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Artur da Costa e Silva

His Excellency
Artur da Costa e Silva
27th President of Brazil
In office
15 March 1967 – 31 August 1969
Vice President Pedro Aleixo
Preceded by Castelo Branco
Succeeded by Military Junta of 1969
Minister of War
In office
4 April 1964 – 30 June 1966
President Ranieri Mazzilli
Castelo Branco
Preceded by Dantas Ribeiro
Succeeded by Ademar de Queirós
Minister of Mines and Energy
In office
4 April 1964 – 17 April 1964
President Ranieri Mazzilli
Preceded by Oliveira Brito
Succeeded by Mauro Thibau
Personal details
Born (1899-10-03)October 3, 1899
Taquari, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Died December 17, 1969(1969-12-17) (aged 70)
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nationality Brazilian
Political party ARENA
Spouse(s) Iolanda Barbosa Costa e Silva
Military service
Allegiance Brazil
Service/branch Brazilian Army
Years of service 1921–1969
Rank Field marshal

Artur da Costa e Silva (Portuguese: ; October 3, 1899 – December 17, 1969) was a Brazilian Army General, the second President of Brazil during the military regime set up by the 1964 coup d'état. He was married to Iolanda Barbosa Costa e Silva, the daughter of a soldier. Born in the interior of Rio Grande do Sul, he reached the rank of Marshal of the Brazilian Army, and held the post of Minister of War in the government of the previous president, Marshal Castelo Branco.

His government started the most oppressive stage of the military regime against communists, which would be continued and expanded under his successor, General Emílio Garrastazu Médici.

It was during Costa e Silva's term of government that the decree known as the AI-5 (Institutional Act 5) was promulgated. This law gave the president the power to dismiss the National Congress, strip politicians of their offices of power, and institutionalize repressive methods of rule against left-wing parties and individuals.


  • Biography 1
    • Military career 1.1
    • Presidency 1.2
  • Bibliography 2
  • References 3
  • See also 4


Military career

Several sources erroneously suggest that Costa e Silva's parents were Portuguese from Madeira. In fact, both his parents were Brazilians, although one of his great-grandparents was a Portuguese immigrant from Lisbon.[1] Costa e Silva began his military career by entering the Military College of Porto Alegre, where he finished first of his class and commander of the cadet corps. He entered the Escola Militar de Realengo in Rio de Janeiro in 1918, where he finished third of his class. Made an aspirant on January 18, 1921, he was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in 1922 and was stationed with the 1st Infantry Regiment in Vila Militar until July 5 of that year.

Costa e Silva was promoted to general on August 2, 1952 and reached the final rank of Army General on November 25, 1961. He underwent training, as part of a joint program, in the United States of America from January to June 1944, after having been an assistant instructor of general tactics at the School for Command and the Army General-Staff. He served as a military attaché in Argentina from 1950 to 1952, and was then appointed to command of the 3rd Military Region (Rio Grande do Sul) from 1957 to 1959, and even later command of the 4th Army (Pernambuco) from August 1961 to September 1962. He was then appointed chief of the General Personnel Department and then the chief of the Department of Production and Works.

During the government of João Goulart, Costa e Silva put down student left-wing demonstrations that broke out in the Northeast and was removed from command of the 4th Army. At the end of 1963, He actively participated in the plot that overthrew Goulart's presidency (identified with Communism during the Cold War), who the military accused of planning a coup d'état. Shortly thereafter Costa e Silva was appointed the Minister of War just after of victory of the 1964 Brazilian Revolution on April 1, 1964 and remained in that position after the start of Castelo Branco government that was inaugurated several weeks later on April 15.

As Minister of War, Costa e Silva defended the interests of the so-called hardliners during the Cold War, the ultraright faction of the Armed Forces. As such he was considered an acceptable candidate to succeed Castelo Branco as president. This also served well to isolate more moderate soldiers – such as future president Ernesto Geisel and his future auxiliary Golbery do Couto e Silva- from posts of responsibility.

While Costa e Silva was campaigning for the Presidency of the Republic, he barely escaped death during a left-wing terrorist attack at Guararapes International Airport in Recife on July 25, 1966. The attack happened while he was waiting alongside around 300 other people at the airport. Several men were left dead or injured in what became known as the Attack of the Guararapes. Since the airplane that was supposed to take him had broken down earlier that day in João Pessoa, Costa e Silva decided to leave Recife by automobile, thereby avoiding the assault.


