António de Oliveira Salazar

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António de Oliveira Salazar
Antonio Salazar-1.jpg
António de Oliveira Salazar in 1940
100th Prime Minister of Portugal
In office
5 July 1932 – 25 September 1968
President Óscar Carmona
Francisco Craveiro Lopes
Américo Tomás
Preceded by Domingos Oliveira
Succeeded by Marcelo Caetano
President of Portugal (interim)
In office
18 April 1951 – 21 July 1951
Preceded by Óscar Carmona
Succeeded by Francisco Craveiro Lopes
Minister of Finance
In office
3 June 1926 – 19 June 1926
Prime Minister José Mendes Cabeçadas
Preceded by José Mendes Cabeçadas
Succeeded by Câmara de Melo Cabral
In office
28 April 1928 – 28 August 1940
Prime Minister José Vicente de Freitas
Artur Ivens Ferraz
Domingos Oliveira
Preceded by José Vicente de Freitas
Succeeded by Count of Lumbrales
Minister of the Colonies
In office
21 January 1930 – 20 July 1930
Prime Minister Domingos Oliveira
Preceded by Artur Ivens Ferraz
Succeeded by Eduardo Augusto Marques
Minister of Defence
In office
13 April 1961 – 4 December 1962
Prime Minister Himself
Preceded by Júlio Botelho Moniz
Succeeded by Gomes de Araújo
Personal details
Born (1889-04-28)28 April 1889
Vimieiro, Santa Comba Dão, Portugal
Died 27 July 1970(1970-07-27) (aged 81)
Lisbon, Portugal
Political party Academic Centre of Christian Democracy (Before 1930)
National Union (1930-1970)
Spouse(s) None
Profession Professor
Religion Roman Catholicism

António de Oliveira Salazar, GColIH, GColTE, GColSE (Portuguese pronunciation: [ɐ̃ˈtɔniu dɨ oliˈvɐjɾɐ sɐlɐˈzaɾ]; 28 April 1889 – 27 July 1970) was a Portuguese professor and politician who served as Prime Minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. His Council of Ministers briefly served as acting President of the Republic in 1951; he was never President of the Republic, but was the virtual dictator of the country in the manner of Franco and Mussolini. He founded and led the Estado Novo (New State), the authoritarian, right-wing government that presided over and controlled Portugal from 1932 to 1974. In 1940, Life called Salazar "the greatest Portuguese since Prince Henry the Navigator".[1]

According to Lord Templewood Salazar was learned and impressive thinker, a man part professor, part priest, part recluse of unshakable beliefs in the principles of European civilization. “Salazar detested Hitler and all his works” and his corporative state was fundamentally different from Nazism and Fascism.[2] Carlton Hayes,also describes Salazar as someone who “didn't look like a regular dictator. Rather, he appeared a modest, quiet, and highly intelligent gentleman and scholar( ... )literally dragged from a professorial chair( ... )to straighten out Portugal's finances.”[3]

Opposed to communism, socialism, anarchism and liberalism, Salazar's rule was corporatist, conservative, and nationalistic in nature. Its policy envisaged the perpetuation of Portugal as a pluricontinental nation under the doctrine of lusotropicalism, with Angola, Mozambique, and other Portuguese territories as extensions of Portugal itself, with Portugal being a source of civilization and stability to the overseas societies in the African and Asian possessions.

Despite the repressive character of his rule and controversial colonial policy, Salazar remains thoroughly popular among a right-wing section of the Portuguese public. In March 2007, Salazar was elected the "Greatest Portuguese Ever" on the RTP1 TV show, Os Grandes Portugueses[4] as well as "Worst Portuguese Ever" on a parody TV show from rival channel SIC Notícias.


Salazar was born in Vimieiro, near Santa Comba Dão (Viseu District), to a family of modest income. His father, a small landowner, had started as an agricultural labourer and became the manager for a family of rural landowners of the region of Santa Comba Dão, the Perestrelos, who possessed lands and other assets scattered between Viseu and Coimbra. He had four older sisters, and was the only male child of two fifth cousins, António de Oliveira (17 January 1839 to 28 September 1932) and wife Maria do Resgate Salazar (23 October 1845 to 17 November 1926), whose paternal grandfather was a landowner and a nobleman. Despite the knowledge of his ancestry, Salazar always preferred to claim humble origins. His older sisters were Maria do Resgate Salazar de Oliveira, an elementary school teacher; Elisa Salazar de Oliveira; Maria Leopoldina Salazar de Oliveira; and Laura Salazar de Oliveira, who in 1887 married Abel Pais de Sousa, whose brother Mário Pais de Sousa was Salazar's Interior Minister, sons of a family of Santa Comba Dão.


