Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira (JK) (September 12, 1902 – August 22, 1976) was a prominent Brazilian politician who was President of Brazil from 1956 to 1961. He was born in Diamantina, Minas Gerais, and died in 1976. His term was marked by relative economic prosperity and political stability, being most known by the construction of a new capital, Brasília.
Kubitschek was born into a very poor family in the countryside of Brazilian state Minas Gerais. His father, João César de Oliveira (1872-1905), who died when Juscelino was two years old, was a traveling salesman. He was raised by his mother, a schoolteacher named Júlia Kubitschek (neé Kubíčková; 1873-1971), of Czech descent..
Although trained as a medical doctor, Kubitschek was elected to the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil from his home state in 1934. However, with the advent of Getúlio Vargas' Estado Novo in 1937, Kubitschek was forced to return to practicing medicine. Nevertheless, he was appointed mayor of Belo Horizonte in 1940. There, he idealized the project of an artificial lake (Pampulha Lake) to supply water to the city and also an architectural complex, with several buildings projected by renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer.
He was again elected to the National Congress of Brazil in 1945, and became governor of the state in 1950. In 1955, he ran for president with the slogan "Fifty years of progress in five", and won.
His five year tenure resulted in Brazil progressing by leaps and bounds. Among many projects he managed to complete was Brasília, the new capital of Brazil, located in the heart of the country. On October 2, 1956, during his first visit to the place chosen for the construction of the new city — a high prairie (planalto) location in the central part of Brazil — Kubitschek enthusiastically made the following prophesy: "From this central highland, from this lonely place which very soon will be the head office of the main national decisions, I see the future of my country and I can foresee, faithfully, a new dawn for my homeland relying on its destiny." Brasilia was chosen inland to separate business and political corruption in the capital, Rio de Janeiro, and develop the interior. However, political and economic clout has transferred mostly from Rio to São Paulo as opposed to Brasilia. He also completed major road construction, as well as founding Brazil's automotive industry.
The economy boomed, but at some cost. Much of the investment in industry was funded by printing money. His opponents alleged that he had brought "fifty years of inflation in five." Like many other Latin American currencies, the cruzeiro was repeatedly devalued. The country also went further into debt trying to pay for various ambitious projects, although such debts were very small compared to the tremendous rise of the external debt made by the military during their dictatorship, which started in 1964 with a coup d'état and lasted for 21 years.
Kubitschek was succeeded by Jânio Quadros in 1961. When the military took power in 1964, Kubitschek's political rights were suspended for 10 years. He went into self-imposed exile and stayed in numerous U.S. and European cities.
He returned to Brazil in 1967 but was killed in a car crash in 1976, near the city of Resende in the state of Rio de Janeiro. 350,000 mourners were present at his burial in Brasília. He is now buried in the Memorial JK, which was opened in 1981. Most Brazilians believe he was killed by the military regime, due to his prominent role in the fight for democracy.
On April 26, 2000, former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Leonel Brizola, alleged that the ex-presidents of Brazil, João Goulart and Kubitschek, were assassinated in the frame of Operation Condor and requested the opening of investigations on their death. They were purported to have died respectively of a heart attack and in an accident.
The Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport of Brasília and the Juscelino Kubitschek bridge were named after him. There is also a luxurious hotel named Kubitschek Plaza located in that city.
In 1980, his daughter Márcia (1942–2000) married Cuban-American ballet star Fernando Bujones. Márcia Kubitschek was elected to the National Congress of Brazil in 1987 and served as lieutenant governor of the Brazilian Federal District from 1991 to 1994.
Many cities have things named after him, "JK" is a ubiquitous acroynm honoring the ex president, who is often seen by Brazilians as the "father of modern Brazil".