Brazilian Civil War
Aside from Chile, who under Augusto Pinochet and Patricio Aylwin had become an economic juggernaut and nuclear power, South America was in the words of Bundy, “fucked up beyond repair” going into the 1990s. Wartime devastation, civil unrest, and the biblical conditions of the Marburg Epidemic had hit the once promising continent hard. (A study in 1995 ranked South America dead last among human development, Africa taking a clear lead over it after being last for the longest time. It was beginning to take advantage of its rising status to project its power. The Entebbe Pact could finally show to their former colonizers they could stand up for themselves.) Some were better off than others though. Venezuela and Colombia managed to maintain functional governments that - although authoritarian in many respects - kept good order and brought back international investment. Freedoms of speech, press, and assembly were at best a suggestion. Strongmen dictators held iron grips in many states, the most infamous being the cult of personality and anti-Imperialist fervor of Leopoldo Galtieri’s Argentina. Peru was unique as having a dictator that did not have a strong grip, much of his country in the grip of vicious insurgencies.
Aside from tiny Uruguay, (where there was no government to speak of and order was kept by groups of warlords who warred with each other frequently), the worst off was clearly Brazil. Nominally the largest and most populous South American nation state, the events of the beginning of the 1990s had hit it hard. Marburg had been particularly vicious due to the high population density, and the high-profile repressive measures against the virus left a government despised and hated by its people. Internationally reviled as a man who ordered his own citizens to burn to death, President Ernesto Geisel could not take it anymore. Battling depression and anxiety attacks for months, on November 1, 1993 his staff found him in his office, dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Geisel’s death - in which he would be seen as a coward by his own supporters - was a Greek tragedy that personified the state of the Brazilian nation. His government only controlled a stretch of land from Rio de Janeiro (the de facto capital) to Brasilia (the de jure capital), and much of that only tenuous control. Much of the south and the plains were controlled by warlords, lagely rogue generals or crime syndicates taking advantage of the post-pandemic chaos. The north and northeast were in open rebellion, controlled by either Indigenous militias, remnants of the communists still led by Carlos Marighella, and the Republican forces led by socialist and former political prisoner Lula da Silva, which got massive support from India and the African Union. A tenuous cold war between the factions ignited into full scale conflict in early 1993, casualties heavy in the new Brazilian Civil War.
After a month of backstabbing and jockeying for control, the winner of the power struggle following Geisel's suicide was one Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra. The former head of the earlier military junta’s security forces, he had fled to Chile immediately following the Focoist coup and was considered a hero by the Brazilian right-wing. Well-equipped to win the mantle as President, he faced a government in disarray, losing ground even to criminal gangs within Sao Paulo and other major cities. Bloodlessly purging out the older generation of former senior officials within the exile community, President Ustra and his new war cabinet of young, vigorous leaders huddled over Christmas 1993 for a strategy.
On New Year’s Day 1994, Ustra announced the reformation of the Brazilian Estado Novo, implementing a more efficient command structure and administration for the areas under its control (largely around Rio). The diplomatic fanfare was well received abroad, recognized by most NATO countries and receiving massive military aid from the developing power bloc of France/Spain/Portugal/South Africa. But the military situation mattered the most, and Ustra put his faith in one General Jair Bolsonaro.
Jair Bolsonaro torung a military base outside Sao Paulo. A war hero and hands on in command style, Bolsonaro was beloved by his men and led the Estado Novo through its darkest times
Only 39 years old, the young officer had a meteoric rise within the Brazilian armed forces. Decorated for bravery and tactical brilliance in the Peru campaign, Bolsonaro had also been a mole for the rightist exiles, securing the large portion of the intact military forces for the anti-communists. In charge of quarantine procedures for Rio, he broke from the heavy handed tactics of other commanders and employed a “strict but compassionate” campaign in the words of the Red Cross. Estado Novo citizens viewed him as a literal saint, and his men adored the physically fit, tough, and relatable commander. Such made him Ustra’s first choice for Supreme Commander of the military.
