António de Oliveira Salazar

António de Oliveira Salazar
António de Oliveira Salazar
In office
June 3, 1926 – June 19, 1926
Prime Minister José Mendes Cabeçadas
Preceded by Armando Manuel Marques Guedes
Succeeded by Filomeno da Câmara de Melo Cabral
In office
April 28, 1928 – August 28, 1940
Prime Minister José Vicente de Freitas (April 28, 1928–July 8, 1928)
Artur Ivens Ferraz (July 8, 1928–January 21, 1930)
Domingos Oliveira (January 21, 1930–July 5, 1932)
Himself (July 5, 1932–August 28, 1940)
Preceded by João José Sinel de Cordes
Succeeded by João Pinto da Costa Leite, 4th Conde de Lumbrales
In office
January 21, 1930 – July 20, 1930
Prime Minister Domingos Oliveira
Preceded by José Bacelar Bebiano
Succeeded by Eduardo Augusto Marques

101st Prime Minister of Portugal
(47th of the Republic)
(7th since the 1926 coup d'état)
(1st of the Estado Novo)
In office
July 5, 1932 – September 25, 1968
President António Óscar Carmona (July 5, 1932–April 18, 1951(
Himself (interim) (April 18, 1951–August 9, 1951)
Francisco Craveiro Lopes (August 9, 1951–August 9, 1958)
Américo Thomaz (August 9, 1958–September 25, 1968)
Preceded by Domingos Oliveira
Succeeded by Marcello Caetano

Born April 28 1889(1889-04-28)
Vimieiro, Santa Comba Dão, Portugal
Died 27 July 1970 (aged 81)
Lisbon, Portugal
Political party Academic Centre of Christian Democracy, later National Union
Spouse Single; Never married
Occupation Regent professor of Political economy and Finances at the University of Coimbra
Religion Roman Catholic

António de Oliveira Salazar, GColIH, GCTE, GCSE (April 28, 1889 – July 27, 1970), served as the Prime Minister and de facto dictator of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. After an academic career as professor of political economy and finance, he founded and led the Estado Novo ("New State"), the authoritarian, right-wing government that presided over and controlled Portugal's social, economic, cultural and political life from 1933 to 1974. Salazar crushed opposition and isolated Portugal from the world community. The regime was overthrown by the military due to the protracted war against independence movement across the Portuguese Empire. After decades of authoritarian, dictatorial rule during which the poor became poorer and the rich richer, Portugal restored democracy in 1976.

Salazar ruled Portugal for 36 years, his regime for another six. As with his Spanish neighbor, Fransisco Franco, some regard him as champion of traditional values, including the importance of the family, over and against the left-wing Socialists and Marxists whom he opposed throughout his career. However, his brutal treatment of anyone who did not conform to his values greatly diminishes his place in history. More people regard his long premiership as an example of how not to govern, than as a model of good practice. Portugal, since the end of the Estado Novo era, has joined the European Union and developed a real commitment to making the world a more prosperous, peaceful place. This is a radical departure from Salazar's motto of being "proudly alone" which rejected any notion of global cooperation to eliminate poverty, end war, or protect the planet's health.


Rise to power

Salazar was born in Vimieiro, Santa Comba Dão, in central Portugal, from a family of modest income. His father, a small landowner, had started as an agricultural laborer. He had four older sisters, and was the only male child of two fifth cousins, António de Oliveira and Maria do Resgate Salazar whose paternal grandfather was a land owner and possibly a nobleman. He studied at the Viseu Seminary from 1900 to 1914 and considered becoming a priest, but changed his mind. He studied Law at Coimbra University during the first years of the Republican government.

As a young man, his involvement in politics stemmed from his Roman Catholic views, which were aroused by the new anti-clerical Portuguese First Republic. Writing in Catholic newspapers and fighting in the streets for the rights and interests of the church and its followers were his first forays into public life.

During Sidónio Pais's brief presidentialist rule from 1917 to 1918, Salazar was invited to become a minister, but declined. He formally entered politics in the following years, joining the conservative Catholic Centre, and was elected to Parliament but left it after one session. He taught political economy at the University of Coimbra.

After the 28th May 1926 coup d'état, he briefly joined José Mendes Cabeçadas's government but quickly resigned, explaining that since disputes and social disorder existed in the government, he could not do his work properly. He became finance minister in 1928 after the Ditadura Nacional was consolidated, paving the way for his rise to ruler of Portugal in 1932. He remained finance minister until 1940, when World War II consumed his time.