Salazar studied at the Viseu Seminary from 1900 to 1908 and considered becoming a priest, but changed his mind. He went to Coimbra in 1910 in order to study law at the University of Coimbra, during the first years of the republican government. During his student years in Coimbra he developed a particular interest for finance. Although becoming a law graduate with distinction and specializing in finance and economic policy at the Law School, Salazar was not an economist (economics in its modern sense was a relatively new academic discipline in Portugal and was not taught at the time as an independent field in the University of Coimbra (the first pure Portuguese university degree in economics was created in 1949 by the modern-day ISEG/UTL; the University of Coimbra founded its own autonomous School of Economics (FEUC) just in 1972). In 1914, he graduated with a 19 mark out of 20, and in the meanwhile became an assistant professor of economic policy at the Law School. In 1917, he became the regent of economic policy and finance by appointment of the professor José Alberto dos Reis. In the following year Salazar was awarded his doctorate.[5]

Rise to power[edit]

As a young man, his involvement in politics stemmed from his 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 dictatorship from 1917 to 1918, Salazar was invited to become a minister, but declined. The offer was not repeated in the aftermath of Pais's murder (December 1918). Salazar afterwards joined the conservative Catholic Centre Party. He was elected to Parliament in 1921, representing this particular party; but he left it following only one session, preferring to keep his job teaching political economy at the University of Coimbra.

After the 28 May 1926 coup d'état, he briefly joined José Mendes Cabeçadas's government as Minister of Finance on 3 June 1926, but quickly resigned, explaining that since disputes and social disorder existed in the government, he could not do his work properly. Later again, he became the 81st Finance Minister on 26 April 1928, after the Ditadura Nacional was consolidated, paving the way for him to be appointed the 101st Prime Minister in 1932. He remained Finance Minister until 1940, when World War II consumed his time.

His rise to power was due to the image he was able to build as an honest and effective Finance Minister, President António Óscar Carmona's strong support, and 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 conservative Catholics were his earliest and most loyal supporters. 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 the exiled deposed king 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. They were given enough symbolic concessions to win over the moderates, and the rest were repressed by the political police. They were to be silenced shortly after 1933, as Salazar attempted to prevent the rise of National Socialism in Portugal. Salazar also supported Francisco Franco and the Nationalists in their fight against the left-wing groups of the Spanish Republic. The Nationalists lacked ports early on, and Salazar's Portugal helped receive armaments shipments from abroad – including ammunition early on when certain Nationalist forces were virtually out. Because of this, "the Nationalists referred to Lisbon as 'the port of Castile.'"[6]

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

In 1933, Salazar introduced a new constitution which established an anti-parliamentarian and authoritarian government that would last four decades. On paper, the new document vested sweeping—almost dictatorial—powers in the hands of the president. However, Carmona had allowed Salazar more or less a free hand since appointing Salazar prime minister and continued to do so; Carmona and his successors would largely be figureheads.

Estado Novo[edit]

Required elements of primary schools during the Estado Novo: a portrait of Salazar, a crucifix and a portrait of Américo Thomaz.

Salazar developed the Estado Novo (New State) regime. The basis of his government was a platform of stability.[citation needed] Salazar's early reforms allowed financial stability and therefore economic growth.[citation needed] Salazar's teachings and values were known as A Lição de Salazar ("Salazar's Lesson").

Although Portugal had a high level of illiteracy and Salazar himself was a professor, his regime didn't consider education a high priority and for many years didn't spend much on it, beyond granting basic education to all citizens. In the final years of Salazar's rule and the six years from his incapacity to the fall of the Estado Novo regime in 1974, educational development was finally prioritized and there was substantial investment in educational infrastructure. At this stage, secondary, vocational/technical and university education reached record high enrollments. Many of the schools created by Salazar were still in operation many decades after the end of the regime in 1974.

Salazar's regime was rigidly authoritarian. He based his political philosophy around a close interpretation of Catholic social doctrine, much like the contemporary regime of Engelbert Dollfuß in Austria. The economic system, known as corporatism, was based on a similar interpretation of the papal encyclicals Rerum Novarum (Leo XIII, 1891) and Quadragesimo Anno (Pius XI, 1931), which was supposed to prevent class struggle and make economic concerns secondary to social values. Salazar himself banned the National Syndicalists, a more purely Fascist 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. At the time many European countries feared the destructive potential of Communism. Salazar not only forbade Marxist parties, but also revolutionary fascist-syndicalist parties.

Salazar relied on the secret police, first the PVDE (Polícia de Vigilância e de Defesa do Estado – "State Defence and Surveillance Police") set up in 1933 and modelled on the Gestapo. The PIDE (Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado) was established in 1945 and lasted until 1969. (From 1969 to 1974, under Marcelo Caetano, the Estado Novo's police were the DGS - Direcção Geral de Segurança, "General Security Directorate"). The job of the secret police was not just to protect national security in a typical modern sense but also to suppress the regime's political opponents, especially those related to the international communist movement or the USSR which was seen by the regime as a menace to Portugal. The PIDE was efficient, and it was less overtly brutal than its predecessor and the foreign police forces it was modelled after.

After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Salazar established prison camps for opponents of the Estado Novo. The Tarrafal in the Cape Verde Islands was one of them. The prisoners included Anarchists, Communists, anti-colonial agitators and guerrillas from Portugal's African colonies. Many died or were held for many years.

