|Portugal Table of Contents
President Tomás appointed Marcello José das Neves Caetano to succeed Salazar as prime minister, although the regime did not admit for some time that Salazar would not be returning to power. Caetano was a teacher, jurist, and scholar of international reputation who had been one of the drafters of the 1933 constitution. Considered a moderate within the regime, he had taken unpopular stands in opposition to Salazar. He had resigned as rector of Lisbon University in 1960 in protest over police repression of student demonstrations. Unlike Salazar he came from the upper middle class, was ebullient and personable, and sought contact with the people.
It was clear from the start that Caetano was a different sort of leader. He spoke of "evolution within continuity," change fast enough to keep up with expectations but not so fast as to antagonize conservatives. He brought technocrats into the government and eased police repression. The elections held in 1969 were the freest in decades. He even altered the nomenclature of the regime; the New State became the Social State, but it remained essentially an authoritarian regime.
In contrast to Salazar, Caetano advocated an expansionist economic policy and promoted rapid development and increasing consumption without, however, supplementing the means of production. The consequence of liberalization was the first perceptible inflation in years, reaching 15 percent on such working-class staples as codfish and rice in the early 1970s.
Prime Minister Caetano had inherited Salazar's office but not his power nor, apparently, his skill as a politician and economist. President Tomás, meanwhile, had emerged with greater authority, as Salazar's death put him in a position to exercise the constitutional authority of the presidency to the fullest. Deeply conservative and supported by an entrenched right wing within the official political movement, Tomás employed threats of an army coup to oppose Caetano's policy of liberalization. Caetano took a harder line on Africa in an effort to head off opposition by the president and the officers close to him.
As the events of spring 1974 were to demonstrate, the regimes of Salazar's New State and Caetano's Social State had depended on personalities. In existence for nearly fifty years, the institutions of the corporate state had never put down roots in Portuguese political soil. Apathy had not implied support. On April 25, 1974, the officers and men of the Armed Forces Movement (Movimento das Forças Armadas--MFA) ousted Caetano and Tomás, paving the way for a junta under General António de Spínola to take command of the Portuguese Republic.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress