cracked shield

Image: Magali Guimarães
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By MANUEL DOMINGOS NETO*

The attempt to appease the barracks adjusts and dismantles: it can alleviate momentary tensions, but gives time to new plots

On his return to the presidency, Lula made clear his interest in calming down the barracks and governing without outbursts. The choice of Minister of Defense attested to his choice. José Múcio Monteiro said in all letters that he was “resolving things in absolute agreement with the commanders of the Armed Forces”. He ignores that there was an election: "In reality, I administer only the result of the will of each commander".

The commanders, among other demands, want public resources. José Múcio Monteiro endorses NATO's recommendation to invest 2% of GDP in Defense. Showing distance from the theme, he argues that Brazil has a great border!

The rejection of the debate on the renewal of the National Defense Policy, in which commanders always pontificate, is another demonstration that Lula does not want opposition to the designs of the barracks.

The suggestion of a National Conference to broaden the discussion on this fundamental public policy was not taken into account. José Múcio Monteiro dismisses the academic criticism with a nostalgic look for the dictatorship.

The debate could show that the required investments are inadequate to defend Brazil in this environment of international tensions. It could also reveal the lack of logic, for the National Defense, of the supremacy of the Land Force in relation to the naval air capacity. In the end, everything is as it always was.

The government's reaction to the vandalism of the 8th of January, when the chain of command was preserved, despite having failed to contain the coup-mongering riot, had already shown Lula's option not to interfere with the barracks.

In a virtual chat, his defense minister completely exempted corporations. He said that the military would not have left “fingerprints on the 8th” and that the CPI to investigate vandalism would be a “media movement” of parliamentarians who want to appear: “we are not going to find those responsible”. At most, leadershipless people would be held accountable, he said.

Recent facts, however, show the difficulties of shielding corporations. Many Brazilians indignantly follow the recordings of Lieutenant Colonel Mauro Cid. Names are being revealed in the newspapers. Impossible to predict the revelations that may arise.

The coup d'état of the military was prolonged, systematic and explicit. Even the conservative press delve into the investigations. The Federal Police show service and the Justice demonstrates that the shielding is cracked.

How will the commanders, in particular the Army, react to the revelations? How far will the Court go?

Lula wants appeasement, but the dynamics of the facts contradict his expectations. The corporations want what Lula cannot give: early amnesty to his investigated members and full freedom to continue his obscurantist crusade.

Meeting corporate demands is not enough to appease the military. In the past, Lula believed this and ended up in prison. He returned to the head of state under the sword of Damocles. Dilma Rousseff also believed and lost office.

Many claim, mitigating the responsibility of the barracks, that both were victims of judicial, parliamentary and media coups. But coups are not carried out without military and police support. The exercise of authority over the barracks is indispensable to democratic institutions.

The attempt to appease the barracks settles and dismantles: it can alleviate momentary tensions, but gives time to new plots. Soldiers need to be given clear, challenging, glorious missions. Recognizing them as political interlocutors is a fatal mistake for democracy. Armoring them, under these circumstances, is an inglorious and probably impossible mission.

* Manuel Domingos Neto is a retired UFC professor, former president of the Brazilian Defense Studies Association (ABED) and former vice president of CNPq.

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