Leonel Brizola (Politician) – Overview, Biography

Name:Leonel Brizola
Occupation: Politician
Birth Day: January 22,
Death Date:Jun 21, 2004 (age 82)
Age: Aged 82
Country: Brazil
Zodiac Sign:Aquarius

Leonel Brizola

Leonel Brizola was born on January 22, 1922 in Brazil (82 years old). Leonel Brizola is a Politician, zodiac sign: Aquarius. Nationality: Brazil. Approx. Net Worth: Undisclosed.


He served as vice president of an organization known as Socialist International.

Net Worth 2020

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Does Leonel Brizola Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, Leonel Brizola died on Jun 21, 2004 (age 82).


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Before Fame

Before beginning his political career, he earned a degree in civil engineering. He entered politics in 1946 as a member of the Rio Grande State Assembly; a decade later, he took office as Mayor of Porto Alegre.


Biography Timeline


Brizola’s father José Brizola was a small-scale farmer who was killed when fighting as a volunteer in 1923 in a local civil war for the rebel leader Assis Brasil against Rio Grande’s dictator, Borges de Medeiros. Brizola was named Itagiba, but early in life he adopted the alias Leonel, which he took from the rebel warlord Leonel Rocha who had commanded the cavalry column in which José Brizola served. Brizola left his mother’s house at the age of eleven; he worked in Passo Fundo and Carazinho as a newspaper deliverer, shoeshiner and at other occasional jobs. Aided by the family of a Methodist minister, he received a scholarship that allowed him to complete high school in Porto Alegre and enter college. He graduated with a degree in engineering but never worked in that trade. Still as an undergraduate, he entered professional politics in his early twenties, entering the youth organization of the Brazilian Labor Party (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (PTB)) in 1945. In 1946 an undergraduate, he was elected to the Rio Grande State Legislature. The Labor Party had been created in order to offer political support for former President/dictator Getúlio Vargas among the working classes, and Brizola, who was busy with creating party organizations across Rio Grande, at the time developed ties to the Vargas family through his personal friendship with Vargas’s son Maneco as well as with Vargas’s brother Espartaco, such friendships opening his way to make friends with Vargas himself, who was in internal exile after having been toppled from power in late 1945. As a member of the State Legislature, Brizola made a speech from the tribune in which he launched nationwide the candidacy of Vargas to the incoming 1950 presidential elections.


In 1950, Brizola married Neusa Goulart—João Goulart’s sister—and had Vargas as his best man. Through this marriage, Brizola became a wealthy landowner and a regional leader of the PTB. After Vargas’s 1954 suicide during his second presidential term, Brizola inherited the undisputed regional leadership of his party while his brother-in-law ruled the PTB national caucus. Both perpetuated Vargas’ populist tradition; in Brizola’s case, the practice of a direct personal link between charismatic leader and the general public. In quick succession, Brizola filled various positions, being a member of the Rio Grande State Legislature for two terms (and as such leader for the PTB), State Secretary for Public Works, (interim) Federal Congressman for Rio Grande in 1955 and Mayor of Porto Alegre from 1956 to 1958. In 1958 he would resign from his mayoralty in order to present himself as a contender at the elections for State Governor. From a regional leadership, Brizola would then ascend, during the presidency of Goulart (1961–1964) to the role of an important national supporter of his brother-in-law; first as governor and later as a deputy in the National Congress of Brazil.


Brizola gained nationwide attention by acting in defense of democracy and Goulart’s rights as president. When Jânio Quadros resigned from the presidency in August 1961, the Brazilian military ministers in the Cabinet tried to prevent Vice-President Goulart from becoming president on the grounds of his alleged ties with the Communist movement. After winning support from local army commander General Machado Lopes, Brizola forged the cadeia da legalidade (legality broadcast) from a pool of radio stations in Rio Grande do Sul, which issued a nationwide call from Palácio Piratini denouncing the intentions behind the Cabinet ministers’ actions and encouraging common citizens to protest in the streets. Brizola surrendered the State Police Force to the regional army command and began organizing paramilitary Committees of Democratic Resistance, and considered handing out firearms to civilians. After twelve days of impending civil war, the attempted coup failed and Goulart was inaugurated as president.