His rise to power was due to three factors: The good image he was able to build as an effective finance minister, President Carmona's strong support, and shrewd political positioning. The authoritarian government consisted of a right-wing coalition, and Salazar was able to co-opt the moderates of each political current while fighting the extremists, using censorship and repression. The Catholics were his earliest and most loyal supporters, although some resented the continued separation of church and state. The conservative republicans who could not be co-opted became his most dangerous opponents during the early period. They attempted several coups, but never presented a united front, so these coups were easily repressed. Never a true monarchist, Salazar nevertheless gained most of the monarchists' support, as he had the support of the exiled deposed king, who was given a state funeral at the time of his death. The National Syndicalists were torn between supporting the regime and denouncing it as bourgeois. As usual, they were given enough symbolic concessions to win over the moderates, and the rest were repressed by the political police. Even they were to be silenced shortly after 1933, as Salazar attempted to prevent the rise of National Socialism in Portugal.

The prevailing view, at the time, of political parties as elements of division and parlamentarism as being in crisis led to general support, or at least tolerance, of an authoritarian regime.

In 1933, Salazar introduced a new constitution to Portugal, which gave him wide powers, establishing an anti-parliamentarian and authoritarian government that would last four decades.

Estado Novo

Salazar developed the "Estado Novo" (literally, New State). The basis of his regime was a platform of stability. Salazar's early reforms allowed financial stability and therefore economic growth. After the chaotic years of the Portuguese First Republic (1910–1926) when not even public order was achieved, this looked like an impressive breakthrough to most of the population, Salazar achieved then his height in popularity. This transfiguration of Portugal was then known as "A Lição de Salazar"—Salazar's Lesson.

Education was not seen as a priority and was not heavily invested in. Nevertheless, basic education was granted to all citizens, even if literacy levels kept a very low level for Western Europe. There was substantial investment in educational infrastructure. Many of the schools he created are still active today.

Salazar relied on the secret police for fighting the communists. First being called PVDE (Polícia de Vigilância e Defesa do Estado) that followed Gestapo-inspired organization, (often known by the name it carried from 1945–1969, PIDE) resulting in repression of dissidents especially those related to the international communist movement or the USSR. Unlike other dictators, Salazar was "never the object of a personality cult" on a grand-scale.[1]

Salazar's regime was dictatorial. His political philosophy was based around 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 organization to support the regime itself, and was therefore lacking in any ideology independent of the regime. It is debatable whether Salazar's government can truly be considered "Fascist," given the strong Roman Catholic, monarchist, regionalist, agrarian, and restorational tendency of his rule, which is in sharp contrast to the innovative and revolutionary re-structuring of society so prevalent in Fascist countries. There is no doubt, however, that he at least respected Fascist leader Benito Mussolini at some point in time. His view of "corporatism" was close to Mussolinis. The "form and structure of" Salazar's regime "more nearly resembled that of Mussolini than did any other in Europe."[2] Anderson says that Salazar's "thirty-six year term of office was inspired by fascism and its hold in Italy under Mussolini."[3] At the time many European countries feared the destructive potential of communism. Many neutral states in World War II, from the Baltic to the Atlantic, at least in principle, sympathized with any state that would wage war on the USSR.

Neutrality during World War II

Nobel Prize winner Maurice Maeterlinck was in Portugal on the eve of World War II under the protection of Salazar and in 1937 he wrote the introduction to the French translation of a work by the Portuguese politician ("Une revolution dans la paix").[4] During World War II, Salazar steered Portugal down a middle path. He did not officially side with any of the contenders in the war though a dictator and supporter of the Nationalist Spanish State. Salazar allowed General Sanjurjo, the rebel leader, to fly from a non-military airport in Portugal and Salazar sent aid to the Nationalists. Salazar initiated the Iberian Pact in 1939. Indeed, Salazar provided aid to the Allies, letting them use Terceira Island in the Azores as a military base, although he only agreed to this after the alternative of an American takeover by force of the islands was made clear to him by the British. Portugal, particularly Lisbon, was one of the last European exit points to the U.S., and a huge number of refugees found shelter in Portugal, many of them with the help from the Portuguese consul general in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who issued visas against Salazar's orders. Siding with the Axis would have meant that Portugal would have been at war with Britain, which would have threatened Portuguese colonies, while siding with the Allies might prove to be a threat to Portugal itself. There is some evidence that Franco planned to invade both Portugal and Gibraltar, together with the Nazis. Portugal continued to export tungsten and other goods to both the Axis (partly via Switzerland) and Allied countries.

In 1945, Portugal had an extensive colonial Empire, including 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, a fierce integralist, was determined to retain control of Portugal's territories.

