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António de Oliveira Salazar
Salazar was born in Santa Comba Dão . Initially, Salazar was a professor of political economics at the University of Coimbra. He became finance minister in 1928 and Prime Minister of Portugal in 1932. Most historians consider dictatorship a more apt term for his rule. In 1933 he introduced a new constitution to Portugal, which gave him almost unlimited powers, establishing an authoritarian regime in the country.
Salazar was handed power by President António de Fragoso Carmona in 1932 and gained major support from different elements of society. After World War I (in which Portugal had sided with the Allies but gained nothing from the victory), the First Republic had been overthrown by the military. The mismanagement of this era contrasted with Salazar's success at reorganizing the country's finances (he managed to create a budget surplus for the first time in decades). This reputation paved the way for his power grab since the army, church, monarchists, upper middle classes, aristocrats and the right all preferred Salazar to the previous juntas.
Salazar developed the "Estado Novo" (literally, New State). The basis of his dictatorship was a platform of stability; his reforms greatly privileged the upper classes to the detriment of the poorer sections of society. Education was not seen as a priority and therefore not invested in. Salazar had a secret police named PIDE that repressed dissent. However, Salazar's regime was much less bloody than other European dictatorships, such as Franco's.
Salazar's regime has been variously described as Fascist, something which Salazar never considered himself to be. Salazar's political philosophy was based around authoritarian Catholic social doctrine, much like the contemporary regime of Engelbert Dollfuss in Austria. The economic system, known as corporatism, was based on the papal encyclicals Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno, which was supposed to prevent class struggle and supremacy of economism. Salazar himself banned Portugal's National Syndicalists , a much more unambiguously 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. It is arguable, therefore, as to whether Salazar's government can truly be considered 'Fascist'. There is no doubt, however, that he admired (or at least respected) both Mussolini and Hitler.
During World War II, Salazar steered Portugal down a middle path. Although a dictator and a supporter of Nationalist Spain (he sent them aid during their fight against the Republicans), like Franco he did not openly side with the Nazis in the war. The Iberian neutrality pact was put forward by Salazar to Franco in 1939. Indeed, Salazar provided aid to the Allies, letting them use the Terceira Island in the Azores as a base, though he provided little else in the way of support. Siding with the Axis would have meant that Portugal would have been at war with Britain, which would have threatened Portuguese colonies. It is also true, however, that Portugal continued to secretly export tungsten and other goods to the Axis countries, partly via Switzerland.
In 1945 Portugal was in control of the Azores, Madeira, 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 was determined to retain Portuguese control of these places, as they formed the basis of Salazar's dependence upon the overseas provinces. What he did not acknowledge, however, was that the Portuguese overseas provinces (often described as colonies) were among the least developed in Africa.
Salazar wanted Portugal to be important internationally, and the country's large overseas provinces made this possible, while Portugal itself remained a closed state with little influence from the Western powers. Portugal was admitted to NATO in 1949 and this reflected Portugal's new role as an ally against communism.
From the Indian capture of Portuguese cities in 1961 and until after Salazar's death, the overseas provinces remained a continual source of trouble for Portugal, especially in the African colonial wars. Increasingly, Portugal was isolated among other Western countries who were gradually releasing their colonies into independence. In the 1960s, the rebellion of the African colonies intensified. Salazar's attempts to crush it and to maintain intact his dream of the Portuguese empire were widely criticized by newly independent nations and NATO allies alike and cost the lives of many African rebels and civilians as well as Portuguese soldiers.
Economically, the Salazar years were marked by stagnation. Even though he established his power on his good reputation as a finance minister, his economic policies held back Portugal's development. Instead of looking outward for cooperation with the nascent EEC, Salazar preferred introspection and focus on the overseas provinces—a fatal mistake since the Portuguese overseas territories could not replace the lost trade with the more developed European neighbours.
In 1968 Salazar became seriously ill with brain damage after falling from a chair, forcing President Américo Tomás to dismiss him as Prime Minister. His successor was Marcelo Caetano. To his dying day, Salazar thought that he was still Prime Minister. He died in Lisbon.
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