Goulart had been sworn as President in 1961 by means of a compromise, in which he was head of State in a parliamentary system. On 6 January 1963, however, a plebiscite scheduled earlier restored Goulart to the position of head of government and extinguished the cabinet. At the same time, in a move to vye with Goulart for political leadership, Brizola started a weekly Friday talkshow on the Rio radio broadcast Mayrink Veiga that was owned by Congressman from São Paulo State Miguel Leuzzi, which he used to broadcast nationwide, and planned to constitute a network of political cells composed of small groups of armed men; the “elevensome” Grupos de Onze—paramilitary parties modeled on a soccer team. These were supposed to act as grassroots organizations that would “defend and diffuse” the chief points of a reformist agenda that would have to be achieved “by hook or by crook” (na lei ou na marra). Brizola’s using of metaphors from the world of soccer was one of the instances of his apt rhetoric, that rendered him at the time a master of the broadcasts. So apt, actually, as to make the whole of contemporary political specter to fear his bid at preeminence: in the words of a contemporary journalist, “Brizola was willing to pay any price to retain the ball” (ser o dono da bola).


In late 1963, after the failure of a conservative plan of economic adjustment (Plano Trienal) devised by the Ministry of Planning Celso Furtado, Brizola involved himself in a bid for power by toppling Goulart’s economically conservative Minister of Finance Carvalho Pinto to take the post himself. Brizola wanted to foster his radical agenda, saying, “if we want to make a revolution, we must have the key to the safe”. Brizola’s bid for the Ministry failed; the post was given to an unpolitical Banco do Brasil CEO. This helped radicalize contemporaneous Brazilian political life; the country’s most politically conservative newspaper O Globo said it was as though “the task of putting down the fire fell to the chief arsonist”. During late 1963 and early 1964, a division between Brizola and his brother-in-law opened; Brizola became convinced that Goulart intended to stage a coup backed by loyalist military commanders, to stop the ongoing process of political radicalization, and that the only way to pre-empt Goulart’s move was a grassroots revolutionary movement.


In April 1964, a coup d’état overthrew Goulart. Brizola was the only political leader to support for the president, sheltering him in Porto Alegre and hoping a bid to rouse the local army units towards the restoration of the toppled régime could be made. Brizola engaged himself in schemes to confront the military putschists, including giving a fiery public speech at the Porto Alegre City Hall, exhorting army NCOs to “occupy barracks and arrest the generals”, which earned him the lasting hatred of the dictatorship’s military commanders. After an unsuccessful month in Rio Grande, Brizola fled in early May 1964 to Uruguay, where Goulart was already in exile after offering little support to Brizola’s attempts at armed resistance.


Through his domestic and foreign politics, Brizola became a major player in Brazilian politics, eventually developing presidential aspirations he could not legally fulfill at the time; Brazilian law did not allow close relatives of the acting President to stand for the following term of office. Between 1961 and 1964, Brizola acted as the radical wing of the independent left, where he pressured the office for an agenda of radical social and political reforms and for a change in the electoral legislation that allowed for his presidential candidacy in 1965. He was seen as personally authoritarian and quarrelsome, and capable of dealing with his enemies using physical aggression; for example he hit rightwing journalist David Nasser at Rio de Janeiro airport. Brizola acted as an adventurer in the political game around the Goulart government, being feared and hated by the political moderate Left and Right. This role was especially visible when Brizola moved his constituency from Rio Grande do Sul to a national political center, winning a landslide victory (269,384 ballots or a quarter of the State’s electorate) in the 1962 election to Congress as a representative for the State of Guanabara—the Rio de Janeiro municipality reorganized as a city-state after the national capital had been moved to Brasilia. A layer of lore quickly developed around Brizola’s efforts to “steal” his brother-in-law’s Goulart “political thunder”.