Neutrality during World War II[edit]

Upon the declaration of war, the Portuguese Government announced that the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance remained intact, but since the British did not seek Portuguese assistance, Portugal would remain neutral. In an Aide-memoire of September 5, 1939, the British Government confirmed the understanding. From the British perspective, Portuguese non-belligerency was essential to keep Spain from entering the war on the side of the Axis."[7]

May 15, 1940, Salazar`s important role was recognized by the British. Douglas Veale, Registrar of the University of Oxford informed Salazar that the University’s Hebdomadal Council had “unanimously decided at its meeting last Monday, to invite you [Salazar] to accept the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Civil Law”.

July 1940, Life Magazine called Salazar "the greatest Portuguese since Prince Henry the Navigator" and added that:"The Dictator has built the Nation. Most that has been built in Portugal can be credited to Dr. Salazar…he has balanced the budget, built roads and schools, torn down slums, cut the death rate and enormously raised Portugal self-esteem. Unambitious Salazar took the dictatorship by army request and holds it by popular will. The Salazar dictatorship is easygoing and paternalistic, with wide freedom of speech allowed to his enemies….Friends of democracy may deplore Salazar the dictator but they cannot deny that under the republic Portugal made an unholy mess of itself and Salazar pulled it out."

July 1940 Salazar's decision to stick with the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance allowed Portuguese Island Madeira to help the Allies, and in July 1940 around 2,500 Gibraltar evacuees were shipped to Madeira.

September 1940, Winston Churchill wrote to Salazar congratulating him on his ability to keep Portugal out of the war, asserting that “as so often before during the many centuries of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance, British and Portuguese interests are identical on this vital question.”

August 1943, Salazar agreed to the British request for basing rights "in the name of the alliance that had existed for over 600 years between Portugal and Great Britain." The British were given use of the Azorean ports of Horta, on the island of Faial, and Ponta Delgada, on the island of Sao Miguel, and the airfields of Lagens Field on Terceira Island and Santana Field on Sao Miguel Island.

November 1943, the British Ambassador in Lisbon, Sir Ronald Campbell, Portugal’s wrote that "strict neutrality was the price the allies paid for strategic benefits accruing from Portugal's neutrality and that if her neutrality instead of being strict had been more benevolent in allies favour Spain would inevitably have thrown herself body and soul into the arms of Germany. If this had happened the Peninsula would have been occupied and then North Africa, with the result that the whole course of the war would have been altered to the advantage of the Axis."

Salazar’s crucial role in keeping Iberia neutral during the war was also recognized by the British Ambassador in Madrid from 1940 to 1944. Lord Templewood asserted that in his thirty years of political life he had met most of the leading statesmen of Europe and that he placed Salazar very high on the list of those who impressed him. He considered Salazar as being an ascetic, concentrated mind and body upon the service of his country, a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of Europe and indifferent to ostentation or luxury or personal gains. Lord Templewood also asserted that Salazar “being a man of one idea – the good of his country – he was convinced that the slightest step from the narrow path of neutrality would endanger the work of national regeneration to which he had devoted the whole of his public life.” He also asserted that “Salazar detested Hitler” and that the Portuguese regime was fundamentally different from Nazism and Fascism and that Salazar never left a doubt in his mind that he desired a Nazi defeat.[8]

A similar opinion was also shared by Carlton Hayes, the American Ambassador in Spain during world war II days, who wrote of Salazar in his book, Wartime Mission in Spain : Salazar “didn't look like a regular dictator. Rather, he appeared a modest, quiet, and highly intelligent gentleman and scholar…literally dragged from a professorial chair of political economy in the venerable University of Coimbra a dozen years previously in order to straighten out Portugal's finances, and that his almost miraculous success in this respect had led to the thrusting upon him of other major functions, including those of Foreign Minister and constitution-maker. Hayes his very appreciative of Portugal’s constant endeavors to draw Spain with Portugal into a really neutral Peninsular bloc, an immeasurably contribution, at a time when the British and the United States had much less influence, toward counteracting the propaganda and pleas of the Axis. Later in the same book, Mr. Carlton Hayes writes of Portugal’s role in favour of the thousands of French military refugees who were trying in 1943 to get from Spain to North Africa in order there to join the Allied forces.[9]

From November 1943, when the British were given use of the Azores, to June 1945, 8,689 U.S. aircraft departed from Lajes base in Azores including 1,200 B-17 and B-24 bomber aircraft being ferried across the Atlantic. Cargo aircraft flights carried vital personnel and equipment to North Africa, the United Kingdom and, after the allied gained a foothold on mainland Europe, to Orly Field near Paris. Flights returning from Europe carried wounded servicemen. Medical personnel at Lajes, Azores, handled approximately 30,000 air evacuations en route to the United States for medical care and rehabilitation.

By using Lajes Field in the Azores it was possible to reduce flying time between the United States and North Africa from 70 hours to 40 hours. This considerable reduction in flying hours enabled aircraft to make almost twice as many crossings per month between the United States and North Africa and demonstrated clearly the geographic value of the Azores during World War II.

During World War II, Salazar steered Portugal down a middle path, but nevertheless provided aid to the Allies: naval bases on Portuguese territory were granted to Britain, in keeping with the traditional Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, and the United States, letting them use Terceira Island in the Azores as a military base, although he agreed to this only after the alternative of an American takeover by force of the islands was made clear to him by the British[verification needed].

