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Brazil: Waiting for Janio

3 minute read


Last week Brazil’s mercurial ex-President Jânio Quadros was homeward bound, by the slowest possible means. In Hong Kong he boarded a freighter that is not scheduled to reach Rio de Janeiro until March 9. Already, however, Brazilians were getting that old familiar feeling—”Here Comes Jânio.” In northeastern Maranhāo state, a federal deputy announced the formation of a national front to return Jânio Quadros to control of the nation he deserted five months ago in a tantrum against congressional obstruction. Quadros had been chosen President ten months earlier by 6,000,000 voters with the largest mandate in Brazil’s history. When he fled, Brazilians felt let down, and Quadros’ political career seemed ended at 44. Is Quadros bent on a comeback?

Divide & Drift. All the signs are that he is—and that many Brazilians, disillusioned by what has happened to them since, are ready to take him back, even if they still think he done them wrong. His departure last August shook Brazil to its foundation. Military brass attempted to bar demagogic and leftist Vice President Joāo (“Jango”) Goulart from Brasilia’s Palace of the Dawn, and for 13 days, Brazil seemed on the edge of a civil war. To keep peace, and to preserve its constitution, the country finally let Goulart take office as President but converted it self to a parliamentary regime so that Goulart could not do too much damage. Having thus divided power between the President and a Prime Minister, Brazil has been aimlessly drifting since.

The drive to bring back Quadros centers in the Popular Movement for Jânio Quadros. a Citizens-for-Eisenhower-type outfit now tuning up for the October congressional elections. The movement is working to get Quadros nominated for Parliament in every one of Brazil’s 21 states, and to push a full slate of pro-Quadros candidates. The hope is to win a parliamentary majority and thus sweep their hero into the prime ministership (which, in the hands of a strong-willed man with a fresh mandate, could be a powerful office).

“I, I, I.” Quadros. as usual, with a mysterious smile on his face, is waiting in the wings for the overture to end and the curtains to part. In 1959, while other politicians competed too stridently for public attention. Candidate Quadros wandered the world issuing vague proclamations, turning aside envoys who traveled to him to offer their support, and counting on the public’s memory of his able and corruption-free term as governor of populous Sāo Paulo State. Between his election and inauguration he again disappeared, leaving Brazilians to speculate about his policies, his Cabinet, his whereabouts. After his August abdication he sailed to England, then cruised on to Australia to stroll the beaches and remain uncommunicative.

To the many Brazilian political emissaries who have dogged his path around the world pleading for some sort of commitment, he has remained aloof. His latest comment was in character: “I shall return to Brazil at the opportune moment, and only I will decide when that moment arrives. I will make my own campaign when, how and where I want. I am not afraid of sneers, or veiled or ostensible threats. I have a destiny to fulfill, and I will do it.”

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