Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said he deeply regretted
the death of Leonel Brizola, calling him a leading politician that
he always respected and admired. Brizola had enthusiastically
supported Lula when he became President, but grew disillusioned
and turned into a fierce opponent of the government’s economic policy.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has decreed three days of official
mourning for the death of Leonel Brizola, a politician who played a prominent
role in Brazilian life for most of the past 50 years.
In a note, Lula said he
deeply regretted the death of Brizola, calling him a leading politician that
he always respected and admired.
Leonel Brizola was 82.
He was the president of the PDT (Partido Democrático TrabalhistaDemocratic
Labor Party). On Monday he was hospitalized in Rio de Janeiro with flu and
a high fever. According to the hospital, he had a heart attack and died.
At the beginning of his
political career, Brizola had strong links, both political and personal, with
Getúlio Vargas (twice president of Brazil: 1932-45, and 1951-54). He
was elected a state deputy as a member of Vargas’ political party, the PTB,
He married the sister
of another Vargas politician, João Goulart, who was Vargas’ minister
of Labor, twice vice president (Kubitschek, 1955-59, and Quadros, 1961), and
president himself (1961-64) when Quadros resigned.
After Getúlio Vargas’
suicide in 1954, Brizola was elected a federal deputy in Rio Grande do Sul.
In the following year he was elected mayor of the state capital, Porto Alegre.
In 1958 he was elected governor of Rio Grande do Sul.
When Quadros resigned,
in November 1961, there was military opposition to his vice president, João
Goulart (Brizola’s brother-in-law), becoming the president.
Brizola became a leader
of a group known as the "Legal Network" in favor of having the constitution
obeyed and allowing Goulart to take office. Brizola won a partial victory:
Goulart took office but he had to deal with a newly formed parliamentary system.
Meanwhile, Brizola moved
to Rio de Janeiro where, in 1962, he was elected a federal deputy. In March
1964, the Goulart government was overthrown in a military uprising and Brizola
spent the next 15 years in exile.
While outside Brazil he
launched a new party, the PDT, which was to be faithful to the ideals of the
old PTB and its labor-oriented platform.
With the 1979 amnesty,
Brizola returned to Brazil and won the 1982 election for governor of Rio de
Janeiro with the anthropologist, Darcy Ribeiro, as his vice governor.
Brizola ran for president
in 1989 and just missed a place in the runoff election by a small difference
of votes. Lula got that place, in his first bid to be president, and lost
to Collor in the runoff election. In 1990, Brizola was once again elected
governor of Rio.
In 1998, Brizola was the
vice president candidate on the losing Lula ticket (Lula’s third try at the
presidency; he lost his second (1994) and third (1998) tries to Cardoso).
Brizola and Lula were together in the opposition during the two Cardoso terms
For the 2002 presidential
elections, Brizola threw his support to Ciro Gomes and his Labor FrontFrente
Trabalhista, a coalition of the PDT, PPS, PTB) in the first vote, but
supported Lula in the runoff against Serra (PSDB).
After the Lula victory,
Brizola enthusiastically supported the new administration. However, in 2003,
Brizola broke with Lula becoming a fierce opponent of the government’s economic
Douglas Correa works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official press agency
of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome at email@example.com.
from the Portuguese by Allen Bennett.