History of South America

Juscelino Kubitschek

Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira (1902-1976), known as JK, was a doctor and politician from Minas Gerais.

He was president of Brazil from 1956 to 1960 whose time is remembered as a time of optimism.


Juscelino Kubitschek was born in the city of Diamantina, Minas Gerais, on September 12, 1902.

Born into a humble family, he studied at the Diamantina Seminary, where he completed the humanities course.

In 1922, he entered the Medicine course at the Federal University of Belo Horizonte, completing it in 1927. He then studied surgery in Paris in 1931 and trained at the Charité Hospital in Berlin.

JK's Political Career

He entered politics at the hands of the federal intervenor of Minas Gerais, Benedito Valadares, where he served as his chief of staff.

In 1934, he was elected federal deputy, but lost his mandate due to the 1937 coup, which would establish the Estado Novo.

Between 1940 and 1945 he was mayor of Belo Horizonte, where he carried out important works such as the Pampulha complex with projects by Oscar Niemeyer.

With the deposition of Getúlio Vargas, new elections are disputed and Eurico Gaspar Dutra is elected president.

In turn, JK is elected federal deputy and participates in the drafting of the 1946 Constitution.

In 1950 he was elected governor of Minas Gerais. During his government in the state, he prioritized the binomial “energy and transport”. In this way, he created CEMIG (Centrais Elétricas de Minas Gerais) and built five plants for the production of electric energy.

Presidential Election

On October 3, 1955, Juscelino Kubitschek won the elections for president and João Goulart was vice president.

JK was elected by a coalition between the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (PTB), parties of Getulist origin. He assumed the presidency on January 31, 1956.

Upon assuming power, Juscelino Kubitschek established the motto of his economic policy, promising fifty years of progress in five government .

The Brazilian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by an average of 7% per year. In addition, the per capita rate has increased at a rate four times faster than the rest of Latin America.

After leaving the presidency, Jânio Quadros succeeded him and was elected senator for the state of Goiás. With the Military Coup of 64 and the publication of the AI-1 that canceled the mandates of politicians considered a threat to Brazil, JK withdraws from Congress.


Later, he decides to form the Frente Ampla that brought together renowned politicians against the military dictatorship like Carlos Lacerda.

However, the project ends tragically. Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira died on August 22, 1976, in a car accident while traveling from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro.

See also:Military Dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985)

Government of JK

The JK government is always remembered as “the golden years” in Brazilian history.

This is due to the developmental euphoria, which consisted of encouraging the country's economic progress by stimulating industrialization.

Equally, the optimism came from the construction of Brasilia, the new capital of the country, from bossa nova and from the first victory of the World Cup in 1958.

Plan of Goals to Develop Brazil

The overall coordination of the JK government's economic policy was based on the Plano de Metas.

Presented during the electoral campaign, the plan defined the main objectives to be achieved, grouped into five sectors:energy, transport, industry, education and food.

In an era of cheap oil, the Plano de Metas opted for road transport. 20,000 km of highways were built, most with private national capital.

Oil production jumped from two million barrels in 1955 to thirty million in 1960. Steel production, which was 1 million 150 thousand tons, reached 2 million 500 thousand tons in 1960.

In the consumer durables sector, numerous automobile and truck factories were installed, such as Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Willis Overland, General Motors and Ford.

See also:Industrialization in Brazil

Inflation and External Debt during the JK Government

To pay for the modernization of Brazil, JK had to resort to foreign capital.

Thus, sectors such as the cigarette industry, electrical equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electricity, registered a strong increase in the presence of multinationals.

The dominance of foreign capital became 80% to 90% in the national economy. Such factors contributed to the increase in inflation, which at the end of the government reached 25% per year.

The growth of the external debt worried foreign creditors. Thus, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demanded that the government adopt a recessive policy, with a reduction in emissions, so that Brazil could receive new loans.

JK refuses to accept IMF pressure and temporarily breaks with the organization.

Juscelino's term came to an end amid growing economic difficulties. Inflation and rising cost of living resulted in numerous strikes, especially in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Construction of Brasilia

The construction of Brasília is perhaps the most visible legacy of the JK government.

The transfer of the capital to the interior of Brazil required a large amount of human and financial resources.

The inflationary process was also fueled by the expenses of the works in Brasília, which was inaugurated in 1960.

See also:Federal District


  • Juscelino had a habit of taking off his shoes at any meeting. The fact was the delight of photographers who sometimes caught him with only his socks on.
  • One of JK's favorite songs was the song 'Peixe-Vivo', by Milton Nascimento and this was played at his funeral.
  • Across Brazil, streets and avenues are named after Juscelino Kubitschek. The house where he was born in Diamantina has also been transformed into a museum and in Brasília there is the JK Memorial that brings together objects and documents of the president and where he is buried.


  • “I believe in the final and inexorable victory of Brazil, as a Nation.”
  • “Forgiveness is the mark of greatness, especially when a higher goal is in view.”
  • “The optimist can make mistakes, but the pessimist starts making mistakes...”
  • “Let us leave those who did not understand and love this work to oblivion and to the judgment of history.”
  • “The creation of Brasilia, the internalization of the government, was a democratic and irreversible act of effective occupation of our territorial void”.

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