Lula and the military

Image: Agruban


The demilitarization of politics and the depoliticization of the barracks are not Siamese twins of military professionalization



Military tutelage over Brazilian politics, institutions and society is a fundamental component of Brazil's social, cultural, economic and political formation. It should not be thought of as something specific to the Bolsonaro government, but as something permanent, just like racism. The ways in which she expresses herself change. Therefore, it is not something that will end with a stroke of the pen or that will last only for lack of “political will” or “lack of good ideas”. It requires much more: a set goal, patience, opportunity and, above all, daily perseverance. virtue and fortune.

The “slow, gradual and safe” transition made under military control to the democratic regime guaranteed the military four areas of autonomy that were fundamental for the symbolic self-reproduction of the barracks’ thinking: military education, military intelligence, military justice and the military budget. defense. The discussion about not punishing those who committed crimes during the dictatorship (amnesty) is relevant, but as long as the four areas remain untouched, guardianship will continue. There is no correlation of forces to think about reforms in these areas now.

A segment of militant military acts as an organic political party. They have a power project and, in order to start implementing it, they needed, unlike 1964, to reach the top of the Executive through elections. For this, they inflated the candidacy of Jair Bolsonaro, a strong communicator, and for a number of reasons that we will not go into further, they were successful in 2018. We will highlight just one of them: the military institution is very highly evaluated by the population, as well as the churches, in the face of a complete distrust in politicians, parties, among others. The military party lent this popular trust in the military institution to the Bolsonaro government.

The Bolsonaro government has been militarized from head to toe. The military never disembarked from it, as happened with the car wash, for example. They gained a lot from it corporately and individually. Majority internal differences vary between: (a) voting for Bolsonaro; (b) military for the Bolsonaro campaign; (c) support/participate in pro-Bolsonaro destabilization actions (including violent ones) with the aim of a coup d'état; (d) rebelling military units culminating in a coup d'état. Re-enacting the legalists vs coup plotters is wrong, either from a historical point of view or to think about the current context. Military personnel interpret the law according to their interests, as indicated by the controversy surrounding Article 142 of the Constitution.

The invasion of the Capitol (USA) may be a parameter for the vandals of January 8, but not for thinking about military behavior. In this case, it is better to look at Bolivia, when armed bands struck terror and the Bolivian armed forces only appeared at the end, to send Evo Morales away and bring the situation “back to normality”. They win by playing “stand still”, as they hoped to do on the 8th.



Lula spoke little about the military during the campaign, rightly so. He only signaled the demilitarization of the government and the appointment of a civilian minister to the Ministry of Defense. After being elected, Lula made a mistake during the transition of government. (a) did not create a transition WG for the defense area, while the intelligence WG was slow to come out; (b) nominated a conservative name strongly suggested by the military leadership for the Ministry of Defense (although, let's face it, Lula has plenty of experience with old foxes who change sides in politics and this is a government with a broad front); (c) chose the most senior officers to command each of the Services; (d) did not immediately exonerate military personnel declared to be committed to the previous government – ​​who even defended Lula’s own bloodshed – and who remained in his surroundings, including in the palace, notably in the Institutional Security Office (GSI) – from which they began to leave now – and at the Ministry of Defense – where they remain. The signs of appeasement that came from the government were not responded to, as observed in the inauguration ceremonies of the new commanders.

Errors are understandable. Faced with a scenario of scorched earth, he chose to buy the fights that immediately concern the lives of the common people, whom he proposes to take care of: guaranteeing a minimum wage, vaccines, food, school; all with a scenario of complete dismantling of public policies and a National Congress eager to remain in the “take it, give it” policy, not to mention the moods of Avenida Paulista. It's understandable, but it's still wrong. Control over military institutions is the exercise of state power itself, a precondition for any other political action in a full democracy.

Lula got it right brilliantly on the 8th by not enacting a Guarantee of Law and Order (GLO) operation. It is not a question of being afraid of a coup or of insubordination, but of not giving the barracks the image of “restorers of order”, an order that they themselves, at least out of leniency, helped to break. Lula got it right again by placing a civilian to coordinate federal intervention in public security in the Federal District.

