 16 locations in the state.

The plebiscite on the division of the state of Pará is the fifth such vote since 1963 in Brazil. There was one other plebiscite, in 1993, and three referendums, in 1963, 2005 and 2010.

The difference between the two types of direct popular consultation is that a referendum is a vote on whether or not to accept, or ratify, a change that has taken place, while a plebiscite is a vote on whether or not to make a change.

The 1963 referendum was to ratify the parliamentary system that had been in place since 1961. At stake was how and if the vice president at the time, João Goulart, would run the government after the resignation of Jânio Quadros.

The decision by the voters to revoke the parliamentary system and give Goulart ample presidential powers had a dire sequel: twenty years of military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.

In 1993, Brazilians once again had a chance to pick their form of government: a monarchy, parliamentary or republican presidential. The latter won.

In 2005 there was a plebiscite on the prohibition of the sale of arms and ammunition. It was rejected by 64% of the voters.

Finally, last year (2010), there was a referendum in the state of Acre regarding the use or not of daylight savings time.

The voters rejected it and at the moment, with daylight savings time in effect in Brasília, clocks in Acre are two hour behind clocks in the capital of the nation.

ABr

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