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  • Resisting Brazil's Military Regime: An Account of the Battles of Sobral Pinto
  • James N. Green
Resisting Brazil's Military Regime: An Account of the Battles of Sobral Pinto. By John W. F. Dulles. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007. Pp. 324. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $60.00 cloth.

Heráclito Fontoura Sobral Pinto gained fame in Brazil for his intransigent opposition to Getúlio Vargas's Estado Novo, his legal defense of Communist Party leader Luiz Carlos Prestes after a failed attempt to seize power in 1935, and his loyalty to traditional Catholic beliefs. In this second and final volume about the life and legal activities of Sobral Pinto, John W. F. Dulles documents the lawyer's career in defense of victims of the 1964 military coup d'état. As in his previous scholarly tomes on Brazilian political personalities, Dulles preferences minutiae over a broader analytical framework of the period. The author gathered letters, legal papers, public declarations, and newspaper accounts to provide an exacting chronicle of Sobral Pinto's defense of former President Kubitschek, deposed Pernambucan governor Miguel Arraes, and Communist Party leader Gregório Bezerra, among others persecuted by the authoritarian regime.

Following a classic Cold War worldview, Sobral Pinto supported the military takeover because he feared President Goulart was leading Brazil toward a socialist revolution. At the same time, Sobral Pinto's belief in the rule of law placed him in conflict with the generals in power. Rather than explore these contradictions embedded in the ideology and religious beliefs of the outspoken lawyer, Dulles offers a detailed, and at times tedious, recounting of the different lawsuits, legal actions, and court battles against the military regime. Indeed, Sobral Pinto himself was briefly incarcerated after Institutional Act No. 5 of December 1968 closed down Congress, suspended habeas corpus, and abrogated constitutional and democratic rights. Ironically, Sobral Pinto opposed the left wing of the Catholic Church that became a visible and vociferous opponent of the dictatorship because he considered liberation theology an aberration of traditional Catholic teachings.

Dulles, who passed away in 2008, will be remembered for his painstaking attention to archival sources in writing modern Brazilian history. Those interested in the fine points of the legal opposition to the military regime will find this volume a helpful supplement to the explosion of works on this period that have appeared in Brazil in recent years.

James N. Green
Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island


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