Post-war Portugal

Salazar wanted Portugal to be relevant internationally, and the country's overseas provinces made this possible, while Salazar himself refused to be overawed by the Americans. Portugal was the only non-democracy among the founding members of NATO in 1949, which reflected Portugal's role as an ally against communism during the Cold War. Portugal was offered help from the Marshall Plan because of the aid it gave to the Allies during the final stages of World War II; aid was initially refused but eventually accepted. Throughout the 1950s, Salazar maintained the same import substitution approach to economic policy that had ensured Portugal's neutral status during World War II. The rise of the "new technocrats" in the early 1960s, however, led to a new period of economic opening up, with Portugal as an attractive country for international investment. Industrial development and economic growth would continue all throughout the 1960s. During Salazar's tenure, Portugal also participated in the founding of OECD and EFTA. At the dawn of the 1970s, Portuguese credibility was enough to grant membership of many international organizations.

The different colonies of Portugal were under a constant state of disarray after the war. The colonies of Portugal in India were headed by Goa. After the Indian Union was formed on August 15, 1947, the nationalists in Goa continued their struggle to join Goa to India. This resulted in a detailed operation which included both civilian and military phases. The civilian phase involved a series of strikes and other protest movements by the Goan people against the administration in Goa. The military phase included the role of Indian defense forces. The Indian Armed Forces wrested control of Portuguese India, specifically Goa, Daman and Diu, in Operation Vijay in 1961. The overseas provinces were a continual source of trouble and wealth for Portugal, especially during the Portuguese Colonial War. Portugal became increasingly isolated on the world stage as other European nations with African colonies gradually began granting them independence. In the 1960s, armed revolutionary movements and scattered guerrilla activity had reached Mozambique as well as Angola and Portuguese Guinea. Except in Portuguese Guinea, the Portuguese army and naval forces were able to effectively suppress most of these insurgencies through a well-planned counter-insurgency campaign using light infantry, militia, and special operations forces. Most of the world ostracized the Portuguese government because of its colonial policy, especially the newly-independent African nations. In the 1960s, Salazar's opposition to decolonization and gradual liberalization of press created friction with the Franco dictatorship.

Economic policies

Economically, the Salazar years were marked by immensely increased growth. From 1950 until Salazar's death, Portugal saw its GDP per capita rise at an average rate of 5.66 percent per year. This made it the fastest growing economy in Europe. Indeed, the Salazar era was marked by an economic program based on the policies of autarky and interventionism, which were popular in the 1930s as a response to the Great Depression. However, during his tenure, Portugal was co-founder of OECD and EFTA. Financial stability was Salazar's highest priority. In order to balance the Portuguese budget and pay off external debts, the dictator instituted numerous taxes. In the meantime, Salazar adopted a policy of neutrality during World War II, taking advantage of this neutrality to simultaneously loan the Base das Lages in the Azores to the Allies and export military equipment and metals to the Axis powers.

Colonialist ideology

His reluctance to travel abroad, his increasing stubbornness against delivering the colonies to the Marxist movements endorsed by the African Unity Organization, his blind will to fight the so-called "winds of change" sponsored by the superpowers (USSR, U.S.), and his refusal to grasp the impossibility of his regime outliving him, marked the final years of his tenure. "Proudly alone" was the motto of his final decade.

In order to support his colonial policies, Salazar adopted Gilberto Freyre's notion of Lusotropicalism, maintaining that since Portugal had been a multicultural, multiracial and pluricontinental nation since the 15th Century, if the country were to be dismembered by losing its overseas territories, that would spell the end for Portuguese independence. In geopolitical terms, no critical mass would then be available to guarantee self-sufficiency to the Portuguese State. Salazar had strongly resisted Freyre's ideas throughout the 1930s, partly because Freyre claimed the Portuguese were more prone than other European nations to miscegenation, and only adopted Lusotropicalism after sponsoring Freyre on a visit to Portugal and its colonies in 1951-2. Freyre's work Aventura e Rotin was a result of this trip.[5]

Salazar was a close friend of Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith: After Rhodesia proclaimed its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, Portugal—though not officially recognizing the new Rhodesian state - supported Rhodesia economically and militarily through the neighboring Portuguese colony of Mozambique until 1975, when FRELIMO took over Mozambique after negotiations with the new Portuguese regime which had taken over after the Carnation Revolution. Ian Smith later wrote in his memoirs that had Salazar lasted longer than he did, Rhodesia would still be in existence today.


