Or was it suicide?
But one woman tells a different story.
Gitúlio Vargas was one of Brazil’s most fascinating political figures.
After serving the country as an absolute dictator for just short of fifteen years, he voluntarily left office in October of 1945. Then, only a little over five years later, he was democratically-elected for a term that lasted almost an additional four years.
In total, among Brazil’s heads of government, only the Emporer Dom Pedro II served his country longer.
Vargas moved the country from an agrarian society to an industrial one.
He passed labor laws that exist until today, earning him the sobriquet “The Father of the Poor”.
He firmed fast bonds with the United States and supported the allied cause in the Second World War by sending troops to Italy to fight the Germans.
He did a number of other things as well, many of them not quite so nice.
He is still regarded as Brazil’s most influential politician of the twentieth century.
But he was one with many enemies.
And was under pressure to resign.
He’d refused and had publicly announced that the only way he’d leave office was dead.
Which is exactly what happened:
On the night of his demise, the 24th of August, 1954, he was in this building…
the Palacio do Catete, in Rio de Janeiro, the mansion that then served as the Brazilian President’s Residence.
More specifically he was here:
In his third-floor bedroom, dressed in the nightshirt you can see in the glass case.
There was a shot.
Entering the room, his bodyguard found the president lying in bed with a bullet though his heart.
And with this pistol in his hand.
On a night table, next to the bed, and in the President’s handwriting, was a note written in pencil. It was a form of testament that ended thus:
“I offer you my death. I fear nothing. Serenely I take the first step onto the path of eternity and depart life to enter into history.”
A clear case, everyone said at the time, of suicide.
But the President, although he’d married Darcy Lima Sarmanho in 1911,
and she bore him five children, and survived him for a number of years, was known as a lady’s man.
It is said that the great love of his life ( although she never confirmed or denied it ) was Aimée de Heeren, a woman with a fascinating life of her own: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aimée_de_Heeren
And, on the night of his death, another woman, an actress and singer who called herself Virginia Lane...
...with whom he’d been carrying-on an affair for almost a decade, swore she was in bed with him when four masked men broke into the room and shot him.
She first spoke of this in 2007, more than half a century after the event.
And announced she was going to write a book about it.
She never did.
Leighton - Monday