(OPE-L) Celso Furtado Dead at 84

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sat Nov 27 2004 - 15:19:39 EST

Celso Furtado
An economist who offered radical interventionist policies for Brazil

Sue Branford
The Guardian, Nov. 26, 2004

Celso Furtado, who has died aged 84 from a heart attack, was Brazil's  most
renowned economist, internationally revered for his political
commitment. He maintained his lucidity to the end, signing a petition
calling on the government to keep Carlos Lessa on as president of Brazil's
state- owned development bank the BNDES.

Lessa was one of the few remaining voices, in an increasingly orthodox
government with market-oriented economic policies, to defend the
growth-orientated interventionist policies that Furtado had proposed  for 50
years. Lessa still lost his job, but President Lula felt obliged to  phone
Furtado to justify his decision.

Furtado was born into a well-to-do family in Pombal, a town in the
drought-ridden north-east. One of his earliest memories was hiding  with
father, the local magistrate, when cangaceiros (bandits) invaded the  town.
"I was shocked by their violence," he recalled. "I remember the
corpses on the streets."

He also had vivid memories of the 1924 floods that inundated the town  after
a long drought. "I finished up with the idea that danger was on all  sides,
either from nature or from humans. Perhaps this explains why I am a  very
cautious man. Although at times I have defended what may seem radical
action, this has always been after very carefully considering all  points

After studying in Rio de Janeiro, Furtado served with the Brazilian
expeditionary force in Italy during the second world war, where he  was
in an accident during the final offensive.

A voracious reader, Furtado made a point, when he was in Lisbon, of  having
his picture taken in front of the statue of one of his favourite
novelists, Eça Queiroz. This photograph (in which he is revealed as a
handsome  young soldier) became one of his prized possessions.

Postwar, Furtado took an economics doctorate from the Sorbonne in  Paris. In
1948, he married Lucia Tosi, an Argentinian, with whom he had two  sons.

In 1950, he moved to Santiago, the Chilean capital, where he joined  the new
Economic Commission for Latin America (Ecla). Under the inspiration  of John
Maynard Keynes, the industrialised countries had just created the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, institutions that were
intended to herald an era of steady economic growth and prosperity.

Latin America, too, was infected by the climate of hope. Thinkers  such as
Raul Prebisch, Jorge Ahumada, Juan Loyola, and Anibal Pinto began to
produce exciting ideas about overcoming the region's structural problems
of underdevelopment. Furtado's most important contribution to this
debate, written at King's College, Cambridge, in 1957-58, was The Economic
 Formation Of Brazil. Using a Keynesian approach, he combined profound
knowledge  of Brazilian history with an analysis of the structural
constraints on  the economy to formulate a project for national

One of his particularly far-sighted conclusions was that the
transformations in capitalism, particularly the formation of huge
transnational groups, presented serious risks to this nation-building
project. He recommended that Brazil should becautious before integrating
into the world economy.

Back in Brazil in 1958, Furtado joined President Juscelino
Kubitschek's government, which was building the new inland capital of
Brasilia and promoting industrialisation under the slogan "50 years in
Five". He  set up the Sudene development agency for his beloved

In President João Goulart's government in 1962, as the country's
first ever planning minister, he drew up a three-year development plan.
But in  April 1964 Furtado was forced into exile by the military coup.

In 1965 he became the first foreigner to be appointed head of the  economic
development faculty at the University of Paris. After the 1979
amnesty he began to pay frequent visits to Brazil, while retaining
residence in  Paris.

Divorced from his first wife, he married a Brazilian journalist, Rosa
Freire d'Aguiar.

With the 1985 return to civilian rule, he became Brazil's ambassador  to the
European Economic Community. In 1988, he was appointed culture
minister in José Sarney's government.

When I met Furtado in Rio in 2001, he was already having to be helped  in
and out of his leather armchair, but his green eyes sparkled with delight
when he spoke of Brazil's landless movement, the MST. "It is Brazil's most
important social movement ever," he enthused. Despite the repeated
setbacks, he never lost hope that eventually Brazil would find the path to

He is survived by his wife and by two sons from his first marriage.

· Celso Monteiro Furtado, economist, born July 26 1920; died November  20
--- End forwarded message ---

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Nov 29 2004 - 00:00:01 EST