Salazar and the Refugees[edit]

Portugal's Nationalism was not grounded on race or biology. In 1934 Salazar made it clear that Portuguese Nationalism did not include pagan anti-human ideals that glorified a race, and in 1937, he published a book where he criticized the ideals behind the Nuremberg laws[10] and in 1938 he sent a telegram to the Portuguese Embassy in Berlin ordering that it should be made clear to the German Reich that Portuguese law did not allow any distinction based on race and therefore Portuguese Jewish citizens could not be discriminated against.[11]

In 1937, Adolfo Benarus, Honorary Chairman of COMASSIS[12] and a leader of the Lisbon’s Jewish Community, published a book wherein he rejoiced with the fact that there was no anti-Semitism in Portugal.[13] In 2011, Yad Vashem historian Avraham Milgram said that modern anti-Semitism failed "to establish even a toehold in Portugal"[14] while it grew racist and virulent elsewhere in early twentieth-century Europe.

Portugal, particularly Lisbon, was one of the last European exit points to the U.S.,[15] and a huge number of refugees found shelter in Portugal, many of them with help from the Portuguese consul general in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes. According to the testimony of a Sousa Mendes’ son Salazar lost political trust in Sousa Mendes and stripped the diplomat of his title, subsequently ordering that no one in Portugal show him any charity.[16] However Sousa Mendes never lost his title as he kept on being listed in the Portuguese Diplomatic Yearbook[17] until 1954 and, after the one-year punishment with half-pay, he kept on receiving a salary: 1,593 Portuguese Escudos per month. According to Rui Afonso, "although it was not a salary of a prince, one should not forget that at that time, in Portugal, the salary of a school teacher was only 500 Escudos”.[18] When he died, in 1954 he was receiving a monthly salary of 2,300 Portuguese Escudos.[19]

Sousa Mendes' actions were far from unique. Issuing visas in contravention of instructions was widespread at Portuguese consulates all over Europe.[20] On the other hand some cases were supported by the Salazar. The Portuguese Ambassador in Budapest, Carlos Sampaio Garrido helped an estimated 1,000 Hungarian Jews in 1944. Along with Carlos de Liz-Texeira Branquinho, they rented houses and apartments to shelter and protect refugees from deportation and murder. On April 28, 1944 the Hungarian Gestapo raided the Ambassador's home, arresting his guests. The Ambassador, who physically resisted the police, was also arrested, but managed to have his guests released on the grounds of extraterritoriality of diplomatic legations. In 2010 both Garrido and Branquinho were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

Other Portuguese who deserve further credit for saving Jews during the war are Professor Francisco Paula Leite Pinto and Moisés Bensabat Amzalak. A devoted Jew, and a Salazar supporter, Amzalak headed the Lisbon Jewish community for more than fifty years (from 1926 until 1978).

The main reason for the neutrality of Portugal in World War II was strategic. The country still held overseas territories that, due to its poor economic development, could not adequately defend from military attack. Siding with the Axis would have drawn Portugal to a conflict against Britain, whose result would have been the loss of its colonies; siding with the Allies might have risked the mainland. As the price to pay to keep Neutrality, Portugal continued to export tungsten and other goods to both the Axis (partly via Switzerland) and Allied countries.[21][22]

Large numbers of political dissidents, including Abwehr personnel after the 20 July plot of 1944, sought refuge in Portugal. Until late 1942 immigration was very restricted in those cases where there were fears that the refugees would not be just in transit and would settle in Portugal the consulates would need to get a previous authorization from Lisbon. Such were the cases of: foreigners of indefinite or contested nationality; the stateless; Russians; or Jews expelled from their countries of origin."[23] All those refugees in transit through Lisbon on their way to the Americas were allowed to use the country as an escape route.

The number of refugees who escaped through Portugal during the war has been estimated to range from a few hundred thousand to one million, impressive numbers considering the size of the country’s population at that time (circa 6 million).[24]

In essence, Portugal remained neutral within the overall objectives of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance; and this modest but complex role made it possible for Portugal to contribute to the rescue of a large number of refugees.[25]

After the war Portugal kept on welcoming and supporting war refugees. Perhaps the most touching story is the one of 5,500 Austrian children,[26] most of them orphans, that in 1948, in an operation organized by Caritas Portugal, were transported by train from Vienna to Lisbon and were then distributed by Portuguese families all over the country.

Post-war Portugal[edit]

Portuguese soldiers on patrol in Angola.

Portugal did not experience the same levels of international isolation as its Spanish neighbor following the Second World War. Its status as a founder member of NATO and participant within other international organizations, such as the European Organization for Economic Co-operation (EOEC) and the European Payments Union (EPU), and its receipt of Marshall Plan funds are all examples of the country’s international acceptance.

The colonies were in disarray after the war. In 1945, Portugal had an extensive colonial Empire, including Cape Verde Islands, São Tomé e Príncipe, Angola (including Cabinda), Portuguese Guinea, and Mozambique in Africa; Goa, Damão (including Dadra and Nagar Haveli), and Diu in India (the Portuguese India); Macau in China; and Portuguese Timor in Southeast Asia. Salazar, a fierce integralist, was determined to retain control of Portugal's colonies.

