|Portugal Table of Contents
The coup d'état was bloodless because no military units came to the aid of the government. On May 30, the president of the republic, Bernardino Machado, turned the reins of power over to Commander José Mendes Cabeçadas, a naval officer and staunch republican, not to General Gomes da Costa, the titular leader of the military uprising. This resulted in two months of behind-the- scenes infighting among various factions of the military. The promonarchist tendency within the May 28 Movement, as the coup was called, allied itself with right-wing but not necessarily monarchist junior officers who wanted some form of authoritarian state. In the hope of preventing the rise of a monarchist or authoritarian regime, Mendes Cabeçadas formed a joint government with Gomes da Costa on June 1. On June 17, Gomes da Costa ousted Mendes Cabeçadas and his followers from the provisional government. General da Costa's supremacy was temporary; he too was ousted on July 9. On the same day, General Óscar Fragoso Carmona was named head of the military government.
The military government was now in the hands of monarchists and authoritarian officers, and it seemed as if a restoration of the monarchy would follow. This was not to be, however, because of the reaction that such an outcome could have provoked among a substantial number of republicans within the officer corps. Carmona, who was both a republican and a devout Catholic, was acceptable to a broad range of views. He carefully preserved a balance between pro- and antimonarchists and pro- and anticlerical officers in order to ensure that the military regime would survive. On March 25, 1928, General Carmona was elected to the presidency of the republic and appointed Colonel José Vicente de Freitas, a staunch republican, as prime minister, which virtually assured that the monarchy was not going to be restored, at least not during the military dictatorship.
Carmona named António de Oliveira Salazar, a professor of political economy at the University of Coimbra, as minister of finance. Salazar accepted the post on April 27, 1928, only after he had demanded and had been granted complete control over the expenditures of all government ministries. In his first year at the Ministry of Finance, he not only balanced the budget but achieved a surplus, the first since 1913. He accomplished this feat by centralizing financial control, improving revenue collection, and cutting public expenditures. Salazar remained minister of finance as military prime ministers came and went. From his first successful year as minister of finance, Salazar gradually came to embody the financial and political solution to the turmoil of the military dictatorship, which had not produced a clear leader. Salazar easily overshadowed military prime ministers and gradually gained the allegiance of Portugal's young intellectuals and military officers, who identified with his authoritarian, antiliberal, anticommunist view of the world. Moreover, Salazar's ascendancy was welcomed by the church, which saw in him a savior from the anticlericalism of the republicans. It was also welcomed by the upper classes of landowners, businessmen, and bankers, who were grateful for his success in stabilizing the economy after the financial crisis of the First Republic.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress