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Caetano, Marcelo José das Neves (1906–1980)

Portuguese politician and prime minister (1968–1974). Born in Lisbon on 17 August 1906, Marcelo Caetano studied law at the University of Lisbon, graduating in 1931. He then taught at that university from 1932 to 1968. In 1940 he joined the Portuguese government.

Among other duties, Caetano served as minister of the colonies (1944–1947) and deputy prime minister (1955–1958). In September 1968, after Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar suffered a stroke, Caetano replaced him as premier. Salazar had ruled as de facto dictator of Portugal since 1932.

As prime minister, Caetano attempted to hold together Portugal's rapidly disintegrating overseas empire in Angola, Mozambique, and Cabo Verde. In response to building criticism of the authoritarian government, he instituted modest political reforms known as the Marcelist Spring in 1969. Most notably, he allegedly reorganized the secret police, the Polícia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado (PIDE, International Police State Defense). But the changes amounted to little more than a name change for the agency. As dissent grew in the early 1970s, Salazar loyalists in the government pressured Caetano to crack down, which only fueled more unrest. The colonial situation became ever more critical as antirebellion efforts consumed nearly 50 percent of Portugal's annual budget. In February 1974 Caetano ousted General António de Spínola from the army after he had attempted to liberalize colonial administration. This move set the stage for a military coup. Caetano was ultimately deposed by the army during the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974. He then fled to Brazil and died in Rio de Janeiro on 26 October 1980. The Carnation Revolution, meanwhile, ended Portuguese authoritarianism and instituted a liberal democracy.

David H. Richards


Further Reading
Birmingham, David. A Concise History of Portugal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
 

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