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 granted them independence.

Salazar wanted Portugal to be relevant internationally, and the country's overseas colonies 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 it 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.

The Indian possessions were the first to be lost in 1961. After India gained independence on 15 August 1947, the British and the French vacated their colonial possessions in India. Indian nationalists in Goa launched a struggle for Portugal to leave, involving a series of strikes and civil disobedience movements by Indians against the Portuguese administration, which were ruthlessly suppressed by Portugal. India made numerous offers to negotiate for the return of the colonies, but Salazar repeatedly rejected the offers. With an Indian military operation imminent, Salazar ordered Governor General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva to fight until the last man, and adopt a scorched earth policy.[27] Eventually, India launched Operation Vijay in December 1961 to evict Portugal from Goa, Daman and Diu. 31 Portuguese soldiers were killed in action and a Portuguese Navy frigate NRP Alfonso de Albuquerque was destroyed, before General Vassalo e Silva surrendered. Salazar forced the General into exile for disobeying his order to fight to the last man and surrendering to the Indian Army.

In the 1960s, armed revolutionary movements and scattered guerrilla activity had reached Mozambique, 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.

At home, Salazar's regime remained unmistakably authoritarian. He was able to hold onto power with reminders of the instability that had characterized Portuguese political life before 1926. However, by the 1950s, a new generation emerged which had no collective memory of this instability. The clearest sign of this came in the 1958 presidential election. Most neutral observers believed the democratic opposition's candidate, Humberto Delgado, would have defeated the regime's candidate, Americo Thomaz, had the election been conducted fairly. Delgado had let it be known that if elected, he would dismiss Salazar; the president's power to dismiss the prime minister was theoretically the only check on Salazar's power. Salazar was frightened enough to transfer election of the president to the legislature, which was firmly under his control. In the 1960s, Salazar's opposition to decolonization and gradual freedom of the press created friction with the Franco dictatorship.

Economic policies[edit]

Salazar (centre, with glasses) observing Edgar Cardoso's Santa Clara Bridge maquette in Coimbra.

After the chaotic years of the Portuguese First Republic, financial stability was Salazar's highest priority.[28] His first incursions into Portuguese politics as a member of the cabinet were during the Ditadura Nacional, when Portugal's public finances and the economy in general were in a dreadful mess due to the continuous state of imminent default since at least the 1890s.

After Salazar has become Prime Minister, in order to balance the Portuguese budget and pay off external debts, he instituted numerous taxes. The Salazar first 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. Economically, the Salazar years were marked by a period of modest growth and the country remained largely underdeveloped and its population relatively poor and with low education levels until the 1960s.

In July 1940, Life Magazine called Salazar "the greatest Portuguese since Prince Henry the Navigator". Life Magazine said that:"The Dictator has built the Nation. Most that has been built in Portugal can be credited to Dr. Salazar…he has balanced the budget, built roads and schools, torn down slums, cut the death rate and enormously raised Portugal self-esteem. Unambitious Salazar took the dictatorship by army request and holds it by popular will. The Salazar dictatorship is easygoing and paternalistic, with wide freedom of speech allowed to his enemies….Friends of democracy may deplore Salazar the dictator but they cannot deny that under the republic Portugal made an unholy mess of itself and Salazar pulled it out."

From 1950 until Salazar's death, Portugal saw its GDP per capita rise at an average rate of 5.66% per year. In 1960 Portugal formally joined EFTA marking the initiation of Salazar's more outward-looking economic policy due to the influence of a new generation of technocrats with a background in economics and technical-industrial know-how. Portuguese membership of EFTA was a natural consequence of its presence from the very outset in the OEEC. Portugal’s participation in EFTA is regarded as highly satisfactory at virtually all levels. Portuguese foreign trade increased by 52% in exports and 40% in imports. The economic growth and levels of capital formation in the 1960-73 were characterized by an unparalleled robust annual growth rates for GDP (6.9 percent), industrial production (9 percent), private consumption (6.5 percent), and gross fixed capital formation (7.8 percent).[29]

Portuguese economic growth in the period 1960–1973 under the Estado Novo regime (and even with the effects of an expensive war effort in African territories against independence guerrilla groups), created an opportunity for real integration with the developed economies of Western Europe. In 1960 Portugal's per capita GDP was only 38 percent of the European Community (EC-12) average; by the end of the Salazar period, in 1968, it had risen to 48 percent; and in 1973, under the leadership of Marcelo Caetano, Portugal's per capita GDP had reached 56.4 percent of the EC-12 average.[30]Through emigration, trade, tourism and foreign investment, individuals and firms changed their patterns of production and consumption, bringing about a structural transformation. Simultaneously, the increasing complexity of a growing economy raised new technical and organizational challenges, stimulating the formation of modern professional and management teams.[31][32]

The slowing down of economic growth that followed is attributed to the aftermath of the revolution that ended the dictatorship, in 1974, and the nationalization spree in 1975.

Colonialist ideology[edit]

Portuguese overseas territories in Africa during the Estado Novo regime (1933–1974): Angola and Mozambique were by far the two largest of those territories.

