A new start toward a more decentralized Federalism in Brazil?

Wayne A. Selcher, Elizabethtown College


Brazil's political history can be read as a cyclical alternation between centralization and decentralization-a contest between the center and the periphery. Centralizing tendencies reached one height under the "Estado Novo" of Getúlio Vargas (1937-1945) and peaked again under a series of military governments from 1964 to 1985. Forces favoring regionalism and more state and local autonomy have been given impetus during the 1980s by trends of regional differentiation, popular mobilization, return to civilian government in 1985, several key elections, and state and local financial crises. The constitution promulgated in October 1988 features decentralizing fiscal provisions that give reason to believe that federalism may be revitalized in the next several years in response to grassroots demands from state and local governments. However, these federalism reforms may be threatened by the national government's attempts to thwart the constitution's decentralization provisions and by national economic and political instability. Copyright © 1989, CSF Associates.