Costa e Silva, Artur da

Costa e Silva, Artur da
   The “Old Uncle.” Army marshal and president of Brazil from March 1967 to October 1969. He was the second of five military presidents following the 1964 coup that toppled the left-leaning President João Goulart. The military ruled until 1985.
   Costa e Silva was born in the town of Taquarí, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul. He graduated from a preparatory military academy in Porto Alegre and then began his military career, in 1921, as a cadet at the Escola Militar do Realengo, the national military academy in Rio de Janeiro. One of his fellow students was Humberto de Alencar Castello Branco, another future military president. His subsequent training included a course at Fort Knox in the United States and a course for chiefs of staff in Argentina. In 1961 and 1962 he commanded the Fourth Army, in Brazil’s northeast. On 31 March and 1 April 1964 Costa e Silva conspired with Castello Branco in the coup against Goulart. Following the coup, Costa e Silva appointed himself the minister of war, and with the leaders of the air force and navy, he created the Comando Supremo Revolucionário (Supreme Military Command). The Comando handed power to Castello Branco, who was sworn in as president on 15 April. In the weeks following the coup, the military engaged in a “dirty war” against suspected leftists, arresting thousands, many of whom were tortured. The terror subsided, but Castello Branco turned the country into an authoritarian state. He removed political opponents from office and replaced existing political parties with a two-party system under military control.
   On 15 March 1967 Costa e Silva succeeded Castello Branco as president. Although he was the preferred candidate of the military hard-line, once in office he adopted a conciliatory stance and held talks with the opposition. This stance was abandoned, however, as the opposition began staging demonstrations and as armed guerrilla groups began to appear. On 13 December 1968 Costa e Silva was pressured by hard-liners into decreeing the fifth Ato Institucional (AI, Institutional Act), AI-5, which essentially made Brazil a military dictatorship. The president was still the head of state, but AI-5 shifted much of his power to the country’s security forces, whose methods included wiretapping and torture. Events in Brazil would now be monitored by Amnesty International.
   Costa e Silva suffered a stroke on 29 August 1969 and was succeeded in office, on 30 October, by General Emílio Garrastazú Médici. Costa e Silva died on 17 December 1969.

Historical Dictionary of the “Dirty Wars” . . 2010.

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