Juscelino Kubitschek

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His Excellency
Juscelino Kubitschek
21st President of Brazil
In office
31 January 1956 – 31 January 1961
Vice President João Goulart
Preceded by Nereu Ramos
Succeeded by Jânio Quadros
Member of the Federal Senate
from Goiás
In office
4 October 1961 – 8 June 1964
Preceded by Taciano Melo
Succeeded by João Abraão
22nd Governor of Minas Gerais
In office
31 January 1951 – 31 March 1955
Vice Governor Clóvis Salgado
Preceded by Milton Campos
Succeeded by Clóvis Salgado
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
In office
1 February 1946 – 30 January 1951
Constituency Minas Gerais
In office
3 May 1935 – 10 November 1937
Constituency Minas Gerais
Member of the Constituent Assembly
In office
1 February 1946 – 18 September 1946
Constituency Minas Gerais
23rd Mayor of Belo Horizonte
In office
23 October 1940 – 30 October 1945
Nominated by Benedito Valadares
Preceded by José de Araújo
Succeeded by João Gusmán
Personal details
Born Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira
(1902-09-12)September 12, 1902
Diamantina, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Died August 22, 1976(1976-08-22) (aged 73)
Resende, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nationality Brazilian
Political party (PSD) Social Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Sarah Kubitschek
Children Márcia Kubitschek
Maria Estela Kubitschek
Alma mater UFMG
Profession Physician, politician

Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʒuseˈlinu kubiˈtʃɛk dʒi oliˈvejɾɐ]; September 12, 1902 – August 22, 1976), known also by his initials JK, was a prominent Brazilian politician who was President of Brazil from 1956 to 1961. His term was marked by economic prosperity and political stability,[1] being most known for the construction of a new capital, Brasília.

A leader who favored long-term planning and who set high goals for Brazil's future, Kubitschek is viewed inside the country as the father of modern Brazil. He stands among the politicians whose legacy is held most favorably.


Childhood home of Kubitschek in Diamantina, Minas Gerais.

Kubitschek was born into a poor family in Diamantina, Minas Gerais.[2] His father, João César de Oliveira (1872–1905), who died when Juscelino was two years old, was a traveling salesman. He was raised by his mother, a schoolteacher named Júlia Kubitschek (1873–1973),[3] of Czech and Romani origin.[4]

An excellent student, Kubitschek was trained as a medical doctor and elected to the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil from his home state in 1934. With the imposition of Getúlio Vargas' dictatorship in 1937, Kubitschek returned to practicing medicine. However, he was soon appointed mayor of Belo Horizonte in 1940. There, he realized the project of an artificial lake (Pampulha Lake) to supply water to the city and also an architectural complex, with several buildings designed by renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer.

He was again elected to the National Congress of Brazil in 1945 and became governor of the state of Minas Gerais in 1950. In 1955, he ran for president with the slogan "fifty years of progress in five" and won.

He was sworn in on January 31, 1956, as President of what was then known as the Republic of the United States of Brazil.


President Kubitschek and some cabinet members on inauguration day.

Kubitschek's presidency was marked by a time of political optimism. He launched the "Plan of National Development", also known as the "Plano de metas (Goals' plan)", famous by the motto: "Fifty years of progress in five."

The plan had 31 goals distributed in six large groups: energy, transports, food, base industries, education and the main goal, the construction of Brasilia. This plan sought to stimulate the diversification and expansion of the Brazilian economy, based on industrial expansion and integration of the national territory.

Guarantor of democracy

His government was marked by a time of political stability and maintenance of the democratic regime. Kubitschek used his outstanding political ability to reconcile Brazilian society. He managed to rebuild the government structure, as he transferred the capital from Rio de Janeiro to its new location in Brasilia.

He avoided any direct clash with his political adversaries, like the UDN, the main opposition party of the Kubitschek administration. He also gave political amnesty to the men who took part in the Jacareanga and Aragarças military revolts.

Economy and major works

Although his main project was to develop the national industry, it was with the "Goals plan", launched in 1956, that there was a greater opening of the national economy for foreign capital. He exempted from taxes all the machines and industrial equipments imports, as well as to the foreign capital. However, the exemption was made only if the foreign capital was associated with the national capital ("associated capital"). To amplify the internal market, he developed a generous credit policy.

He promoted the development of the automobile industry, naval industry, heavy industry, and the construction of hydro-electric power stations. With the exception of the hydro-electric industry, Juscelino practically created an economy without state-owned companies. He also had a very progressive agenda on the Education front, however that was never carried out.

Kubitschek also cared a lot for the construction of the great transregional roads. He was criticized for focusing only in road construction and putting aside the rail transportation. Today, this decision is still controversial. Still, the construction of the roads helped the integration of the Amazonic region, together with the construction of Brasilia.

The economy boomed, but some critics blamed him later for the inflation and debt. In fact, the development shown under his leadership suffered a lot in the '70s and '80s exactly because of the industrialization boom. With a stronger industry and thus more dependent on energy resources, Brazil has been one of the countries that most suffered from the oil crisis of '73 and '79. Having to import over 80% of its consumption, the quadrupling of oil prices greatly contributed to Brazil's debt, inflation and lacking competitiveness.

By the end of his term, the foreign debt had grown from 87 million dollars to 297 million dollars. The inflation and wealth inequality had grown larger, with the occurrence of rural-zone strikes that expanded to the urban areas. However, the minimum wage from that time is still considered the highest in any moment of the Brazilian history.

Kubitschek ended his time in office with a growth of 80% in industrial production but with an inflation rate of 43%.

The construction of Brasília

Construction of Brasília, 1959.

The idea of building a new capital in the center of the country was already idealized in the Brazilian constitutions of 1891, 1934 and 1946, but it was only in 1956 that planning began to take form in response to Kubitschek's campaign promise to develop the interior.

