This book is less a study of the “hard line” military than it is of the era of Emílio Garrastazu Médici. Drosdoff was a journalist with UPI in Brazil during those years, and he writes knowledgeably of the development of what came to be called “the system.” The book does not provide an analysis of which officers comprised the “hard line,” nor how they came to differ from the moderate “Sorbonne” group associated with the Escola Superior de Guerra. But, that shortcoming aside, it is a brief, straightforward review of the most critical period in Brazil’s 21-year military republic.
Drosdoff describes the golpe of 1964, the shift from a quick housecleaning under Humberto Castello Branco to a long-term authoritarian strategy under Médici. He observed that the latter “illustrated how a general could remain in power without popular support, without a political machine and without a well-defined program” (p. 31). He gives useful summaries of the deteriorating relations with the United States; the rapid growth in the economy; the resulting strains in labor relations; the struggle with the church; the use of colossal projects, such as the transamazonic highways and the Itaipú dam, for propaganda purposes; and the rise of the military-technocratic alliance. The determined projection of Brazil as a growing world power led to uneasiness in Argentina and tensions with smaller neighboring states. But he notes that the example of Brazil’s military government also encouraged the Argentine, Chilean, Bolivian, and Uruguayan officers to seize power. The mix of authoritarian rule and economic growth was an attractive beacon.
The book is based on information gleaned from the Brazilian press, some government documents, interviews with Brazilian figures and U.S. observers, and the studies of Brazilianists. Though specialists will find works by Thomas Skidmore, Alfred Stepan, and Ronald Schneider more complete, Drosdoff has made an important era accessible to the Brazilian public.