Drawing commissioned for The New York Times, 1966. By Reginald Gray

Under the constitution of 1966, the president was to be elected indirectly, by an absolute majority of both houses of Congress. Since Congress was dominated by the military-backed National Renewal Alliance Party (ARENA), the presidential campaign essentially ended when Costa e Silva was nominated as ARENA's candidate. He was duly elected on October 3, 1966 and sworn in on March 15, 1967.

The new president suppressed the Broad Front (Frente Ampla), an opposition movement that had brought together politicians from the pre-1964 period. He fought against inflation, revised government salaries and enlarged exterior trade. He also began a reform of the administrative organs, expanded the communication and transportation systems, but failed to resolve the problems in the education system. His period was used as a basis of the "Brazilian Miracle" – a growth rate ranging from 9–10% per year.

In 1968, the death of college sophomore Edson Luís de Lima Souto in a confrontation with a police officer provoked a massive protest (The Hundred Thousand March) in Rio de Janeiro. The political situation worsened in August, when deputy Márcio Moreira Alves recommended in a speech that young women should refuse to dance with military cadets in an act of protest against the military regime. The government asked the National Congress to prosecute the deputy. This was too much even for the ARENA-dominated legislature, which turned down the request. Costa e Silva then called together the Council of National Security and published a decree known as AI-5 (Institutional Act 5). It gave him the power to summarily close Congress or any state legislature, rule by decree and summarily dismiss state governors. For all intents and purposes, AI-5 placed Brazil under a tight dictatorship. Under the provisions of this act, Costa e Silva closed Congress, as well as the legislatures of all states except São Paulo, for over two years.

Armed resistance against Costa e Silva's government intensified in 1969. The most serious case of terrorism took place on June 26, 1969 when Diógenes José Carvalho de Oliveira, Pedro Lobo de Oliveira and José Ronaldo Tavares de Lira e Silva, members of an eleven-man terrorist cell that was part of the People's Revolutionary Vanguard (VPR), managed to detonate a bomb at the General Headquarters of the 2nd Army in São Paulo. The car-bomb was launched (without a driver) towards the compound's front gate. The guards fired on the vehicle, which hit the external wall of the headquarters. Mário Kozel Filho, a soldier who was completing his compulsory military service and serving as a sentry on that day, left his post and ran towards the direction of the vehicle, trying to see if anyone was trapped inside. At that moment the car, filled with 50 kilograms of dynamite, exploded, damaging everything within a 300-meter radius around it. Kozel's body was ripped to pieces from the force of the explosion, and six other soldiers were seriously wounded. In response to this terrorist attack, the government intensified its repressive and subversive activities.

After suffering a cerebral thrombosis, Costa e Silva was stripped of presidential duties on August 31, 1969. Although Vice President Pedro Aleixo should have succeeded him, the three armed forces ministers instead took power as a military junta under the 12th Institutional Act. Costa e Silva legally remained president until October 14, when he was formally removed from office by the 16th Institutional Act.

Taking advantage of the opportunity, new amendments to the 1967 constitution were added that gave the already highly authoritarian document an even more repressive tone. However, it was overall less repressive than the AI-5. This "Constitutional Amendment no. 1", sometimes referred to as the Constitution of 1969, was passed into law by the junta before it gave power over to General Emílio Garrastazu Médici. Costa e Silva died on December 17 of that same year, the victim of a heart attack.

Due to the heavy-handed press censorship of the time, many people did not accept the official version of events about Costa e Silva's illness, instead believing he had been deposed by the more conservative elements of the military regime. Regardless of such theories, it has yet to be proven that Costa e Silva was anything else but seriously ill at the time of his removal.

Costa e Silva was to date the last Brazilian politician to be on the cover of the U.S. edition of TIME Magazine.[2]


  • KOIFMAN, Fábio (org.) – Presidentes do Brasil, Editora Rio, 2001.
  • PORTELLA DE MELLO, Jayme A Revolução e o Governo Costa e Silva, Editora Guavira, 1979.
  • SILVA, Hélio, Costa e Silva – 23º Presidente do Brasil, Editora Três, 1983.
  • TAVARES, Aurélio de Lyra,O Exército no Governo Costa e Silva, Editora Departamento de Imprensa Nacional, 1968.


  1. ^ KOIFMAN, Fábio. Presidentes Do Brasil: De Deodoro A Fhc.
  2. ^ Cover search results on TIME Magazine’s website
Political offices
Preceded by
Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco
President of Brazil
Succeeded by
Military Junta of 1969

See also

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