Former President Janio Quadros, the eccentric, puritanical politician whose surprise resignation in 1961 after only seven months in office pushed the country toward a military dictatorship, has died at 75.
Quadros died Sunday at Albert Einstein Hospital of kidney and lung failure and a hemorrhage, doctors said.
Quadros, an independent, won the presidency in 1960 with a record number of votes.
Often carrying a broom, he promised to challenge political abuses and "sweep out corruption." He also caused controversy by banning cockfighting and bikinis and awarding a medal to Ernesto (Che) Guevara, an Argentine who led the Cuban revolution with Fidel Castro.
In August, 1961, after seven months in office, Quadros quit in an apparent bid to have Congress beg him to return and grant him special powers to carry out tax and land reforms. But lawmakers accepted the resignation.
Quadros was replaced by his vice president, Joao Goulart, who accepted a constitutional reform to create a parliamentary system of government.
The amendment was revoked in 1963, leading to the military coup the next year. The military alleged that Goulart obtained dictatorial powers after the parliamentary amendment was canceled.
Latin America's largest nation was under military rule until 1985. During the late 1980s, Quadros served as mayor of Sao Paulo, the country's largest city.
Dubbed "the mad Lincoln from Mato Grosso," his native city, Quadros appealed to middle-class voters in the 1960 presidential race against Gen. Henrique Lott, whom he defeated by 4 million votes. Observers were often bemused by his rumpled suits, crudely shaven face and curious mannerisms.
Sometimes he would interrupt his speeches, saying: "Excuse me, I didn't have time for lunch yet," and eat a sandwich.
A French publication, France-Soir, once compared him to "Marx--not Karl, but Harpo."