Cardoso, Fernando Henrique (Brazil)

Reference work entry


Fernando Henrique Cardoso was president of Brazil from 1994–2002, becoming the first president to serve two consecutive 4 year terms. An academic, former finance minister and leader of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Social Democratic Party; PSDB), he oversaw a period of rapid economic development, albeit incurring a large public debt.

Early Life

Born in Rio de Janeiro on 18 June 1931, Cardoso was educated at the University of São Paulo and the University of Paris. An opponent of the military regime in power from 1964, he was stripped of his academic position. Having founded the Centre for Analysis and Research, a social science think tank, in late 1968, he was investigated by military intelligence and his institute was bombed by right-wing terrorists. He went into exile in the 1970s and 80s, working in Chile, the US and France and studying international relations.

In 1986 Cardoso was elected senator for São Paulo and a such campaigned for democratic reform. Two years later he helped found the Social Democratic party and was prominent in the re-drafting of the Brazilian constitution. In 1992 he resigned from the senate to become foreign minister in the government of Itamar Franco. Appointed finance minister in 1993, he introduced the Real Plan, a strategy to promote economic recovery and counter Brazil’s rampant inflation which peaked at 10,000%. His success raised his public profile and he triumphed in the presidential election of 1994.

Career Peak

Cardoso’s rule saw a period of economic growth and reform including the privatization of Brazil’s state-run monopolies, the introduction of a new currency, a reduction in trade restrictions and increased spending on education and welfare. By the end of his term inflation was at 7%, infant mortality had fallen and unemployment remained steady.

A constitutional amendment in 1997 provided for consecutive presidential terms and the following year he won re-election. In Cardoso’s second term a growing trade deficit led to reduced government spending, increased taxes and a slowing of the economy, in part affected by problems in neighbouring countries. Brazil had also accrued a public debt of US$260bn. In the 2002 presidential elections, Cardoso’s successor José Serra was defeated by the leftwing leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Later Life

Cardoso has been involved in a number of international initiatives and organizations since leaving the presidency. He was the president of the Club of Madrid from 2003–2006 and is also a member of ‘the Elders’. An organization of elder statesmen describing themselves as ‘independent global leaders working together for peace and human rights’.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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