João de Oliveira Mendonça

From Roach Busters

João de Oliveira Mendonça
João de Oliveira Mendonça

President of Brazil
Term start January 1, 2003
Term end Incumbent
Preceded by Enzo Martins Peri
Succeeded by Incumbent

Date of birth December 10, 1932 (age 75)
Place of birth Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil
Spouse Anneliese Mendonça (née Banzer)
Profession Military officer, politician
Political party National Renewal Alliance Party (ARENA)
Religion Roman Catholic (lapsed)
Languages Portuguese, German, English, Spanish

General João de Oliveira Mendonça (born December 10, 1932) is the current President of the Republic of the United States of Brazil. Perceived as a moderate and pragmatist, he was nominated for the presidency to placate both the Brazilian Democratic Movement (Brazil's only legal opposition party) and the Confederate States of Latin America (Brazil's neighbor, with which Brazil has an uneasy relationship). Though an avid reader with an extensive knowledge of politics, Mendonça is well known for his open contempt of the political process and for his "cordial dislike" of politicians. Reportedly, it took much badgering and cajoling by the military government to convince him to serve as President.

During his term in office, he has pursued a generally successful détente with the Confederate States of Latin America, eliminated Brazil's few remaining tariffs, and somewhat relaxed the government's iron grip on society, while still fiercely resisting any attempts at democratization.

[edit] Biography

João de Oliveira Mendonça was born in Manaus, Brazil to a German seamstress and a Brazilian manual laborer; his paternal grandfather was Portuguese-Brazilian and his paternal grandmother was born in Bavaria, making him three-fourths German. To this day, Mendonça speaks fluent German, and has much affinity for Germany; he has visited the country several times, both as a private citizen and in his capacity as a head of state, and he holds a deep adoration for German cuisine, culture, and history.

Orphaned at an early age, he was raised by his paternal grandparents, who were stern taskmasters but also compassionate and loving people. In spite of their relative poverty, he had a fairly happy childhood, and was popular with the neighborhood children, though also known for his mischievous nature and tendency to "act up" in class. He did poorly in mathematics and science but excelled in English and read voraciously, often at the rate of two to three books per day (a habit he maintains to this day). He also enjoyed sports, particularly wrestling and soccer.

His somewhat rambunctious personality persisted into high school, where he was a bit of a class clown and a womanizer, but he mellowed down by his junior year, and graduated high school near the top of his class.

Initially, he wanted to attend university and study chemical engineering, but was unable to secure the funds, and joined the Army as a means by which to earn the money. To his surprise, he found military service highly enjoyable, and, realizing he had found his niche, he quickly forgot about his earlier plans and decided to pursue a permanent career in the military. With his athleticism, sharp intellect, and nearly limitless capacity for hard work, he advanced very rapidly.

During a stint in the United States, where he was sent for advanced training, he learned a smattering of the English language, which he now speaks fluently. While there, he also met his future wife, Anneliese Banzer, a Dutch-German foreign exchange student in the U.S. on a scholarship, studying, ironically, chemical engineering. Neither spoke fluent English (at the time), though both were well versed in German. Mendonça asked her out, and the two soon began dating steadily. Six months later, they were married, in spite of opposition from Mendonça's grandparents (they had reservations about him marrying a Protestant) and from Anneliese's parents (who had an antipathy toward Catholics). The religion issue was moot to the young couple, though. While Anneliese was a devout Calvinist, she had no reservations about marrying Mendonça, and Mendonça, whose Catholicism had lapsed long ago, did not care what religion his wife adhered to either way.

As luck would have it, Anneliese obtained her university degree just before Mendonça's stint in the U.S. ended, and so they were able to return home to Brazil together. There, she devoted her time to studying and mastering the Portuguese language, while her husband continued to advance in the armed forces. He played a minor but important role in the 1964 American-backed coup d'état which deposed left-leaning President João Goulart. In 1971, he was made a brigadier; by 1977, he was made a full general and appointed director of the Academia Militar de Agulhas Negras; he served in that capacity from 1977—1985, when he was given command of the Southeast Military Command. During his tenure, soldiers' working conditions were improved, corrupt and/or incompetent officers were weeded out, and both costs and waste were minimized. Impressed by his natural leadership qualities, he was suggested as a potential presidential candidate in 1993, but politely declined. He spent the next few years authoring a number of short, but well-received, books on military strategy, before being appointed commander of the Brazilian Army in 1997. Just a year later, though, he was made Minister of the Army in President Enzo Martins Peri's cabinet, and General Paulo Mendonça (no relation) succeeded him as commander of the Army.

During his tenure as Minister of the Army, he became one of the most popular members of the government. His emphasis on "maximizing efficiency while minimizing costs"; his vigorous anti-corruption campaign; and his removal of officers and soldiers guilty of gross human rights abuses, made him immensely popular with the public. It is believed that he played a role in convincing the Peri Administration to ban torture. Mendonça was quick, however, to emphasize his distrust of democracy: "Democracy is not a panacea, but a disease. Only continued military rule, only firm but principled guidance, can ensure Brazil's progress as a nation. Only by working together and looking to the future, rather than squabbling and blindly following demagogic false prophets, can we succeed in our endeavors." He vowed that, "So long as I am capable of firing a gun, no civilian will ever preside over this great country. The politicians have brought us nothing but ruin and corruption. Do we want ruin and corruption? No, no. We want peace and progress!"

His more humane handling of dissenters, combined with his loathing of democracy, made him acceptable to both the military and the opposition, and after much persuasion, he was convinced to assume the Presidency in 2003.

Notable accomplishments of his tenure thus far include: An annual economic growth rate of over 8%; Brazil's rising prominence on the world stage (including hosting a peace conference in an effort to prevent war between Spain and Portugal); improved relations with countries that Brazil has traditionally had cool relations with; a remarkable improvement in prison conditions; and the legalization of many "victimless crimes" (though not political dissent).

[edit] Family

Mendonça's wife, Anneliese, teaches a chemical engineering course at the Universidade Católica de Brasília. She is three years his junior, and both she and her husband remain in excellent health. Her interests include bird-watching, chemistry, Bible reading, and dining. Both she and Mendonça speak fluent Portuguese, German, and English. He speaks passable Spanish, while she can speak it fluently. She also speaks fluent Dutch, and is an intermediate speaker of a few indigenous Brazilian languages.

Their children are Pablo (b. 1960), an Army captain; Baltasar (b. 1963), a chemical engineer; Marisa (b. 1969), a pianist; and João, Jr. (b. 1973), an Army medic. They have seventeen grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

[edit] Personal

Mendonça's hobbies are hunting, fishing, hiking, equestrianism, camping, rock-climbing, swimming, and reading. His interests are music and history. He is rumored to be an amateur practitioner of capoeira.

He is a strict teetotaler, he has never drunk alcohol or smoked a cigarette in his life. While he believes in God, he is a lapsed Catholic, and is said to visit church only rarely.

He was successfully treated for prostate cancer in 2001. Even at 75, he is in peak physical condition, and he is more fit than most men half his age. His intellect is as sharp as ever.

Personal tools