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Antonio Salazar
Antonio Salazar
101st Prime Minister of Portugal
In office:
July 5, 1932 - September 25, 1968
President: Oscar Carmona (July 5, 1932-April 18, 1951)
Himself (interim) (April 18, 1951-August 9,1951)
Francisco Lopes (August 9, 1951-August 9, 1958)
Americo Thomaz (August 9, 1958-September 25, 1968)
Preceded by: Domingos Oliviera
Succeded by: Marcello Caetano
Minister for Finances
In office:
June 3, 1926 - June 19, 1926
Prime Minister: Jose Mendes Cabecadas
Preceded by: Armando Manuel Marques Guedes
Succeeded by: Filomeno da Camara de Melo Cabral
In office:
April 28, 1928-August 28, 1940
Prime Minister: Jose Vicente de Freitas (April 28, 1928-July 8,1928)
Arthur Ivens Ferraz (July 8, 1928-January 1, 1930)
Domingos Oliveria (January 21, 1930-July 5, 1932)
Himself (July 5, 1932-Agust 28, 1940)
Preceded by: Joao Jose Sinel de Cordes
Succeeded by: Joao Pinto da Costa Leite, 4th Conde de Lumbrales
Minister of the Colonies
In office:
January 21, 1930 - July 20, 1930
Prime Minister: Domingos Oliviera
Preceded by: Jose Bacelar Bebiano
Succeded by: Eduardo Augusto Marques
Minister of Defence
In office:
July 5, 1932-August 2, 1950
Prime Minister: Himself
Preceded by: Post created
Succeded by: Santos Costa
In office:
April 13, 1961 - December 4, 1962
Prime Minister: Himself
Preceded by: Julio Botelho Moniz
Succeded by: Gomes de Araujo
Minister of War
In office:
May 11, 1936 - September 6, 1944
Prime Minister: Himself
Preceded by: Abilio Passos e Sousa
Succeded by: Santos Costa
Born: April 28, 1889
Vimieiro, Santo Comba Dao, Portugal
Died: July 27, 1970 (aged 82)
Lisbon, Portugal
Birth name: Antonio de Oliveira Salazar
Political party: Academic Centre of Christian Democracy, later National Union
Spouse: Single; Never married
Occupation: Professor (economics and political economy)
Religion: Roman Catholic

António de Oliveira Salazar, Order of Infante D. Henrique, Order of the Tower and Sword, Order of St. James of the Sword(April 28, 1889 – July 27, 1970), served as the Prime Minister and dictator of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. He was the President of the Republic in 1951, as interim. He founded and led the Estado Novo ("New State"), the authoritarian, right-wing government that presided over and controlled Portugal from 1932 to 1974.


Salazar was born in Santa Comba Dão to a family of modest income. His father, a small landowner, had started as an agricultural labourer and became the manager of a distinguished family of rural landowners of the region of Santa Comba Dão, the Perestrelos, who possessed lands and other assets scattered between Viseu and Coimbra. He had four older sisters, and was the only male child of two fifth cousins, António de Oliveira (Santa Comba Dão, Santa Comba Dão, Vimieiro, 17 January 1839 – Santa Comba Dão, Santa Comba Dão, Vimieiro, 28 September 1932) and wife (m. Santa Comba Dão, Santa Comba Dão, 4 May 1881/1884) Maria do Resgate Salazar (Santa Comba Dão, Santa Comba Dão, 23 October 1845 – Santa Comba Dão, Santa Comba Dão, Vimieiro, 17 November 1926), whose paternal grandfather was a landowner and a nobleman; despite the knowledge of his ancestry Salazar always preferred to claim humble origins. His older sisters were Maria do Resgate Salazar de Oliveira, an Elementary School teacher, Elisa Salazar de Oliveira, Maria Leopoldina Salazar de Oliveira and Laura Salazar de Oliveira, who in 1887 married Abel Pais de Sousa, whose brother Mário Pais de Sousa was Salazar's Interior Minister, sons of a family of Santa Comba Dão, Santa Comba Dão.