His reluctance to travel abroad, his increasing determination not to grant independence to the colonies and to stand against the "winds of change" announced by the British in their move to give up their major colonies, 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. For the Portuguese ruling regime, the overseas empire was a matter of national identity.

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 Rotina" was a result of this trip.

Salazar was a close friend of Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith: after Rhodesia proclaimed its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain, Portugal – though not officially recognizing the new Rhodesian state – supported Rhodesia economically and militarily through the neighbouring 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 The Great Betrayal that had Salazar lasted longer than he did, the Rhodesian government would have survived to the present day, ruled by a moderate black majority government under the name of 'Zimbabwe-Rhodesia'.

Salazar and the Catholic Church[edit]

Lateral view of Cristo-Rei, Almada.

Salazar's goal was to establish a Catholic Social Order even in a nominally secular state, to Salazar a Catholic Portugal would be a strong contrast to the atheistic communism he so greatly opposed. In this process, Salazar dissolved Freemasonry in Portugal in 1935. He permitted the Catholic religion to be taught in all schools, not just parochial schools (however, non-Catholic parents who did not wish their children to receive this instruction could have their children removed from these classes); but throughout Portugal, the Catholic education of the youth was greatly favored. Another policy at this time was Salazar's legislation on marriage which read “The Portuguese state recognizes the civil effects of marriages celebrated according to canonical laws.” He then initiated into this legislation articles which frowned upon divorce. Article 24 reads, “In harmony with the essential properties of Catholic marriages, it is understood that by the very fact of the celebration of a canonical marriage, the spouses renounce the legal right to ask for a divorce.” Divorce was allowed only if it had been a purely civil marriage. The effect of this law was that the number of Catholic marriages went up, so that by 1960 nearly 91 percent of all marriages in the country were canonical marriages.[citation needed]

On 4 July 1937, Salazar was on his way to Mass at a private chapel in a friend's house in the Barbosa du Bocage Avenue in Lisbon. As he stepped out of the car, a Buick, a bomb exploded only 10 feet away (the bomb had been hidden in an iron case). The bomb-blast left Salazar untouched (his chauffeur was rendered deaf). The bishops argued in a collective letter in 1938, that it was an "act of God" that had preserved Salazar's life in this attempted assassination. Emídio Santana was the anarcho-syndicalist, founder of the Metallurgists National Union (Sindicato Nacional dos Metalúrgicos), behind the assassination attempt. The official car was replaced by an armoured Chrysler Imperial.[33]

On 13 May 1938, when the bishops of Portugal fulfilled their vow and renewed the National Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Cardinal Cerejeira acknowledged publicly that Our Lady of Fatima had "spared Portugal the scourge of Communism". After Portugal avoided the devastation of both the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, Salazar's propaganda machine and the Catholic Church also connected this to a miraculous dimension which made them profit from the Catholic fervor of the masses. The Cristo-Rei, a Catholic monument in Almada, was inaugurated on 17 May 1959 by Salazar. Its construction was approved by a Portuguese Episcopate conference, held in Fátima on 20 April 1940, as a plea to God to prevent Portugal from entering World War II. However, the idea had originated on a visit by the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro in 1934, soon after the inauguration of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in 1931.

The relationship of Salazar with some sectors of the Catholic Church, more in accordance with the social doctrine of the Holy See, worsened after World War II. Some prominent oppositionist priests, like Abel Varzim and Joaquim Alves Correia, openly supported the MUD in 1945 and the granting of more social rights to the workers. Abel Varzim, who had been a supporter of the regime, had his newspaper closed, while Joaquim Alves Correia was forced into exile in the United States, where he died in 1951. The Democratic Opposition main candidate in the 1958 Presidential Elections, General Humberto Delgado was a Roman Catholic and a dissident of the regime, who quoted Pope Pius XII to show how the social policies of the regime were against the social teachings of the Church. The same year, Salazar suffered a severe blow from the bishop of Porto, Dom António Ferreira Gomes, who wrote a critical letter to the Council President in July 1958 being forced to exile for 10 years. After the Second Vatican Council, a large number of Catholics became active in the Democratic Opposition.


In 1968, Salazar suffered a brain hemorrhage. Most sources maintain that it occurred when he fell from a chair in his summer house. In February 2009 though, there were anonymous witnesses who confessed, after some research about Salazar's best-kept secrets, that he had fallen in a bathtub instead of from a chair.[34] As he was expected to die shortly after his fall, President Thomaz replaced him with Marcello Caetano. Despite the injury, Salazar lived for a further two years. When he unexpectedly recovered lucidity, his intimates did not tell him he had been removed from power, instead allowing him to "rule" in privacy until his death in July 1970.[35] Tens of thousands paid their last respects at the funeral and the Requiem Mass that took place at the Jerónimos Monastery and at the passage of the special train that carried the coffin to his hometown of Vimieiro near Santa Comba Dão, where he was buried according to his wishes in his native soil, in a plain ordinary grave. As a symbolic display of his views of Portugal and the colonial empire, there is well-known footage of several members of the "Mocidade Portuguesa," of both African and European ethnicity, paying homage at his funeral.

