Armed Forces and Democracy

Clara Figueiredo, untitled_Brasília essay_Digitized analog photography_Expired film_Brasília_2018


The Armed Forces are committed in image and content to the ongoing disaster in our country

There is no way to separate the Armed Forces (FFAA) from the catastrophe that is the Bolsonaro government. They became a fundamental element, from support to the coup against President Dilma, to the arrest of Lula and the construction of the candidacy of the current government. More than participation in the government, they endorse and carry out political guidelines and government guidelines, they accept the neoliberal program of fiscal adjustment, which involves the elimination of rights and privatizations, the supremacy of financial capital and submission to American hegemony. They are committed in image and content to the ongoing disaster in our country; some of its leaders adhered to obscurantist values, others remain silent in the face of this deterioration of the institution.

The FFAA have become an important governing force, holding positions, exercising key functions and setting guidelines. They exercise a veiled and open guardianship, guaranteeing corporate privileges and autonomously occupying functions in the State. Sometimes they appear more sensible in their ways of governing, sometimes they take conservative positions on issues related to the environment, education, racism, defense of indigenous peoples and issues related to the behavioral agenda (women, sexism, LGBTQ+, etc.). Issues that previously did not unite the military, such as American hegemony and the role of the State, are now politically and ideologically unified in defense of the neoliberal program. Therefore, the relationship with the government is more than simple support, nowadays there is an ideological and political identity in matters of State, even with divergences of some personalities, in the way of governing.

From the international crisis of 2008, the geopolitical redefinition of the United States, the dispute over markets, natural resources, espionage, including against Brazil, and the war “against corruption”, an influence was built through the CIA, ANS , FBI and Department of Justice, a kind of “hybrid war”, aiming to build the “America for Americans” policy. The diplomacy of our leftist governments was correctly based on South-South relations, but a more effective correspondence was lacking in terms of criminal law and military diplomacy. Nowadays, however, the historical ties that come from the Cold War, operations during the period of the military dictatorship and vassal submission to the USA have been strengthened.

However, this union has specific intricacies, since the FFAA preserve their autonomy in relation to political power and also in relation to state institutions. They are organic partners in government affairs and, if necessary, exercise supervisory power. The reserve and active duty military act as if they were a single body, often not even formalities are preserved. Politicization enters the barracks, the military gives an appearance of normality while passing the “boiada”; they have unity on programmatic issues and in the fight against the left and the PT.

An example of this is the recent note (published on 14/11/2020 and updated on 17/11/2020) by military commanders with the Minister of Defense where they praise the President of the Republic, give their opinion on the defense of institutions and their transparency ( which is not the role of the FFAA), defend the concept of the time of the military dictatorship, of “security and development” and only highlight the subsidiary activities and GLO (Guarantee of Law and Order). This position is a clear definition of the concept of tutelary autonomy, supported by the interpretation of constitutional and infra-constitutional provisions.

The disaster in facing the pandemic, the worsening of the economic and social crisis, Brazil's international isolation, institutional degradation, the administrative disaster and the environmental crisis, fundamentalist denialism and the encouragement of neo-fascist values ​​affect the very image of the FFAA as an institution . The annihilating destruction of Brazil's potential at the regional and international levels affects the country's self-esteem and confidence in its relationship with governments, multilateral institutions and international public opinion. Another example of this disaster is the denial of cultural policy, the elimination of institutions that support and promote culture and the loss of Brazil's great potential in this field.

Internally, the FFAA advance in the occupation of public bodies, inspection and control, changing rules, eliminating institutions and occupying spaces of civil political power. The defense of the government, the policy of the Military Dictatorship, torture and torturers aims to legitimize and rescue the 21 years of the dictatorial period and apply an authoritarian policy seeking to create a hegemony of these anti-democratic values.

“Law and order” is a State orientation that seeks to preserve one of the characteristics of the FFAA throughout our history. Of the seven Brazilian constitutions, only two do not speak of this principle that is today in the 1988 Constitution, in Article 142. This political concept serves to institutionalize intervention in public security issues, in the protection of the powers of the Republic and to normalize supremacy over the other powers.