Bolsonaro presented his plan to Ustra’s cabinet in mid-January, and it was immediately controversial. Case Black was radical in the views of the general himself, but was the only option. Reconstructing all of Brazil into the Estado Novo state was impossible according to the plan. Too much hatred and division, and they did not have enough of a population and industrial base to do it. The Amazon and the Republicans would need to be allowed to stay independent, but Bolsonaro promised that he could destroy the communists an cripple the Republicans enough in the short term to win the following peace. Over objections from the hardliners in the cabinet, Ustra gave the young commander the green light.
In the southern hemisphere fall of 1994 Estado Novo troops poured into the battleground areas. The states of Minas Gerais, Goiás, and Mato Grasso erupted into constant attacks and counterattacks between the various factions. Both the communists and the Republicans, who had been engaged in warlord pacification and their own fighting quickly rushed troops to stem the tide. However, the entire move was a feint by Bolsonaro. The real action of Case Black would be in the south.
Much of the divisions within the civil war - much as the Estado Novo government vigorously denied it - were geographically and racially based. Support for the government was highest among white Brazilians largely concentrated in the south, while black and “Pardo” (mixed-race) Brazilians largely concentrated in the northeast were supportive of the Republicans or Communists (although Pardos in the south did have significant Estado Novo support). Blacks in particular were known as stalwarts for the Communist regime, and were subsequently reviled by government-backed forces. Bolsonaro recognized this and looked south where the largest proportion of white Brazilians lived. Within the warlord dominated areas here was a treasure trove of men, infrastructure, and resources that the regime needed, and he was going to get it.
Estado Novo sniper battling warlord forces in Campo Grande.
Not every military action taken here involved the use of force. Bolsonaro and the Foreign Ministry were adept at turning warlords from opposition into enthusiastic backers of the regime. Bribes bankrolled by influential French interests were paid out by the tens of millions, high profile positions in the government handed out like candy. One warlord, Hamilton Mourão, turned over the entirety of his fief in the important shipping hub of Porto Alegre in exchange for command of an entire area army in Minas Gerais. In other areas however, the crime syndicates and warlords refused to heel, and Bolsonaro rained fire and brimstone upon them with the latest in French and American weaponry until the territory was in their hands.
One quiet front was in the Amazon. Ever since the neo-Incans defeated Brazilian communist forces at the Battle of Manaus, law and order meant nothing here. Millions fled into the jungles to escape the virus, only to find the local inhabitants well armed and running their own fiefs. Eventually the natives rallied around one Chico Mendes, who built a political and military movement much like Pachacuti’s neo-Incan movement in Peru (Pachacuti was able to run massive bases in the Amazon free from Peruvian incursion as a result), integrating who he could and driving forth millions out of the few cities. Streams of white refugees fled to the Estado Novo while Mendes’ forces prepared for a counteroffensive that never came - Ustra had already conceded the Amazon.
As 1994 drew to a close, celebrations rocked the streets of Rio de Janeiro for the first time in years. The last warlord stronghold in the south had been taken. President Ustra declared that the Estado Novo had secured all of southern Brazil, pumping the resources of that region into the core cities. Rationing was dialed back and international trade resumed, causing the hyperinflation and rampant unemployment to plummet. Riding high on popular support, Ustra ordered Bolsonaro to go on a full offensive into Minas Gerais and secure Brazil’s industrial hub for the government.