As a political loner during his early Uruguayan exile, Brizola eventually preferred insurrectionist politics to reformism, and appeared to be a belated revolutionary leader. In early 1965, a group of Brizola’s sympathizers—mostly Army NCOs— tried and failed to articulate a theater of guerrilla warfare in the Eastern Brazilian mountains around Caparaó, which was only underground military training that was suppressed without incident. Another group of Brizolista guerrillas dispersed after a shoot-out with the army in Southern Brazil. This event raised suspicions about Brizola’s mis-management of funds offered to him by Fidel Castro. Except for this episode, Brizola spent the first ten years of the Brazilian military dictatorship mostly alone in Uruguay, where he managed his wife’s landed property and kept abreast of domestic news from various opposition movements in Brazil. He rejected attempts at being recruited into the Frente Ampla (Broad Front), a mid-1960s informal caucus of pre-dictatorship leaders intent on pressuring for re-democratization, which included Carlos Lacerda and Juscelino Kubitschek. Brizola broke the few remaining ties with his brother-in-law and fellow exile, João Goulart, over the attempted recruitment.


Between late 1976 and early 1977, the fact that all three most prominent members of the Frente Ampla – Juscelino Kubitscheck, João Goulart himself and Carlos Lacerda – had all died in succession and in somewhat mysterious circumstances, made Brizola feel increasingly threatened in Uruguay. Faced with impending withdrawal of his asylum, he sought the American Embassy In Uruguay, where he held talks with political counselor John Youle. Youle, over the opposition of Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Terence Todman, granted Brizola a transit visa that allowed Brizola, who in mid-1977 was deported from Uruguay for alleged “violations of norms of political asylum”, to travel to—and eventually be given immediate asylum in—the United States.


According to recent declassified Brazilian diplomatic documents, on 20 September 1977, Brizola and his wife went to Buenos Aires, from where they flew to the U.S. Buenos Aires was a dangerous place for Latin American exiles; the Brizolas were followed by American CIA agents and stayed overnight in a CIA safe house and boarded a nonstop flight to New York City on September 22. Shortly after arriving in New York, Brizola met with U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, who helped gain Brizola permission to stay in the U.S. for six months. From a suite at the Roosevelt Hotel, Brizola profited from his American stay by organizing a network of contacts with Brazilian exiles and American academics interested in ending military rule in Brazil.


In the late 1970s. the Brazilian military dictatorship was waning; in 1978, passports were quietly given to prominent political exiles but Brizola, alongside a core group of alleged radicals described as “public enemy number one”, remained blacklisted and was refused the right of return. In 1979, after a general amnesty, his exile came to an end.


In 1982, Brizola stood for governor of the State of Rio de Janeiro in the first free, direct, gubernatorial elections in that state since 1965. He ran a ticket of candidates for Congress that tried to compensate for his party’s lack of cadres by offering a roster of people with no previous ties to professional politics, such as the Native Brazilian leader Mário Juruna, the singer Agnaldo Timóteo, and a sizeable number of Afro-Brazilian activists. He was aware that this last foray into race politics contradicted his previous, more conventionally radical policies. Brizola nicknamed his ideology Socialismo Moreno (“Socialism of Color” or “mixed-race socialism”). Brizola centered his personal campaign on issues such as education and public security, offering a candidacy that had clear, oppositional overtones and proposed to upheld the Vargoist legacy. By developing a nucleus of combative militants around himself—the so-called Brizolândia—Brizola led a campaign that melded violent confrontations and street brawls with a paradoxically festive mood, expressed by the motto Brizola na cabeça—a pun between “Brizola at the head of the ticket” and “High on Brizola”, brisola being a contemporary slang for a small parcel of cocaine.

To have his victory in the 1982 elections acknowledged, Brizola had to publicly denounce what the paper Jornal do Brasil described as an attempt at fraudulent accounting of the ballots by the private contractor Proconsult—a computer engineering firm owned by former military intelligence operatives—contracted by the electoral court to offer speedy electoral statistics. During the early ballot-counting process, Proconsult repeatedly supplied media with communiqués offering belated voting statistics from rural areas, where Brizola was at a disadvantage, which were immediately echoed by TV Globo. By denouncing this alleged fraud at press conferences, interviews, and public statements—which included a discussion with Globo CEO Armando Nogueira on live television— Brizola pre-empted the scheme of any chance of success, as official ballot numbers eventually gave him the lead.