Post-Salazar Portugal and interpretation[edit]

After Salazar's death, his Estado Novo regime persisted under the direction of Thomaz as well as his successor and longtime aide, Marcelo Caetano, who co-wrote the Constitution of 1933. Despite tentative overtures towards an opening of the regime, Caetano balked at ending the colonial war, notwithstanding the condemnation of most of the international community. Eventually the Estado Novo fell on 25 April 1974, after the Carnation Revolution. The retreat from the colonies and the acceptance of their independence terms which would create newly independent communist states in 1975 (most notably the People's Republic of Angola and the People's Republic of Mozambique), which promptly started to expel all white Portuguese citizens from the nearly-independent Portugal's African territories (mostly from Portuguese Angola and Mozambique),[36][37] created over a million destitute Portuguese refugees — the retornados.

The Estado Novo regime has been described by the American socialist author David L. Raby as a far-right leaning regime of para-fascist inspiration, although general labeling of Portugal as "fascist" declined after the defeat of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in World War II, in which Portugal remained strictly neutral.[38] According to some Portuguese right leaning or conservative scholars like Jaime Nogueira Pinto[39] and Rui Ramos,[40] his early reforms and policies allowed political and financial stability and therefore social order and economic growth, after the politically unstable and financially chaotic years of the Portuguese First Republic (1910–1926). Other historians, like leftist politician Fernando Rosas, claim that Salazar's policies from the 1930s to the 1950s led to economic and social stagnation and rampant emigration, turning Portugal into one of the poorest countries in Europe, one that was also thwarted by scoring lower on literacy than its peers of the Northern Hemisphere.[41]


  1. ^ "Portugal: The War Has Made It Europe's Front Door", Life, 29 July 1940.
  2. ^ Ohare, Samuel (1946). Ambassador on Special Mission. UK: Collins; First Edition edition. pp. 124 and 125. 
  3. ^ Hayes, Carlton J.H. (2009). Wartime mission in Spain, 1942-1945. Macmillan Company 1st Edition. p. 36. ISBN 9781121497245. 
  4. ^ [1] Technically correct poll made by the TV station RTP and Eurosondagem, following the victory of Salazar in its TV Show "Os Grandes portugueses", at
  5. ^ (Portuguese) António de Oliveira Salazar, HistóriaDePortugalinfo
  6. ^ Beevor, Antony. The Spanish Civil War. p. 97. ISBN 0-911745-11-4
  7. ^ Leite, Joaquim da Costa. "Neutrality by Agreement: Portugal and the British Alliance in World War II." American University International Law Review 14, no. 1 (1998): 185-199
  8. ^ * Ohare, Samuel (1946). Ambassador on Special Mission. UK: Collins; First Edition edition. p. 320. 
  9. ^ Wartime mission in Spain, 1942-1945 / by Carlton J.H. Hayes, Historian and late American ambassador to Spain
  10. ^ Salazar, António de Oliveira – “Como se Levanta um Estado”, ISBN 9789899537705
  11. ^ Dez anos de Politica Externa, Vol 1, pag 137. Edicao Imprensa Nacional 1961
  12. ^ Portuguese Committee for the Assistance of Jewish Refugees in Portugal (COMASSIS), which was led by Augusto Esaguy and Elias Baruel, and had Moses Amzalak and Adolfo Benarus as its honorary chairmen,
  13. ^ Benarus, Adolfo – “O Antisemitismo” - 1937 ( Lisboa : Sociedade Nacional de Tipografia)
  14. ^ Avraham Milgram, Portugal, Salazar, and the Jews, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2011, p.11.
  15. ^ In one of the most memorable movie scenes of all times star-crossed Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman part as he sends her off into the foggy night to join her husband on a flight from Casablanca. Bogart (Rick) sacrifices the life they might have had together to ensure her safety. Where were Ingrid Bergman and husband headed? You must remember this! It was Lisbon!
  16. ^ [2] Words of Remembrance by one of his sons, Luis Felipe], at
  17. ^ Portuguese Diplomatic Yearbook, 1954
  18. ^ Afonso p. 257
  19. ^ Several secondary and primary published sources mention that Mendes was receiving a salary. Secondary: Afonso p.257, Lochery p. 49, Wheeler p.128, and Primary: a) Sousa Mendes Personal File, online archive, Portuguese Ministry of Finance b) A letter that Sousa Mendes wrote to the Portuguese Bar Association, Ordem dos Advogados - Secretaria do Conselho Geral, Lisboa, Cota - Processo nº 10/1931 Date 1946.04.29 where he says that he is receiving a monthly salary of 1,593 Portuguese Escudos. Fralon also mentions that in 1950 Mendes wrote to his twin saying the following “Pedro Nuno [his son], Maria Adelaide [his daughter in law] and their children [his grand-children] are in financial straits. My salary has been used up to pay for their outings” p. 133.
  20. ^ Milgram, Avraham. "Portugal, Salazar, and the Jews", translated by Naftali Greenwood. Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, 2011, (page 89) ISBN 978-965-308-387-5
  21. ^ The Price of Neutrality: Portugal, the Wolfram Question, and World War II Douglas L. Wheeler Luso-Brazilian Review Vol. 23, No. 1 (Summer, 1986), pp. 107-127 Published by: University of Wisconsin Press Article Stable URL:
  22. ^ Wilson, Robert (3 December 2011). "The Capital of Intrigue in a World at War". The Wall Street Journal (New York). Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  23. ^ Spared Lives, The Action of Three Portuguese Diplomats in World War II – Documentary e-book edited by the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
  24. ^ Neil Lochery estimates a high end number of one million - Lochery, Neill - "Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939–45", PublicAffairs; 1 edition (November 1, 2011), ISBN 1586488791
  25. ^ Leite, Joaquim da Costa. "Neutrality by Agreement: Portugal and the British Alliance in World War II." American University International Law Review 14, no. 1 (1998): 185-199.
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Ancient Goan History - GOACOM - GOA - INDIA - INFORMATION AND SERVICES IN GOA. Goa News, Goa Konkani News, Goa Sunaparant News, Goan Konakani News, Goa Video News, Goa Yellow Pages". GOACOM. 1916-04-04. Retrieved 2013-09-04. 
  28. ^ (Portuguese) Oliveira Salazar, "Salazar é assim novamente convidado a integrar o Governo, mas, desta feita, impõe as suas condições: por um lado, e como técnico de Finanças, exige o exame de todas as iniciativas que impliquem receitas e despesas", Infopédia (Porto Editora)
  29. ^ Mattoso, José; Rosas, Fernando (1994). História de Portugal: o Estado Novo (in Portuguese) VII. Lisbon: Estampa. p. 474. ISBN 9723310864. 
  30. ^ [Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, Juan José Linz,M1]
  31. ^ [3], Joaquim da Costa Leite (Aveiro University) – Instituições, Gestão e Crescimento Económico: Portugal, 1950–1973
  32. ^ (Portuguese) Fundação da SEDES – As primeiras motivações, "Nos anos 60 e até 1973 teve lugar, provavelmente, o mais rápido período de crescimento económico da nossa História, traduzido na industrialização, na expansão do turismo, no comércio com a EFTA, no desenvolvimento dos sectores financeiros, investimento estrangeiro e grandes projectos de infra-estruturas. Em consequência, os indicadores de rendimentos e consumo acompanham essa evolução, reforçados ainda pelas remessas de emigrantes.", SEDES
  33. ^ (Portuguese) Agência Lusa, Único atentado contra o ditador Oliveira Salazar foi há 70 anos, in
  34. ^ "Salazar fell in a bathtub, not from a chair" (Portuguese language)
  35. ^ Meneses, Filipe de. Salazar: A Political Biography. pp. 608–609. ISBN 978-1-929631-90-2
  36. ^ "Flight from Angola". The Economist (London). 16 August 1975. 
  37. ^ "Dismantling the Portuguese Empire". Time (New York). 7 July 1975. 
  38. ^ David L. Raby, Fascism and Resistance in Portugal: Communists, Liberals and Military Dissidents in the Opposition to Salazar, 1941–1974,
  39. ^ (Portuguese) Grandes Portugueses – Entender Salazar e o Estado Novo., Jaime Nogueira Pinto in the The Greatest Portuguese
  40. ^ História de Portugal. A luta de facções entre os salazaristas "Até os americanos já o tinham abandonado, temendo "recriar o caos que existia em Portugal antes de Salazar tomar o poder".", from História de Portugal (2009), Rui Ramos, Bernardo de Vasconcelos e Sousa, and Nuno Gonçalo Monteiro, Esfera dos Livros, cited in
  41. ^