This doctrinal vision is present in the military history of Brazil, mainly after the proclamation of the Republic in 1889. In current times, this concept meets the demands of the neoliberal model, against democracy and rights, making viable the economic reforms that interest capital, criminalizing politics and thus coming to the point of closing off left-wing alternatives. This anti-democratic model reproduces in Brazil the influence of the international right in the restructuring of capitalism and in the new parameters of global geopolitics. On the other hand, it is in the name of this policy that the military defends a kind of revanchism in relation to the democratic experiences of the political transition, the new Republic, the 1988 Constitution, the FHC government and the Lula and Dilma governments.

The updating of this policy is being decisive to enable the process of building a conservative authoritarianism and connivance with neo-fascist and militia manifestations, influencing the fundamentalist agenda against the rights of women, black men and women, the LGBTQ+ community and indigenous populations . Therefore, we cannot discuss and define the political role of the military as if it were a subject isolated from the political situation and the characteristics of the Brazilian State.

Throughout our history, in the political crises of the 1946th century, the FFAA exercised political interventionism in the name of a generic order that serves for everything; they actually serve to defend the status quo and invariably associate themselves with the interests of the ruling classes. This constitutive element in the formation of the Brazilian State has to be faced from a radically democratic vision in the organization of the Rule of Law. Without this, even in moments of liberal democracy, such as from 1964 to 1979, and from 2016 to XNUMX, the democratic regime remains inconclusive.

In the systemic opposition to the captain's government, its policies and its supporters, it is necessary to face, in addition to the low fare the justice system and the media monopoly, the political tutelage of the FFAA as an integral part of the bourgeois oligarchic consortium of the Brazilian state. The political situation, the evaluation of the current government and its end, are directly related to the democratic and strategic changes in the role of the FFAA with inevitable consequences in their constitutional functions and in the change of strictly military issues. Cosmetic changes, as they have occurred in the past, do little good.

The commitments are deeper than they appear, the bonds were born in the campaign, in the assembly of the current government and in the feasibility of its policies, we cannot have illusions in individual manifestations of members of the FFAA since the institution is committing to political decisions, the which will have profound consequences, negative or positive, in the outcome of the current political moment. In this type of approach, democracy is paramount in conducting political and constitutional changes, including specifically military issues.

The denial of a geopolitics of regional cooperation in South America based on mutual support and without antagonistic conflicts is essential to make complementary actions viable in a strategic region from the point of view of natural resources, geographic and market aspects. We cannot lose our protagonism and become insignificant on the world stage, this is something unimaginable and goes beyond all reasonable limits; the loss of regional leadership will harm what we represent as a sovereign nation. Therefore, the condition of submission and vassalage before the United States is unacceptable, since the national defense policy must be oriented towards the good relationship between South-South foreign policy and military diplomacy. That is, an “active and proud” foreign policy. In this sense, I want to reaffirm the importance of the objectives of the national defense policy:

i. Guarantee sovereignty, national heritage and territorial integrity:

II. Defend national interests, people, goods and Brazilian resources abroad;

III. Contribute to the preservation of national cohesion and unity;

IV. Contribute to regional stability;

v. Contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security;

SAW . Intensify Brazil's projection in the concert of nations and its greater insertion in international decision-making processes;

VII. Keep the Armed Forces ready, modern and integrated; with growing professionalization, operating jointly and properly deployed in the national territory;

VIII. Make Brazilian society aware of the importance of the country's defense issues;

IX. Develop the National Defense Industrial Base, oriented towards development and consequent autonomy in indispensable technologies;

X . Structure the Armed Forces around capabilities, providing them with personnel and material compatible with strategic and operational planning;

XI. Develop the potential of defense logistics and national mobilization.1

I would like to point out that this advance in strategic definitions did not materialize with structural changes in the state organization, including the guidelines for the FFAA. In this sense, an assessment of how we deal with the necessary changes when we govern the country is necessary; a bureaucratic and routine view prevailed in the treatment of military commands and in the Ministry of Defense itself in the 1st year of Lula's mandate. We do not change operating standards and norms in the area of ​​training and military intelligence.

