GLO – the rulers are lost

Image: Markus Spiske


Until when will the need for military reform and a profound review of the public security system be denied?

Once again, the Brazilian State makes the military act like a police officer. It feeds the permanent identity crisis of the Armed Forces and police corporations. Now, the Army is not in the spaces reserved for survivors of slavery, the slaughter of native peoples and “vagrancy”. But the Navy and Air Force operate in ports and airports, wasting public resources on activities far from their primary destination.

In a world haunted by the possibility of widespread war, governments seem unconcerned with protecting Brazil from possible threats from hostile foreign forces. These two obligations of the State, Defense and Public Security, are strictly distinct: they require different equipment, organization, preparation and cultures. Confronting a foreign aggressor has nothing to do with tasks involved in controlling violations of laws.

By confusing different functions, the government weakens Brazil's defense and fails to protect citizenship. It feeds external dependence and makes citizens who break the law an enemy to be slaughtered. It reaffirms the concept of “internal enemy” propagated by the Pentagon and assimilated by Brazilian ruling elites. You can't talk to the “enemy”, you can't cancel them in any way.

The transgressing citizen continues to be a citizen and needs to be taken to court. The idea that he should be shot down is translated by the slogan “a good criminal is a dead criminal”. The permanence of this conception (present in the use of the Armed Forces to deal with public security) shows that the angry right was defeated electorally, not politically. It survives embedded in society, in political representation and, above all, in the gears of the State.  

Law and Order Guarantee Operations (GLO) are of great symbolic and political utility. These are expensive plays that serve to pretend that problems of public order and security are being addressed. They give the false notion that the government represses crime. They allow the military to “show off their service”, when, in reality, faced with the announcement of a global conflagration, they neglect the protection of Brazil.

They camouflage the fact that the Armed Forces are unprepared to deny the land, sea, air and cyber and outer space to greedy foreigners. They deceive society, spreading the idea that the military is the last resource in the face of chronic domestic problems. They hide the fact that corporations are not closing their expensive offices in Washington. They reaffirm the belief that the military is the savior of the country and an accredited leader of society.

The Constituent wrote articles 142 and 144 of the Charter with a saber at its throat. He obeyed corporations structured to combat “internal enemies.” Democratically elected governments, showing subservience to commanders, endorse these constitutional aberrations.

By authorizing operations to guarantee law and order, public executives, in a single move, show disregard for the need to guarantee a proud voice on the international stage and, internally, neglect of citizenship. They bend to armed corporations to perpetuate subordination to powerful foreigners and to social structures that contradict democratic and sovereign aspirations.

Banditry benefits from the GLO, as, once again, the perverse dynamics that strengthen it are maintained. Criminal factions feed on the mass incarceration of young drug dealers, an absurdity endorsed by the Public Ministry and blessed by the Courts.

Of the 832 thousand Brazilian prisoners, more than 30% are already accused or convicted of trafficking (62% among women). The majority have been arrested in the act, because the corporation that arrests the most (the PM) is constitutionally prohibited from investigating. It remains for him to respond to society's pressure by incarcerating the small stingray, who acts ostensibly, does not interact with the major protagonists of criminal networks nor does he benefit from billion-dollar businesses.

Once in prison, the poor young man, generally black, living in vulnerable territories, is left to buy his survival from those who can guarantee it: the faction that runs the prison, since the State does not comply with the Criminal Executions Law, does not exercise authority nor does it affirm legality within prisons.

The price of the prisoner's survival will be future involvement with the faction. In other words: by mass incarceration and abandoning the penitentiary system to factions, the State contracts future violence, geometrically reproducing organized crime and destroying the lives of generations and their families. Furthermore, it deepens structural racism and social inequities. There is no rhetorical exaggeration when it is said that the war on drugs is the war on the poor, a racist war destined to fail.

There is a decisive point, which takes us back to articles 142 and 144 of the Constitution and the fact that, in practice, due to the imposition of the military, there was no democratic transition in Defense and Public Security: any consistent and sustainable advance will require tackling crime. within the police, which will be impossible as long as these institutions remain refractory to the command of civil political authority. Without the assertion of this authority over the institutions that mobilize the strength of the State, democracy, popular will and national sovereignty will remain blackmailed.

By postponing reforms in National Defense and Public Security, federal and state governments continue on a slow march towards disaster, fueling the fires of fear, hatred and resentment, which prepare minds for fascism.

The rulers are lost, fearful of a public opinion poisoned by the confusion between justice and revenge, deceived by the idea that the only solution is to do more of the same, with more intensity (more prisons, more prohibitionism, more police violence, longer sentences, cruelest prisons).

It takes courage to exchange stage games for frank dialogue with society. Until when will the need for military reform and a profound review of the public security system be denied?

When will Lula start “taking care of the people”, as he promised? People don't just need food, entertainment and art. Without public security, it will persist in hell, which is how those who live on the outskirts of Brazilian cities live. Without National Defense, it will remain subject to the will emanating from a powerful foreigner.

* Manuel Domingos Neto He is a retired UFC professor and former president of the Brazilian Association of Defense Studies (ABED). Author, among other books What to do with the military – Notes for a new National Defense (Reading Cabinet).

* Luiz Eduardo Soares is an anthropologist, political scientist and writer. Former national secretary of public security. Author, among other books, of Demilitarize: public security and human rights. Boitempo: 2019. []

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