[A/n: should read “part of the Brazilian civil war”]
With many commitments, the battles were slow, sloppy affairs. The Communists relied on guerrilla forces launching spoiling attacks wherever they could, while the more easily supplied Republican forces hunkered behind well-fortified defensive positions. Minas Gerais saw the hardest fighting of the war, most early gains seen in the outer provinces. June 1995 saw Mato Grosso secured, joined in October by Brasilia and the surrounding regions. The fighting in Minas Gerais focused on the industrial hub of Belo Horizonte, which rapidly grew into a charnel house reminiscent of Stalingrad or Koblenz. A breakthrough was finally achieved in the summer of 1996 when an armored blitz (based on a new shipment of brand new French tanks) broke through east of the city, allowing the government to surround and destroy the Republicans within. Among the dead in the massive victory for the Estado Novo was da Silva himself, leadership of the Republicans falling to Aloízio Mercadante.
While battlefield victories increased thanks to General Bolsonaro, by 1995 Ustra was facing a major diplomatic problem. Heavy handed tactics and the perception of dictatorship were winning few friends on the international level. The Freyist bloc was a huge critic, and significant portions of the Iacocca and Churchill governments opposed further aid to the Estado Novo regime. Bolsonaro and Foreign Minister Fernando Henrique Cardoso both stated that the only way to rescue their international standing was to foster relations with the French/Iberian/South African bloc - fuse the regime to them in perpetuity.
Two developments provided the regime with the eventual proposal. First was to the north in the poor nation of Suriname. Devastated by the epidemic with little to no modern infrastructure, the strongman controlling the country had petitioned their old colonial Dutch masters for reannexation. After a heated debate in the parliament, a narrow vote found the Dutch approving annexation, the flag of the Netherlands being raised over Paramaribo for the first time since 1975. Additionally was Uruguay to the south. Under warlord controlled anarchy since the collapse of the communist government, South American geopolitics was rocked when Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Tejero (his Falangist party defeating the socialist government of Felipe Gonzalez in the 1994 elections) ordered troops into the country in 1995 to restore order and absorb it back into Spain. The Spanish forces were greeted as saviors by the locals, while most countries including a furious Argentina denouncing the move. In Rio, it was seen as an opportunity.
Relations between the Estado Novo regime and the Empire of Portugal had been quite warm since Ustra took office. Both governments were similar in ideology, and the greater bloc of nations spearheaded by Lisbon and Paris wanted to expand their influence into South America. Discussions between Cardoso and representatives of Emperor Kaulza for a potential annexation had been running for years, the former hoping for something for the country to rally behind while the latter salivated at a united Portuguese empire for the first time in centuries. Borrowing on the Spanish annexation of Uruguay, Ustra nevertheless decided that a simple merger of the countries would not work. However, he did have a proposal, and such found Emperor Kaulza invited on a state visit to Rio.
Emperor Kaulza getting a hero’s welcome in Rio. “It is like Carnival,” as one journalist noted. “He was treated as one step under godhead.”
To great fanfare by the people of Rio, the aging Emperor Kaulza arrived in Brazil with Prime Minister Goncalo Telles to begin negotiations of a permanent alliance between the two nations. At once, prospects of a full unification were dashed aside in spite of the Emperor’s hopes. Ustra did not want Brazilians to be ruled from Europe while Goncalo Telles felt that adding Brazil would devastate Portugal’s overall economy with millions of unemployed and in refugee camps. Days passed as the two sides debated on and on until a historic compromise was reached. Brazil and Portugal would be combined into a personal union - The Estado Novo government would be seperate from Portugal itself, but would crown Emperor Kaulza as King with similar if diminished executive powers as he held in the Metropole. It wasn’t perfect but it satisfied both sides.
The formation of the Kingdom of Brazil with Kaulza de Arriaga holding both the Royal Crown of Brazil and the Imperial Crown of Portugal met with joyous celebrations in both the Metropole and the colony. The Emperor-King promised a quarterly rotation between his two crowns as the people of the Estado Novo (as both countries were now referred to) would experience a sense of unity not seen in centuries. While Republican and Communist forces still lurked undefeated in the north, the influx of the Portuguese Imperial Army and doubled aid from allied nations put Ustra and Bolsonaro in the driver’s seat for the war.
However, it wasn’t just internal foes enraged by the personal union.