In this balance of our limitations and understandings, I include myself critically in the elaboration and debate of these changes; I believe that the National Truth Commission should have been set up in Lula's first term and we should have constructed a political orientation for the military to admit the practice of State terrorism and assume public reparation before society. Instead, the Amnesty law was validated by the Federal Supreme Court, the crime of torture was not considered imprescriptible and the concept of reciprocal amnesty prevailed.

Another important reference is the resolution of the VI Congress of the PT on the FFAA, held in 2017, which argues that “This democratization process includes the strengthening and reformulation of the role of the Armed Forces, with their exclusive dedication to national defense and integration programs territorial. Also essential are the application of the recommendations prescribed by the National Truth Commission regarding human rights and the alteration of the curricula of officers' schools, purging anti-national and anti-democratic values ​​such as the praise of the 1964 coup and the military regime that was then established.”2

If it is true that the National Truth Commission was not able to build a political position that there was the practice of State terrorism admitted by the military, during the period of the Military Dictatorship, and of reparation before society for crimes against human rights, it is also true that for the first time in Brazilian political history the State carried out a meticulous and detailed survey of a historical experience and State crimes. It is fundamental, with regard to the doctrinal training of the military, to modernize the concepts of national defense, to break with the binary vision “friend and enemy” and to face with a dissuasive policy, our vulnerabilities through the sea, through space and in the cybernetic field. This is a deterrent policy, which has nothing to do with the concept of the enemy within and law and order activities.

The guidelines of National Defense Strategy elaborated in the Lula Government clearly defined the new challenges of a national defense strategy. Our main advance was the elaboration of a national defense strategy whose guidelines made clear the new challenges of a policy for national defense, and, even if they were only accepted and not assimilated by the military, I consider it an excellent starting point. I therefore highlight the following essential guidelines:

1 – Dissuade the concentration of hostile forces on land borders and within the limits of Brazilian jurisdictional waters, and prevent them from using national airspace. To dissuade, one must be prepared to fight. Technology, however advanced it may be, will never be an alternative to combat. It will always be an instrument of combat.

2 – Organize the Armed Forces under the aegis of the trinomial monitoring/control, mobility and presence. This triple imperative is valid, with the appropriate adaptations, for each Force. From the trinomial results the definition of the operational capabilities of each of the Forces.

3 – Develop capabilities to monitor and control Brazilian airspace, territory and jurisdictional waters. Such development will take place from the use of land, sea, air and space monitoring technologies that are under full and unconditional national domain.

4 – Develop, based on the ability to monitor/control, the ability to promptly respond to any threat or aggression: strategic mobility. Strategic mobility – understood as the ability to quickly reach the region in conflict – reinforced by tactical mobility – understood as the ability to move within that region – is the priority complement of monitoring/control and one of the bases of combat power, demanding, from the Armed Forces, action that, more than joint, is unified. The imperative of mobility gains decisive importance, given the vastness of the space to be defended and the scarcity of means to defend it. The presence effort, especially along land borders and in the most strategic parts of the coast, has intrinsic limitations. It is mobility that will overcome the harmful effect of such limitations.

5 – Deepen the link between the technological and operational aspects of mobility, under the discipline of well-defined objectives. Mobility depends on appropriate land, sea and air means and how to combine them. It also depends on operational capabilities that make it possible to make the most of the potential of movement technologies. The link between the technological and operational aspects of mobility must be carried out in order to achieve well-defined objectives. Among these objectives, there is one that is especially closely related to mobility: the ability to alternate the concentration and deconcentration of forces, with the aim of deterring and combating the threat.

