In 1978, as striking metalworkers, students, and a revitalized political opposition challenged the Brazilian military regime from without, a stunning rebellion by the regime’s civilian allies in São Paulo undermined it from within. Dealing the regime a shocking political defeat, the delegates to the regime-allied political party’s state convention rejected the generals’ anointed gubernatorial candidate and narrowly nominated the rebel Paulo Maluf, who would go on to be confirmed by a manipulated electoral college. Although Maluf and the delegates did not challenge the regime on ideological grounds, the mix of resentment, regionalism, and personal rivalries that drove their insurrection and the generals’ reluctant tolerance of it highlight the fragility of the regime’s support among those who were thought to be its most stalwart allies. Moreover, Maluf’s selection demonstrates key differences between the Brazilian military regime and its Southern Cone counterparts and expands our understanding of how authoritarian regimes placed constraints upon and were in turn constrained by civilian political elites.

You do not currently have access to this content.