Courtesy Reuters

Brazil - All Power to the Generals

In 1964 the army and the technocrats seized power in Brazil. Forging an alliance with industrial and financial interests, this coalition has revitalized a sagging economy and made sweeping political changes. The authoritarian and efficient régime that has emerged is cheered by business and at least tacitly accepted by the middle classes prizing their greater economic security. A smaller number among the 90,000,000 Brazilians have deplored the destruction of democratic forms and the severe curbs on political and civil rights. But this opposition has hardly affected the evolution toward a new political-economic system.

Through ambitious reforms, the economists have restructured important sectors of business and finance. Their policies stimulated a remarkable recovery. In the early sixties, Brazil's economy had stopped growing. Although industrial production was down, inflation rates reached 70 percent per annum. Moreover, the foreign credit that was crucial to Brazil's development strategy dried up. Today, seven years after the military takeover, the inflation rate is below 20 percent and the problem is under control. The economy grows at a striking nine percent per year, exports show marked gains, foreign exchange reserves stand at over $1 billion, and foreign capital once again flows in. Before 1964 the country had achieved self-sufficiency in most durable consumer goods. In a bold three-year plan issued in late 1970, the economic managers contemplate for the near future the domestic manufacture of most capital goods, development of nuclear power, and a massive absorption of technology.

The military leaders have been active in redesigning other phases of national life. Weary of the "excesses" that developed under the prior democratic forms of government, they doubt that those forms can service Brazil's present needs and ambitions. The military has tried to impose upon political life the more austere standards and discipline of the barracks. In this process, a model for a long-term authoritarian régime-with some totalitarian trappings-is slowly emerging.

Hundreds of politicians have been stripped of rights to hold office or driven into exile. Elections have been either cancelled, turned into farces, or

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