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Letter of the Week

A Tale of Two Cities:
The Brazilian Deputy Head of Mission responds:

Dear Dr. Mohamad

I read with much interest your article entitled "A Tale of two Cities: Putrajaya and Brasilia", in which you offer very enlightening insights on the way Brasilia is developing and maturing. I wish, however, to clarify your understanding on one aspect, regarding the mention to the "military rulers (of) then, (who) did not trust their safety in the old capital, Rio de Janeiro..."

The decision to build Brasilia was made in the late 1950's by the democratically elected President Juscelino Kubitschek, with due authorisation from Congress, over neither of which the military had any influence whatsoever. In fact, the 20-year-long military regime did not start till 1964, four years after the inauguration of Brasilia. It is also interesting to note that President Kubitschek's idea was not a new one: the city was first envisioned back in the 19th century, during the Imperial Regime, as a means of populating the vast Brazilian hinterland and taking some pressure off the already crowded coastal cities.

Yours sincerely,

Luiza Lopes da Silva
Deputy Head of Mission
Embassy of Brazil.

Dr Maznah Mohamad's reply:


Ms Luiza Lopez da Silva
Deputy head of Mission
Embassy of Brazil

With reference to your letter, thank you very much for pointing out a glaring error in my article, "A Tale of Two Cities: Monuments to Misplaced Pride" which was published in Aliran Monthly (1999:19 (11/12))and posted on the Internet.

My readings of various articles on Brasilia had led me to carelessly conclude that the Military had an input in the construction of the city. I was under the impression that the democratically elected government of President Kubitschek was strongly backed by the Military. In the 15th edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, volume 3, p. 148 it was noted that "On November 11, 1955, War Minister Lott and Marshall Odilio Denys, commander of army troops in Rio de Janeiro, staged a "countercoup" to guarantee Kubitschek's inauguration...Lott remained as war minister and the strongest figure in the government."

Perhaps I also carelessly assumed that there was a "military" or security connection as to why the site for Brasilia was chosen. This was based on information from a website ( which listed one of the reasons as to why Brasilia was built, "Fear of invasion. Brazil had been systematically invaded in the past...Having the capital (Rio de Janeiro) by the sea made it vulnerable."

With apologies and thank you,

Maznah Mohamad

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