Rise to power

He studied at the Viseu Seminary from 1900 to 1914 and considered becoming a priest, but changed his mind. He studied Law at Coimbra University during the first years of the Republican government.

As a young man, his involvement in politics stemmed from his Roman Catholic views, which were aroused by the new anti-clerical Portuguese First Republic. Writing in Catholic newspapers and fighting in the streets for the rights and interests of the church and its followers were his first forays into public life.

During Sidónio Pais's brief dictatorship from 1917 to 1918, Salazar was invited to become a minister, but declined. He formally entered politics in the following years, joining the conservative Catholic Centre, and was elected to Parliament but left it after one session. He taught political economy at the University of Coimbra.

After the 28th May 1926 coup d'état, he briefly joined José Mendes Cabeçadas's government as the 71st Minister of Finance on June 3, 1926 but quickly resigned, explaining that since disputes and social disorder existed in the government, he could not do his work properly. Later again he became the 81st finance minister on April 26, 1928 after the Ditadura Nacional was consolidated, paving the way for him to be appointed the 101st prime minister in 1932. He remained finance minister until 1940, when World War II consumed his time.

His rise to power is due to three factors: the good image he was able to build as an effective finance minister, President Carmona's strong support, and shrewd political positioning. The totalitarian government consisted of a right-wing coalition, and Salazar was able to co-opt the moderates of each political current while fighting the extremists, using censorship and repression. The Catholics were his earliest and most loyal supporters, although some resented the continued separation of church and state. The conservative republicans who could not be co-opted became his most dangerous opponents during the early period. They attempted several coups, but never presented a united front, so these coups were easily repressed. Never a true monarchist, Salazar nevertheless gained most of the monarchists' support, as he had the support of the exiled deposed king, who was given a state funeral at the time of his death. The National Syndicalists were torn between supporting the regime and denouncing it as bourgeois. As usual, they were given enough symbolic concessions to win over the moderates, and the rest were repressed by the political police. They were to be silenced shortly after 1933, as Salazar attempted to prevent the rise of National Socialism in Portugal. Salazar also supported Francisco Franco and the Nationalists in their fight against the left-wing groups of the Spanish Republic. The Nationalists lacked ports early on, and Salazar's Portugal helped receive armaments shipments from abroad - including ammunition early on when certain Nationalist forces were virtually out. Because of this, "the Nationalists referred to Lisbon as 'the port of Castile.'"

The prevailing view, at the time, of political parties as elements of division and parliamentarism as being in crisis led to general support, or at least tolerance, of an authoritarian regime.

In 1933, Salazar introduced a new constitution which gave him wide powers, establishing an anti-parliamentarian and authoritarian government that would last four decades.

Estado Novo

Elementos da escola salazarista

Required elements of primary schools during the Estado Novo: a portrait of Salazar, cross crucifix, and a portrait of Americo Thomaz

Salazar developed the "Estado Novo" (literally, New State). The basis of his regime was a platform of stability. Salazar's early reforms allowed financial stability and therefore economic growth. After the chaotic years of the Portuguese First Republic (1910–1926) when not even public order was achieved, this looked like an impressive breakthrough to most of the population, Salazar achieved then his height in popularity. This transfiguration of Portugal was then known as "A Lição de Salazar" - Salazar's Lesson.

Salazar didn't consider education a high priority and didn't spend much on it. Nevertheless, basic education was granted to all citizens, even if literacy levels were at a very low level for Western Europe. There was substantial investment in educational infrastructure. Many of the schools he created are still active today.

Salazar's regime was rigidly authoritarian. He based his political philosophy around a selective and regressive interpretation of Catholic social doctrine, much like the contemporary regime of Engelbert Dollfuß in Austria. The economic system, known as corporatism, was based on a similar interpretation of the papal encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno, which was supposed to prevent class struggle and supremacy of economics. Salazar himself banned Portugal's National Syndicalists, a true Fascist party, for being, in his words, a "Pagan" and "Totalitarian" party. Salazar's own party, the National Union, was formed as a subservient umbrella organisation to support the regime itself, and was therefore lacking in any ideology independent of the regime. At the time many European countries feared the destructive potential of communism. Many neutral states in World War II, from the Baltic to the Atlantic, at least in principle, sympathized with any state that would wage war on the Soviet Union. Salazar not only forbade Marxist parties, but also revolutionary fascist-syndicalist parties.