Brizola returned to Brazil with the intention of restoring the Brazilian Labour Party as a radical, nationalist, left-wing, mass movement and as a confederacy of historical Vargoist leaders. He was hampered in this by the emergence of new grassroots movements, such as the new trade unionism centered around the São Paulo metalworkers and their leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the Catholic grassroots organizations of the rural poor spawned by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (CNBB). Brizola was denied the right to use the historical name of the Brazilian Labour Party, previously conceded to a rival group centered around a military dictatorship-friendly figure, Congresswoman Ivete Vargas—the grand-niece of Getúlio Vargas. Instead, Brizola founded an entirely new party, the Democratic Labour Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista, PDT). The party joined the Socialist International in 1986, and since then the party’s symbol has contained a hand with a red flower (symbol of SI).


Brizola’s policies included porkbarrel, poor management, personalism, wild spending of public funds, and displaying a tendency at opportunistic, short term solutions. They prepared him for the political gravitas required for running for president in 1989.

Brizola was a staunch supporter of Lula’s candidacy in the 1989 run-off elections, which he justified with a declaration before PDT cronies that became part of Brazilian political lore: “I will be candid: a politician from the old school, Senator Pinheiro Machado once said that politics is the art of swallowing toads (engolir sapo). Wouldn’t that be fascinating to force-feed Brazilian élites and having them to swallow the Bearded Toad, Lula?” Brizola’s support was crucial in increasing votes for Lula in Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul, where Lula passed from a first round 12.2% in Rio de Janeiro and 6.7% in Rio Grande to a second round 72.9% in Rio and 68.7% in Rio Grande.

After the 1989 election there were still chances Brizola could achieve his dream of winning the Presidency if he could overcome his party’s lack of national penetration. Some of his advisers proposed him a candidacy to the Senate in the ensuing 1990 elections, which could offer him national highlights. Brizola refused, preferring to present himself as a candidate to the gubernatorial elections in the same year, winning a second term as Governor of Rio de Janeiro by a first-round majority of 60.88% of all valid ballots. Brizola’s second term as Rio’s governor was a political failure, marked by instances of disorganized management caused by Brizola’s ultra-centralism and distaste for proper bureaucratic procedure and the support Brizola eventually offered to the Collor administration in exchange for funds for public works. Brizola was charged with collaborating with the embezzlement schemes that led to Collor’s 1992 impeachment.


Bereft of national support and forsaken by close associates such as Cesar Maia and Anthony Garotinho, who abandoned Brizola for the sake of their personal careers, Brizola again ran for president on the PDT’s ticket, amid the success of Minister of Finance and presidential candidate Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s anti-inflation Plano Real. The 1994 presidential elections were a failure for Brizola, who scored fifth place. Cardoso was elected in the first round by an absolute majority. It was the end of Brizolismo as a national political force; some weeks before the election, a kiosk in downtown Rio de Janeiro where Brizolandia cronies met was demolished by City Hall officers and was never rebuilt. During Cardoso’s first term, Brizola remained a critic of his neoliberal policies of privatization of public companies, saying in 1995, “if there is no civil reaction to privatization, there will be a military one”. When Cardoso ran for re-election four years later, Brizola contented himself with a Vice Presidential candidacy on Lula’s ticket, and both lost to Cardoso.


Brizola died on June 21, 2004, after a heart attack. He planned to run for the Presidency in 2006 and, although ailing, had just received his former associate Anthony Garotinho and his wife Rosinha Garotinho the day before.


On December 29, 2015, a congressional bill was approved by President Dilma Rousseff inscribing Brizola’s name in the Book of Heroes of the Motherland, the official registry of all deceased Brazilians “who offered their lives to the Motherland, her defense and building, with exceptional commitment and heroism”.

🎂 Upcoming Birthday

Currently, Leonel Brizola is 100 years, 4 months and 0 days old. Leonel Brizola will celebrate 101st birthday on a Sunday 22nd of January 2023.

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