The Gazette | ES has 43 places named after presidents of the military dictatorship

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The country still has 918 locations whose names honor one of the five presidents of the period

Published on April 1, 2024 at 11:31 am

7min reading

Gabriel Hirabahasi and Caio Spechoto

In 1994, the state of the first civilian president after the military dictatorship, José Sarney’s Maranhão, created a new municipality and paid homage, with the name of the city, to the man who commanded the Brazilian military dictatorship in its bloodiest moments: Presidente Médici. This is the most recent of the six municipalities named after heads of government from the last authoritarian period in Brazil’s history. The others are Medicilândia (PA), another municipality called Presidente Médici (RO), Presidente Castelo Branco (PR), Presidente Castello Branco (SC) and Presidente Figueiredo (AM).

The tributes to the presidents of the military dictatorship do not stop there. Almost exactly 60 years after the coup, launched on March 31, 1964, which established the military dictatorship, the country still has 918 locations named after one of the five presidents of the period. In addition to municipalities, there are names of streets, squares and other public places. The data was obtained by Broadcast Político, from Estadão, from the Post Office.

In Espírito Santo, there are 43 places named after former presidents. Among these are the Castelo Branco neighborhood, in Cariacica; Avenida Presidente Costa Silva, in Bairro República; Avenida Presidente Emílio Garrastazu Médici, in Linhares; Rua Presidente Ernesto Beckmann Geisel, in Vila Nova de Colares, in Serra; and Rua João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo, in Guarapari and São Mateus.

Castelo Branco neighborhood in Cariacica is named after the former president of the military dictatorship
Castelo Branco neighborhood in Cariacica is named after the former president of the military dictatorship. (Cláudio Postay/PMC)

Read below how many of these tributes are paid today to each dictator of the military regime, which ended in 1985:

  • Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco – governed from 1964 to 1967, currently receiving 469 such honors;
  • Arthur da Costa e Silva – governed from 1967 to 1969, names 233 public places;
  • Emílio Garrastazu Médici – governed from 1969 to 1974, named 90 places;
  • Ernesto Beckmann Geisel – governed from 1974 to 1979, names 44 places;
  • João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo – governed from 1979 to 1985, names 82 places.

Professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and organizer of the book collection ‘Arquivos da Respiração no Brasil’, from Companhia das Letras, Heloísa Starling gave possible explanations for why the first two presidents of the authoritarian regime had so many more citations than the others three.

Starling stated that Castelo Branco was the main organizer of the coup within the Armed Forces. “He IS a military man who has been plotting since 1962,” she said. “Homaging Castelo means, for those who are paying this homage, paying homage to what appears to be the main military leader of the coup”, stated the researcher.

The second most honored, Costa e Silva, was already competing for power with Castelo Branco even before the coup, explained Starling. “He is the main leader, maybe that’s it [o motivo de tantos lugares terem seu nome]from a military faction that constantly calls for increased repression,” she said. “It is likely that the emphasis on Costa e Silva comes from this military faction that had a lot of dialogue in the Médici government,” said the professor. In 2024, the researcher launched the book ‘The coup machine’, which reconstructs step by step the seizure of power by the military 60 years ago.

One of the places that paid homage to Costa e Silva was one of the bridges over Lake Paranoá, in Brasília. In 2015, the Legislative Chamber of the Federal District approved a law to change the name to Honestino Guimarães, a student at the University of Brasília (UnB) who was imprisoned and tortured by the dictatorship and disappeared since 1973. The law was considered unconstitutional by the Federal Supreme Court ( STF) for technical reasons – the district deputies would not have completed one stage of the procedure, holding a public hearing on the topic.

The matter came up again in 2022, when the Legislative Chamber of the Federal District approved a new law, this time complying with all regulatory requirements. The person who proposed the text was Leandro Grass (PV-DF), former district deputy and current president of the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (Iphan). For the name to be changed, district deputies also had to overturn the veto of the governor, Ibaneis Rocha (MDB), who tried to maintain the tribute to Costa e Silva.

“It was a sense of honoring someone who opposed the violence and violations of the dictatorship. The bridge is there today with his name [Honestino] and becomes a point of memory of democracy and freedom”, said Grass.

Soon after the first name change, in 2016, there was a reaction from part of society. The sign that renamed the place was spray-painted with the words: “Costa e Silva! That’s the name!” Leandro Grass minimized the act. He said that there was more mobilization of society precisely to combat the graffiti.

“The mobilization in favor of change was greater and much more relevant. A group of people whose relatives were attacked and even people who did not have this experience, but got involved. Possible reactions [nesse sentido] they have to be treated with education, in the sense of historical formation. Human rights education, explanation of what actually happened [na ditadura militar]”, he stated.

When vetoing the proposal, Ibaneis mentioned previous attempts to change the name of the bridge. He concluded his veto message with the following arguments: “Given the importance and representation of the Costa e Silva Bridge for Brasília, its idealization by architect Oscar Niemeyer and the historical moment that cannot be forgotten, combined with the decision handed down by the Special Council of the Court of Justice of the Federal District and Territories, it is understood that this initiative is vetoed.”

Another emblematic place that until recently remembered General Costa e Silva is the Elevado João Goulart, known as “Minhocão”, in São Paulo. The name of the road, built by the former mayor of the capital of São Paulo Paulo Maluf (PP), was given in honor of Costa e Silva because he was the one who appointed Maluf as mayor (there was no election for the position at the time).

In 2016, the then mayor Fernando Haddad (PT) sanctioned a law approved by the São Paulo City Council changing the name of the place to Elevado João Goulart, in honor of the president deposed by the 1964 military coup. Maluf criticized the position at the time. He said it was a “prejudiced” decision. “200 years ago, Napoleon said: ‘People who have no memory have no history'”.

“João Goulart deserves a tribute, but Costa e Silva was president of the Republic and no one can erase from the history of Brazil that Costa e Silva was president of the Republic,” he stated.

Professor Heloísa Starling said that tributes to presidents of the military dictatorship in the names of public places help to support an authoritarian rather than democratic imaginary. “When you name the street after people, you are saying that the person did a great deed and needs to be remembered for that deed. The deed of these generals was the military dictatorship,” she said.

For the president of the Human Rights Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, Daiana Santos (PCdoB-RS), the tribute to the presidents of the military dictatorship also demonstrates that the country “did not know how to deal critically with its past”. “Both with slavery and with the military dictatorship. Unlike other countries, Brazil has not punished torturers and genocidaires. Our country has not yet turned this sad page in history”, said the federal deputy.

Government in silence

Broadcast Politico tried, since the beginning of last week, to obtain a position from the Ministry of Human Rights and Minister Silvio Almeida on the survey. First, the ministry’s press office reported that Almeida was fulfilling a schedule in Marajó. After the report informed that the interview could be over the phone or in writing, the department refused to grant the position. When formally questioned by email, the ministry also did not respond.

There is guidance, behind the scenes of the Executive, so that there are no statements that could cause friction with the military because of the 60-year anniversary of the military coup. As Estadão showed, the government ordered the cancellation of the acts referring to the date. The re-creation of the Special Commission on Political Deaths and Disappearances (CEMDP), an idea proposed by Silvio Almeida, has also been blocked.

Read below how many public places are named after one of the presidents of the military dictatorship in each state:

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