6 – Strengthen three sectors of strategic importance: space, cybernetics and nuclear. This strengthening will ensure compliance with the concept of flexibility. By their very nature, these sectors transcend the divide between development and defense, between civil and military. The space and cybernetic sectors will allow, together, that the ability to visualize one's own country does not depend on foreign technology and that the three Forces, together, can act in a network, instructed by monitoring that is also carried out from space. Brazil is committed – stemming from the Constitution and adherence to International Treaties – to the strictly peaceful use of nuclear energy. However, it affirms the strategic need to develop and master this technology. Brazil needs to guarantee the balance and versatility of its energy matrix and advance in areas, such as agriculture and health, which can benefit from nuclear energy technology. And to carry out, among other initiatives that require technological independence in terms of nuclear energy, the project for a nuclear-powered submarine.

7 – Unify and develop the joint operations of the three Forces, far beyond the limits imposed by the joint exercise protocols. The main instruments of this unification will be the Ministry of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces. They must gain a larger dimension and broader responsibilities. The Minister of Defense will fully exercise all the powers of direction of the Armed Forces that the Constitution and the laws do not expressly reserve to the President of the Republic. The subordination of the Armed Forces to constitutional political power is a prerequisite of the republican regime and a guarantee of the integrity of the nation.3

There is a difference between ostentation of power around symbols, narratives and ideological self-assertion and facing our vulnerabilities with regard to the decision-making autonomy of power projection soft.

The struggle for radical democracy, as I have already said, requires tackling the issue of the FFAA in relation to the State and society. In this sense, we look at the rearview mirror critically from the insufficient experiences, limited in the treatment of this theme, even when we govern the country. This task requires understanding, clear definitions and the political capacity to face our country's historical challenges and dilemmas.

The change in Article 142 (of the GLO) of the Constitution is an important point in the democratic struggle. We have already shown that the concept of law and order serves a policy of security and not of national defense. At the same time, the article itself gives rise to an ideologized exclusivism of the concept that is made of homeland to justify political interventionism and does not make clear the relationship with the other constitutional powers.

We believe it is necessary to abolish the military justice system in order to reduce corporatism and impunity. Another necessary issue is to separate military intelligence from government intelligence, we have to avoid the parallel power of this system that ends up eroding the democratic State of law.

When we talk about the demilitarization of public security, we do not want to underestimate this important issue; Alongside the reform of public security in the states, we propose the creation of a national guard linked to the Ministry of Justice, with operations in the sensitive areas of organized crime and militia forces, in the port sector and at borders. Another important change is that members of State careers, including the military, must withdraw from public and political functions, observing the principle of “quarantine” (interval between these functions), based on the principle of onus and bonus: who has the prerogative to arrest, investigate, judge, denounce and to exercise the monopoly of weapons, it needs to assume the onus in choosing other functions.

The strategic confrontation of the democratic struggle in form and content requires a clear position in relation to the authoritarian character of the Brazilian State that manifested itself in all political crises with arbitrary and coup-like solutions, and it is in this sense that we defend structural changes in political institutions, among which the role of the FFAA in its relations with society and with the State and the government. Rarely has the democratic issue been dealt with radically in opposition to the oligarchic-bourgeois consortium, which is why we should not isolate the specific flags of the democratic struggle from this strategic focus. The challenge for the PT and the left is to merge the flags of the democratic struggle with a programmatic vision for new political institutions.4

* Jose Genoino fhi federal deputy of the PT, president of the PT and adviser to Celso Amorim in the Ministry of Defense (2013).

Originally published in the magazine Socialist Democracy.


[1] BRAZIL. Defense Ministry. National Defense Policy and National Defense Strategy. Brasilia, 2012. Available at:

[2] Retrieved from:

[3] BRAZIL. Defense Ministry. National Defense Policy and National Defense Strategy. Brasilia, 2012. Available at:

[4] This article was written at the request of the magazine “Esquerda Petista”, from Articulação de Esquerda, where it was originally published.


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