Further reading[edit]

In Portuguese[edit]

  • Coelho, Eduardo Coelho; António Macieira (1995). Salazar, o fim e a morte: história de uma mistificação ; inclui os textos inéditos do Prof. Eduardo Coelho "Salazar e o seu médico" e "Salazar visto pelo seu médico" (1. ed. ed.). Lisboa: Publ. Dom Quixote. ISBN 972-20-1272-X. 
  • Nogueira, Franco (1977–1985), Salazar: estudo biográfico, 6 vol.
A mocidade e os princípios, 1889–1928 (3. ed. com estudo prévio pelo Joaquim Veríssimo Serrão) 1 (3a ed. ed.). Porto [Portugal]: Civilização Editora. 1977 (updated 2000). ISBN 972-26-1839-3. 
Os tempos áureos, 1928–1936 (2. ed.) 2. Porto: Livraria Civilização. 1977. ISBN 972-26-1840-7. 
As grandes crises, 1936–1945 3 (5a ed. ed.). Porto: Livraria Civilização. 1978. ISBN 972-26-1843-1. 
O ataque, 1945–1958 4 (4a ed. ed.). Porto: Livraria Civilização. 1980. ISBN 972-26-1844-X. 
A resistência, 1958–1964 5 (4. ed. ed.). Porto: Livraria Civilização. 1984. ISBN 972-26-1841-5. 
O último combate (1964–1970) 6. Porto [Portugal]: Civilização Editora. 1985. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Domingos Oliveira
Prime Minister of Portugal
Succeeded by
Marcelo Caetano
Preceded by
António Óscar Carmona
President of Portugal

Succeeded by
Craveiro Lopes