’64 Coup’: Censorship, violence and repression marked the ‘Years of Lead’ of the Military Dictatorship

A student is carried by army officers after a confrontation between military and students in Rio de Janeiro. (Evandro Teixeira)

Marcela Leiros – Cenarium Magazine

MANAUS – 58 years ago, on March 31, 1964, a period of violence, censorship and repression against the regime’s opponents started in Brazil. The military dictatorship, known as the “Years of Lead”, lasted 21 years, had five military mandates and instituted 16 institutional acts – legal mechanisms that overlapped the Constitution. But although it seems like a relatively distant period in the country’s history, the current political and social context gives indications that if democracy is not permanently defended, the past can become present.

The military coup put an end to the government of João Goulart, Jango. On that day, Army tanks were sent to Rio de Janeiro, where the president was. Three days later, he left for exile in Uruguay and a military junta took over power in Brazil. From then on, an authoritarian agenda was started to modernize the country and bar the social movements that were active in the period.


“At the time, the world was living the Cold War. American fear of the Cuban Revolution, Kennedy’s ‘Condor Plan’, which foresaw the militarization of Latin America, and João Goulart’s populist government, which was aligned with the left, led to the coup”, explains historian Cleomar Lima.

Burial of student Edson Luís. (Arquivo Nacional, Correio da Manhã)

The historian also reminds that history seems to repeat itself. Recently, the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) banned political demonstrations at one of Brazil’s biggest music festivals, Lollapalooza. The decision came after singer Pabllo Vittar shouted “out Bolsonaro” and raised the flag of former president Lula during a performance. The episode caused great repercussion and was considered by jurists and artists as censorship.

“The thing is much more serious than we think and the coup is coming through the republican institutions. Censorship, the TSE apparatus, salary increases only for police officers, appointments of federal delegates who are in line with the government’s excesses, parallel governments in health, education, digital militias. This is just the tip of the iceberg”, explains Lima.

Students arrested at the General Severiano stadium. (Public Archive of the State of Rio de Janeiro)


The Ministry of Defense released on Wednesday, March 30, the text of the March 31 agenda, to be read this Thursday, March 31, in the military units, in which it states that the military coup of 1964 resulted in “strengthening democracy. The text is signed by the Minister of Defense, General Braga Netto, and by the Army, Navy and Air Force commanders.

“In the years following March 31, 1964, Brazilian society conducted a period of stabilization, security, economic growth, and political maturity, which resulted in the reestablishment of peace in the country, the strengthening of democracy, the rise of Brazil in the concert of nations, and the approval of the broad, general, and unrestricted amnesty by the National Congress,” the text says.

“They left us a legacy of peace, freedom, and democracy, non-negotiable values, whose preservation demands from all Brazilians an eternal commitment to the law, to institutional stability, and to the popular will,” states the Agenda.

See photos from the “Years of Lead”:

To CENARIUM, political scientist Carlos Santiago emphasizes that there is a nostalgic feeling from sectors of the military, and also from political activists, about the period of the Military Dictatorship, including testimonials in favor of torture, censorship, and aggression against opponents.

“The Military Coup of 1964 should not be celebrated, it should not be applauded. This date serves for the country to reflect on a past that should be remembered as a great evil. Political, economic, and social problems cannot be solved with dictatorships, aggressions, and censorship. They are solved democratically, through dialogue, conversation, pacts, and clean and free elections. Whoever celebrates the coup of 1964 is very distant from democratic values. The current government was not elected to defend or impose censorship, it was elected to respect the Constitution”, Santiago highlights.

Carlos Santiago is a sociologist, political analyst and lawyer (Release)

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