In 1968, Salazar suffered a major stroke, caused by his falling from a chair in his summer house, forcing President Américo Thomaz to replace him with Marcelo Caetano on September 27, 1968. It is believed that to his dying day Salazar thought that he was still Prime Minister of Portugal, but some of his aides claim that he was aware of the situation and just played along. He died in Lisbon on July 27, 1970. Tens of thousands, possibly many more, paid their last respects at the funeral and the Requiem Mass and at the passage of the special train that carried the coffin to his hometown of Santa Comba Dão, where he was buried according to his wishes in his native soil, next to his ancestors and the modest farmers of the region, in a plain ordinary grave. As a symbolic display of his views of Portugal and the Portuguese, there is well known footage of several members of the "Mocidade Portuguesa," of both African and European ethnicity, paying homage at his funeral.


After Salazar's death, his Estado Novo regime persisted under the direction of Marcelo Caetano. Despite tentative overtures towards an opening of the regime, Caetano balked at ending the colonial war that raged on, despite the condemnation of most of the international community.

On April 25, 1974, the Estado Novo finally fell with the Carnation Revolution. The Colonial War had dragged on since 1961 and the nation was tired. The new regime quickly granted independence to the colonies. Later, in 1996, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries was formed to promote friendship between member states, all former Portuguese colonies except for Portugal herself.

In 2007, television viewers voted Salazar "the greatest Portuguese who ever lived." Immediately, debate began as people asked how someone who had "sent his enemies to concentration camps in Africa could be revered by a modern European nation?" Analysts suggest that no one wants to resurrect Salazar or his regime but that the poll, unrepresentative as it might be, shows discontent with subsequent administrations; "Whatever the intrigue behind the voting, Fernando Dacosta, a biographer of Salazar, calls his victory the 'Portuguese revenge' for disillusionment with the revolution of April 25, 1974, which overthrew the dictatorship but failed to deliver on its own promises."[6] In 1968, Salazar's successor, Marcello Caetano paid him homage with these words, "For a long period, the country grew accustomed to being governed by a man of genius, but from now on it must adapt itself to being governed by men like other men."[7]

Salazar did not accumulate a personal fortune yet he cannot be said to have left his nation a positive legacy. Democracy was crushed, the poor became poorer and the rich richer. It would not be until 1976 that a move from authoritarianism to democracy was made. In 1986, it became a member of the European Union as the old isolationist policies have given way to cooperation and to a real commitment to making the world a more prosperous, peaceful place. It was not until 1955 that Portugal joined the UN, although Salazar applied in 1946. However, Portuguese dissidents complained to the United Nations that Portugal was not democratic and so should not be admitted.[8]


  1. Gallagher (1983), 95.
  2. Payne (1980), 158.
  3. Anderson (2000), 154.
  4. António de Oliveira Salazar, Une revolution dans la paix (Paris, FR: Flammarion, 1937).
  5. Gilberto Freyre, Aventura e rotina: Sugestões de uma viagem à procura das constantes portuguesas de caráter e ação. Gilbertiana (Rio de Janeiro, BR: Topbooks, ISBN 9788574750361).
  6. Dan Bilefsky, Nostalgia for António de Oliveira Salazar divides the Portuguese, International Herald Tribune. Retrieved November 23, 2008.
  7. Time/CNN, End of the Salazar Era. Retrieved November 23, 2008.
  8. Anderson (2000), 150.


  • Anderson, James Maxwell. 2000. The History of Portugal. The Greenwood histories of the modern nations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313311062.
  • Gallagher, Tom. 1983. Portugal: A Twentieth-Century Interpretation. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719008764.
  • Garnier, Christine. 1954. Salazar an Intimate Portrait. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus & Young. OCLC 24973388.
  • Kay, Hugh. 1970. Salazar and Modern Portugal. London, UK: Eyre & Spottiswoode. ISBN 9780413267009.
  • Lewis, Paul H. 2002. Latin Fascist Elites the Mussolini, Franco, and Salazar Regimes. Westport, CT: Praeger. ISBN 9780275978808.
  • Payne, Stanley G. 1980. Fascism, Comparison and Definition. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299080600.
  • Pinto, António Costa. 1995. Salazar's Dictatorship and European Fascism: Problems of Interpretation. Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs. ISBN 9780880339681.
  • Raby, D. L. 1988. Fascism and Resistance in Portugal: Communists, Liberals, and Military Dissidents in the Opposition to Salazar, 1941-1974. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press. ISBN 9780719025143.
  • Wright, George. 1997. The Destruction of a Nation: United States' Policy Towards Angola Since 1945. London, UK: Pluto Press. ISBN 9780745310305.


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