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Constitutions of Brazil - History

Brazil had so far seven Constitutions: 1824, 1891, 1934, 1937, 1946, 1967 and 1988.
Below, a summary of each of the first six; the full text of the Constitution of 1988 is here.

Constitution 1824

Brazil Independence was proclaimed on September 7th 1822, by Pedro, then Prince of Portugal, who became Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil.
A Constituent Assembly started working on May 3rd 1823. The Constituents wished for a liberal democracy; Pedro wanted to hold a Moderator Power, by which the Emperor would have power to veto any decision from the Legislative. On November 12th 1823, Pedro ordered the Army to invade the Assembly, and their members were arrested and exiled.
Assigned by Pedro, ten members of the Portuguese Party wrote the Constitution, which was completed on March 25th 1824.

Constitution 1891

This Constitution followed the Proclamation of the Republic in Brazil, on November 15th 1889. This Constitution had a strong influence of the regional "coronéis", people who didn't have political offices, but whose economic power had influences in the political life of the country.
The regime had changed, but the new Constitution was written by the same people who ruled the country during the Empire.
Features of this Constitution: Senators were no long for life; the Federal Chamber was created; Presidentialism was established; direct vote, but only by men over 21; Catholicism was no longer the official religion of Brazil.

Constitution 1934

In 1930, Getulio Vargas becomes President of Brazil, and breaks the cycle known as "coffe and milk", by which the States of São Paulo (bigger producer of coffee) and Minas Gerais (biggest producer of milk) alternated in power. The olygarchy reacted against Vargas, in a bloody episode known as Revolution of 1930, and demanded a new Constitution.
Vargas called elections for an Constituent Assembly, which promulgated a new Constitution on July 16th 1934. This Constitution was adapted to the transformations which happened in Brazil in the early 1900s.
Some features: voting became a duty for people over 18, including women; the Labour Justice and Electoral Justice were created.

Constitution 1937

On November 10th 1937, Vargas institutes the Estado Novo (New State) and imposes a new Constitution.
Inspired in the fascist moviment, this Constitution, written by Francisco Campos, Minister of Justice of the new regime, had an authoritarian trait.
The main feature was the concentration of Powers in the Executive (Vargas). The President had powers to appoint the Governors of the provinces, who in turn appointed the mayors of cities. Vargas also created several agencies to be eyes and ears of the State.

Constitution 1946

Vargas was overthown in 1945. Along with the new President, a Constituent Assembly was elected. The new constitution was presented on September 18th 1946.
Liberties guaranteed by the Constitution of 1934 and revoked by Vargas in 1937 were restored. This Constitution was particularly focused on individual freedom.
Features: for the first time, guarantees take for granted today were inserted in a Brazilian Constitution, such as: all are equal before the law; freedom of expression; freedom of association; guarantees against ilegal imprisonments.

Constitution 1967

In 1964, the militaries overtook the power. To avoid the opposition in the Parliament, the militaries used Institutional Acts to amend the Constitution (instead of being voted by the Parliament, such Acts were imposed by the government).
In 1967, as a means to aggreate all the Institutional Acts, the militaries called for a new constitution.
Features: very authoritative. Some fundamental individual rights became relative; article 151 of the Constitution read: "those who misuse the rights provided for by paragraphs 8, 23, 27 and 28 of article 150, to attempt against the democratic order or commit corruption, shall loose political rights for a term of two up to ten years..."; the mentioned paragraphs referred to freedom of thought, freedom of work, freedom of meeting and freedom of association. Based on this article, many were arrested for charges of "conspiration against the democratic order". The militaries continued issuing Institutional Acts, which could not be amended by the Parliament; when members of Parliament became more vocals against the dictatorship, the militaries shut down the Parliament.

Constitution 1988

Promulgated on October 15th 1988. Read full text here. Read comments here.

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