01 November 2015

António de Oliveira Salazar

António de Oliveira Salazar (April 28, 1889 - July 27, 1970)

Originally the professor of political economics at a Portuguese university, in 1932 Salazar was handed power by President Carmona and became the Prime Minister of Portugal, a position he was to hold for the next 36 years, until 1968.

In the year following his rise to authority, Salazar introduced a new constitution, providing him with near unlimited power and establishing an authoritarian fascist regime under which Salazar functioned more as a dictator than prime minister. His Estado Novo penalised the poorer sections of Portuguese society and enhanced the life of the upper classes, all at the expense of education and other areas Salazar saw as relatively unimportant.

Despite the existence of a secret police, the PIDE, whose function was, as expected, to repress any form of dissent, the Salazar regime was far less bloody than that of his contemporaries; the lack of a Portuguese death penalty no doubt influencing this to a certain degree.

Through World War II, Salazar was careful to steer an uncontroversial middle path, never overtly allying with the Nazis and, on occasion, providing aid to the Allied forces, undoubtedly to ensure that Portuguese colonies would remain free of Allied intervention. It was because of this that the Azores were available to the Allies as a base.

Indeed, at this time, Portugal was in control of a range of colonies, and it was a source of some pride to Salazar that Portugal could claim status as the third major colonial power. Although Salazar felt no need to expand any colonies, he maintained outposts in Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde Islands, Principe Island, Sao Tome Island, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cabinda and Mozambique, various parts of India, as well as Macau and East Timor in Southeast Asia.

The importance to Salazar that Portugal be considered an international success led to him seeking admittance to NATO, which took place in 1949. This too, reflected Portugal in a new light, taking its place as an ally against communism. The empire, however, remained a continual source of trouble for Salazar, particularly during the times of the African colonial wars, and the Indian capture of various Portuguese cities in 1961.

In 1968, Salazar fell victim to brain damage after falling from a chair, and was later dismissed by President Américo Tomás. As a result of this illness, Salazar continued to believe himself to be Prime Minister, remaining unaware that he had been succeeded by Marcelo Caetano in September of 1969.

Sources: www.bartleby.com, www.free-definition.com, Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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