The Various Cold Wars – Brazil and Portugal on the Path to Conflict (1974-1988)

Please cite the paper as:
Diego Martins Dória Paulo and Mauricio Rezende Dias, (2024), The Various Cold Wars – Brazil and Portugal on the Path to Conflict (1974-1988), World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 1 2024, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy 80 years later, Looking at capitalism today in light of its past and possible future


In the midst of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the 25th of April in 2024, this paper initially analyzes the main currents of opinion regarding the first months after the Revolução dos Cravos, an event that marks both the Portuguese break with the Salazar regime and the decolonization of African countries under Portuguese command, such as Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde.

After the Junta de Salvação Nacional took power, in July 1974, the Portuguese Armed Forces imposed the name of Coronel Vasco Gonçalves as head of government. In five provisional governments that lasted until September 25, 1975, “Gonçalvismo” was characterized by great advances in nationalizations, agrarian reform, union unity and the proximity to the Portuguese Communist Party. The international debates of the time intensely overlapped with existing disputes about what the future of the former metropolis should be. With the help of new contemporary perspectives on the period, this paper seeks to map the main interpretations of this historical phenomenon in light of the concepts within the Cold War.

The so-called “Brazilian redemocratization” of the 1970s is the subject of historiographical debates that have lasted decades. From the point of view of this paper, this process cannot be understood without considering two vectors in conjunction, namely, the memory of the democratic regime before 1964, and the contradictions arisen within the regime established from that year onwards. We understand that the so-called Brazilian redemocratization, therefore, was a field of struggle between social groups with different expectations. These different forces, when correlated, left lasting effects, although certainly unequal.

It is in this environment that we identify two missions that were sent from the United States Department of State to Brazil in the 1970s and that lasted years. These msisions also covered other Latin American and African countries considered to have structural “political problems”. The team that arrived in the country was made up of academics and managers that belonged to important North American entities. The Brookings Institution, which gives its name to one of the missions, is clearly the main protagonist. The missions visited several Brazilian cities and states, had important meetings not only in the Brazilian Congress but also with research institutions on “public policies” – the Getúlio Vargas Foundation received special attention.

These missions came to exchange political technologies. In Brazil, they aimed to develop a research institute openly modeled on the Brookings Institution. From Brazil, they certainly learned lessons that authoritarian governments can teach – we do not have detailed documents on this point. Despite the fact that one side of the exchange is more visible than the other, the exchange is still evident.

In this sense, the study of these missions, within the Cold War, reveals the objective of disseminating a type of social organization that was the one in force in the so-called free world, that is to say the business form, in societies crossed by a conflict that calls into question how to live in society. And these missions did so by defending an organizational model of political action: the expansion of public policy institutes. This model, in practice, attempts to restrict political action to a group of people based on criteria of “knowledge”, the so-called technocracy. This group corresponded, albeit in its form, to the objective of democratic containment manifested by the 1964 coup d’état 64 that can be considered a clear reaction to the advances in popular mobilization in the 1960s.

Finally, the analysis of the two processes, namely the Portuguese and the Brazilian, might allow us to observe the outcomes of different social formations that develop in a period of political crisis. As this crisis has been permeated by the conceptual echoes of Socialism, Capitalism and Democracy, We are of the opinion that conducting a comparative analysis of both countries and time periods may provide us with the opportunity to gain a deeper comprehension of the manner in which certain social groups appropriated the major issues of the era in a variety of different ways and with a variety of different goals, as well as a better comprehension of the role that international dynamics played in the accomplishment of national political practices.

4 comment

  • Conference administrator says:

    Dear Authors,

    I would like to express appreciation for your insightful contribution regarding the Cold War in relation to the political scenario that took place in Brazil and Portugal.

    Afer readig your paper, I would like to inquire if, under the influence of the US, the Brazil- Portugal relations had any impact on the outcomes that are being investigated here.

    Maria Alejandra

    • Mauricio Dias says:

      Not the relations between Brazil and Portugal, but both Portugal and Brazil were strongly influenced by US policies in the period. In the case of Brazil, the involvement and encouragement of Think Tanks in the South American country was fundamental to the influence of the US in the country, making it difficult for a wider public to determine public policies. In the case of Portugal, the events that followed the Revolução dos Cravos, especially the period of Gonçalvismo, were marked by friction with the US, which turned to other political actors, such as the PS (Partido Socialista), to adjust the country to American influence.

  • Arturo Hermann says:

    It is an interesting analysis, also because Brazil-Portugal relations are at a juncture with the Europe-Latin America relations. So, the question becomes how to build, by overcoming the neoliberal export oriented (ephemeral) growth largely resting on the exploitation of labour force, a sustainable and progressive course of economic and social development. Another related question: can the Mercosul (and its possible strengthening) play a role in this respect?

    • Mauricio Dias says:

      I have serious doubts whether Mercosul alone has or will have the capacity to promote structural change in the South American economy, partly because its creation in 1991 did not hinder the growth of neoliberalism in South America, partly because its members themselves of the Mercosul differ regarding the status and importance of the bloc in relation to their national interests. Regarding relations between Mercosul and the European Union, especially regarding the possibility of free trade between the blocs, there is no clear answer for now. A free trade zone tends to strengthen existing productive structures, which is not particularly beneficial for Mercosul countries, however the exchange rate difference and macroeconomic policies that are sustainable in the long term and aimed at structural change can generate paths that lead to disruptive changes in the economy.

Submit your own comment

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b>
<blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>