The work, led by urban planner Lucio Costa, architect Oscar Niemeyer and landscape designer Roberto Burle Marx, started in February 1957. More than 200 machines were put to work and 30,000 workers came from every part of the country, though most from the northeast. The construction went on day and night to meet the objective of finishing Brasília by April 21, 1960, in a homage to the Inconfidência Mineira. A completely new capital city, its streets, government palaces, infrastructure, living facilities, etc., suddenly emerged in the middle of a savanna in just 41 months, and before the target date. As soon as it was inaugurated, Brasília was considered a masterpiece of modern urbanism and modern architecture.

But Brasilia's importance is not confined to its modernist architecture. Its importance is rather more visible in its strategic role in integrating Brazil's farthest regions, bringing development to unpopulated areas and guaranteeing Brazil's cultural and territorial unity once and for all.

Together with the construction of Brasilia, many roads linking Brazil's vast territory were built. One particularly important example is the construction of the Belém-Brasilia road. Before, the only way to go from Rio or São Paulo to Belém was via ship on the Atlantic Ocean. During the Second World War, this weak link had been blocked by German U-Boats, virtually disrupting all commerce.

Juscelino Kubitschek and his wife Sarah. Monument in front of the J. Kubitschek Memorial in Brasilia.

The new capital was soon to help integrate all the Brazilian regions, create jobs and absorb a workforce from the Brazilian Northeast, and to stimulate the economy of the Central-west and North but a lot of accidents happened during the construction of Brasilia and the government did not mention it.[5]


Kubitschek was not free from controversies and was often accused of corruption. In Brazilian history, he remains the president with the greatest list of achievements, so he was vulnerable to attacks from all sides. The accusations began at the time he was governor and intensified during his presidency. The building of Brasília was the main source of accusations. There were serious reasons to believe that people from Juscelino's political group had been favored in the construction. Also, the Brazilian Pan-Air held a monopoly on people and goods transportation during the construction, another source of controversy. Inflation increased during his administration.[5]

During his time in office, Time Magazine said that he had the seventh greatest fortune in the world, a claim that was never proven. In fact, upon his death many years later, it was shown he had earned very modest means. This did not stop a candidate for the next presidency, Jânio Quadros, from stating during his presidential campaign that he would "sweep the corruption out of the country". Later, during the military regime, Juscelino would be questioned about the corruption allegations and about his supposed ties with communist groups.

Kubitschek was succeeded by Jânio Quadros in 1961. After the military took power in 1964, Kubitschek's political rights were suspended for 10 years. He went into self-imposed exile and stayed in numerous U.S. and European cities.[6]

Return to Brazil and death

The JK Memorial
Crypt at Memorial.

He returned to Brazil in 1967, but died in a car crash in 1976, near the city of Resende in the state of Rio de Janeiro. 350,000 mourners were present at his burial in Brasília. He is now buried in the JK Memorial in Brasilia, which was opened in 1981.

On April 26, 2000, the left-wing former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Leonel Brizola, alleged that the ex-presidents of Brazil, João Goulart and Kubitschek, were assassinated as part of Operation Condor, and requested the opening of investigations into their deaths. They were originally reported to have died respectively of a heart attack and a car accident.[7][8] On March 27, 2014, an official commission appointed by President Dilma Rousseff thoroughly investigated Juscelino Kubitschek's death and concluded that he was not assassinated.[9]


Statue of Juscelino Kubitschek in the square that bears his name, in Belo Horizonte.

The Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport of Brasília, the Juscelino Kubitschek bridge and Juscelino Kubitschek Power Plant are named after him. There is also a luxury hotel named Kubitschek Plaza located in that city.

Many cities have things named after him, such as Juscelino Kubitschek, Santa Maria. "JK" is a ubiquitous acronym honoring the ex-president, who is often seen by Brazilians as the "father of modern Brazil".


In 1980, his daughter Márcia Kubitschek (1942–2000) married Cuban-American ballet star Fernando Bujones. Márcia Kubitschek was elected to the National Congress of Brazil in 1987 and served as lieutenant governor of the Federal District from 1991 to 1994.

See also


  • Alexander, Robert J. Juscelino Kubitschek and the Development of Brazil. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1991. ISBN 0-89680-163-2
  • Bojunga, Cláudio. JK: o artista do impossível. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Objetiva, 2001. ISBN 85-7302-407-0 (Portuguese)


  1. "HOMENAGEADOS › JUSCELINO KUBITSCHEK". Centro Cultural Oscar Niemeyer (in Portuguese). Retrieved 22 February 2015.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "10 em Tudo". 10 em Tudo. Retrieved 2012-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Júlia Kubitschek". GeneAll.net. Retrieved 2012-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Jan Nepomuscky Kubitschek". GeneAll.net. Retrieved 2012-11-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "O verdadeiro JK". Opinião e Notícia. Retrieved August 8, 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Áudio histórico imperdivel o ex presidente juscelino kubitscheck sabendo que ia ser cassado se dirige pela última vez ao povo brasileiro". Veja. Retrieved August 8, 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 'Brasil examina su pasado represivo en la Operación Cóndor', El Mostrador, May 11, 2000
  8. 'Operación Cóndor: presión de Brizola sobre la Argentina', El Clarín, May 6, 2000

External links

  • "The Man from Minas". Time Magazine. February 13, 1956.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
Political offices
Preceded by
José Oswaldo de Araújo
Mayor of Belo Horizonte
Succeeded by
João Gusman Júnior
Preceded by
Milton Soares Campos
Governor of Minas Gerais
Succeeded by
Clóvis Salgado da Gama
Preceded by
Nereu Ramos
President of Brazil
Succeeded by
Jânio Quadros