Salazar relied on the secret police for fighting the communists and other political movements that opposed the regime. At first the secret police was called PVDE (Polícia de Vigilância e Defesa do Estado). It had a Gestapo-inspired organization, and became better known by the name adopted from 1945 to 1969, Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado (PIDE). The secret police carried out the repression and elimination of dissidents especially those related to the international communist movement or the USSR. Constant references to the near-chaos that prevailed before 1926 served to keep the opposition in check until the 1950s.

Neutrality during World War II

During World War II, Salazar steered Portugal down a middle path, but nevertheless provided aid to the Allies: naval bases on Portuguese territory were granted to Britain, in keeping with the traditional Anglo-Portuguese alliance, and the United States, letting them use Terceira Island in the Azores as a military base; although he only agreed to this after the alternative of an American takeover by force of the islands was made clear to him by the British. Portugal, particularly Lisbon, was one of the last European exit points to the U.S., and a huge number of refugees found shelter in Portugal, many of them with the help from the Portuguese consul general in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who issued visas against Salazar's orders. Siding with the Axis would have meant that Portugal would have been at war with Britain, which would have threatened Portuguese colonies, while siding with the Allies might prove to be a threat to Portugal itself. Portugal continued to export tungsten and other goods to both the Axis (partly via Switzerland) and Allied countries.

Large numbers of Jews and political dissidents, including Abwehr personnel after the 20 July plot of 1944, sought refuge in Portugal, although until late 1942 immigration was very restricted.

Post-war Portugal


Portuguese Soldiers on patrol in Angola

The colonies were in disarray after the war. In 1945, Portugal had an extensive colonial Empire, including Cape Verde Islands, São Tomé e Principe, Angola (including Cabinda), Portuguese Guinea, and Mozambique in Africa; Goa, Damão (including Dadra and Nagar Haveli), and Diu in India; Macau in China; and Portuguese Timor in Southeast Asia. Salazar, a fierce integralist, was determined to retain control of Portugal's colonies.

The overseas provinces were a continual source of trouble and wealth for Portugal, especially during the Portuguese Colonial War. Portugal became increasingly isolated on the world stage as other European nations with African colonies gradually granted them independence.

Salazar wanted Portugal to be relevant internationally, and the country's overseas colonies made this possible, while Salazar himself refused to be overawed by the Americans. Portugal was the only non-democracy among the founding members of NATO in 1949, which reflected Portugal's role as an ally against communism during the Cold War. Portugal was offered help from the Marshall Plan because of the aid it gave to the Allies during the final stages of World War II; aid was initially refused but eventually accepted.

Throughout the 1950s, Salazar maintained the same import substitution approach to economic policy that had ensured Portugal's neutral status during World War II. The rise of the "new technocrats" in the early 1960s, however, led to a new period of economic opening up, with Portugal as an attractive country for international investment. Industrial development and economic growth would continue all throughout the 1960s. During Salazar's tenure, Portugal also participated in the founding of OECD and EFTA.

The Indian possessions were the first to be lost in 1961. After the Republic of India was formed upon independence on August 15, 1947, the British and the French vacated their colonial possessions in India. Nationalists in Goa launched a struggle for Portugal to leave, involving a series of strikes and civil disobedience movements by Indians against the Portuguese administration, which were suppressed. India made numerous offers to negotiate for the return of the colonies, but Salazar repeatedly rejected the offers. With an Indian military operation imminent, Salazar ordered Governor General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva to fight until the last man, and adopt a scorched-earth policy. Eventually, India launched Operation Vijay in Dec 1961 to seize control of Goa, Daman and Diu. 31 Portuguese soldiers were killed in action and a Portuguese Navy frigate NRP Afonso de Albuquerque was destroyed, before General Vassalo e Silva surrendered. Salazar forced the General into exile for disobeying his order to fight to the last man and surrendering to the Indian Army.

In the 1960s, armed revolutionary movements and scattered guerrilla activity had reached Mozambique, Angola, and Portuguese Guinea. Except in Portuguese Guinea, the Portuguese army and naval forces were able to effectively suppress most of these insurgencies through a well-planned counter-insurgency campaign using light infantry, militia, and special operations forces. Most of the world ostracized the Portuguese government because of its colonial policy, especially the newly-independent African nations.

At home, Salazar's regime remained unmistakably authoritarian. He was able to hold onto power with reminders of the instability that had characterized Portuguese political life before 1926. However, these tactics were decreasingly successful, as a new generation emerged which had no collective memory of this instability. In the 1960s, Salazar's opposition to decolonization and gradual freedom of the press created friction with the Franco dictatorship.

Economic policies

Economically, the Salazar years were marked by immensely increased growth. From 1950 until Salazar's death, Portugal saw its GDP per capita rise at an average rate of 5.66% per year. This made it the fastest growing economy in Europe. Indeed, the Salazar era was marked by an economic program based on the policies of autarky and interventionism, which were popular in the 1930s as a response to the Great Depression. However, during his tenure, Portugal was co-founder of OECD and EFTA. Financial stability was Salazar's highest priority. In order to balance the Portuguese budget and pay off external debts, the dictator instituted numerous taxes. Having adopted a policy of neutrality during World War II, Portugal could simultaneously loan the Base das Lages in the Azores to the Allies and export military equipment and metals to the Axis powers.

Colonialist ideology


Ian Smith in 1975

His reluctance to travel abroad, his increasing determination not to grant independence to the colonies and to stand against the "winds of change" announced by the British in their move to liberate their major colonies, and his refusal to grasp the impossibility of his regime outliving him, marked the final years of his tenure. "Proudly alone" was the motto of his final decade. For the Portuguese ruling regime, the overseas empire was a matter of national identity.

In order to support his colonial policies, Salazar adopted Gilberto Freyre's notion of Lusotropicalism, maintaining that since Portugal had been a multicultural, multiracial and pluri-continental nation since the 15th century, if the country were to be dismembered by losing its overseas territories, that would spell the end for Portuguese independence. In geopolitical terms, no critical mass would then be available to guarantee self-sufficiency to the Portuguese State. Salazar had strongly resisted Freyre's ideas throughout the 1930s, partly because Freyre claimed the Portuguese were more prone than other European nations to miscegenation, and only adopted Lusotropicalism after sponsoring Freyre on a visit to Portugal and its colonies in 1951-2. Freyre's work "Aventura e Rotina" was a result of this trip.

Salazar was a close friend of Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith: after Rhodesia proclaimed its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain, Portugal - though not officially recognizing the new Rhodesian state - supported Rhodesia economically and militarily through the neighbouring Portuguese colony of Mozambique.


In 1968, Salazar suffered a major stroke. Most sources maintain that it occurred when he fell from a chair in his summer house. On February 2009, though, there were anonymous witnesses who confessed, after some research about Salazar's most well-kept secrets, that the dictator had fallen in a bathtub instead of from a chair. In any event, Salazar's incapacity forced President Américo Thomaz to replace him with Marcelo Caetano on September 27, 1968. It is believed that to his dying day Salazar thought that he was still Prime Minister of Portugal, although this has been disputed. He died in Lisbon on July 27, 1970.

Tens of thousands, possibly many more, paid their last respects at the funeral and the Requiem Mass and at the passage of the special train that carried the coffin to his hometown of Santa Comba Dão, where he was buried according to his wishes in his native soil, next to his ancestors and the modest farmers of the region, in a plain ordinary grave. As a symbolic display of his views of Portugal and the Portuguese, there is well known footage of several members of the "Mocidade Portuguesa," of both African and European ethnicity, paying homage at his funeral.

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