The militarization of public security is a mistake all over Brazil, but the mere waving of flags as “the end of the military police” does nothing. It is necessary to give concrete content to this, for example, placing a civilian in charge of the sector. On the part of the military, two arguments about the 8th of January are not feasible: (a) they didn't know it was going to happen, because there were plenty of warnings from the many intelligence services and even the press; (b) and that they would not have the human and material means to act in these situations. Thus, at best, there was leniency (desertion?), failure in decision-making or in the execution of protection. At worst, there was cooperation. In this regard, it is important to individualize the responsibilities of those who planned, who paid, who did and who encouraged the acts. Not only about the 8th of January, but also about the actions of December, especially the bomb on Christmas Eve, with potential civilian casualties. The wear and tear of the military was not just with Lula, but with all institutions destroyed, including Congress and the Supreme Court.

Lula has been right since then, with forceful declarations to the press, including about the military dictatorship, denouncing that the armed forces are not a moderating power and, mainly, dismissing General Júlio César de Arruda from the Army Command. Questions such as: (a) “was the public speech given to the troops by the new Army Commander, General Tomás Paiva, agreed with the Army High Command”?; (b) “was it a game of Lula and the commanders”?; (c) “Is Tomás better or worse than Arruda, and in what sense”?; (d) “exactly when did Lula make the replacement decision”?; (e) “was Lieutenant Colonel Cid the last straw or not”? are relevant but secondary.

The main issue is the political message that Lula offered to the nation. Unlike his behavior in the first governments, this time, when the military spoke truco to a decision, Lula replied "half a stick". He faced it, he didn't give in. If it will succeed, if it was enough, if it could be better, these are all questions of the correlation of forces and without answers in the here and now. The important thing is that the Commander-in-Chief of the nation and of the armed forces “set foot” in a decision.

We are facing a historic opportunity, as different factors converge: (a) the press is on the trail of the FFAA, and has thousands of documents losing confidentiality, accusations of corruption, material evidence of all kinds to explore; (b) the military institution lost popular support due to the mess and overexposure in the Bolsonaro government; (c) there is no international support – global or regional – for a military base (which may change in a short time); (d) there is a loss of support among national elites, such as the responses that the virulent statements of generals Mourão and Etchegoyen received from characters such as Joaquim Barbosa; (e) there are internal dissatisfactions, which are expressed in the campaign within the Army to burn some of the four-star generals, called watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside).

In addition, internal dissatisfaction will increase: the approximately 8 soldiers who were in government and are active will leave the Planalto Palace and return to the ranks. How will they be accommodated? How is the place in the queue of those who continued to fulfill their missions in faraway places and did not leave the Forces to fill their pockets on the carpets of Planalto?

Lula is at the beginning of a broad front government, and it is natural and positive that he wants to lower the temperature of relations with the barracks (pacifying is a bad term, it carries a lot of history together). The way, currently indicated, of offering money for investments in equipment, was the same political option of Lula's first terms. In addition to endorsing a misuse of public money, the military interpret this action as a weakness of the government, which would try to buy them with toys. To make matters worse, unlike the first government, Lula would need to rely on a mindless and coup-mongering FIESP.

But Lula has another option in hand. Stop discussing only with the military and open a broad debate on national defense, calling different sectors of society to sit at the political table. Such a proposal would make it possible to bring a breath of participatory democracy to a historically authoritarian area, would bring more segments to the table – which allows for the expansion and improvement of the correlation of forces, would hand over the responsibility of defining what should be the object of defense and who threatens us for those who are entitled to it – the Brazilian people, would meet an old historical claim of the military, which is that “nobody cares about defense, only us” (and in addition would put rhetoric to the test) and would still build social strength for reforms wider.



Here, we will list a set of issues that are on the political agenda and that do not touch on the areas of autonomy mentioned at the beginning of this text, but that can contribute to the reduction of military tutelage over politics.

Individualization of responsibilities in the attempted coup d'état and its antecedents. Without forgetting the problems of judicial activism, it should be borne in mind that the crime of attempted coup d'état is tried in common law, and other crimes such as damage to property or injury, if committed by military personnel, proceed to trial in the military judiciary. , admittedly corporate;

Ministry of Defense: it is possible to have a minister with a political profile, knowledge of the area and political skill, as in other ministries. Múcio has no knowledge of the area and made this evident by naming the oldest ones automatically. But naming the minister is little, very little. Civilians who have taken a civil service exam at the Ministry of Defense are needed, who will gradually replace even the military personnel hired to perform fixed-term tasks (PTTCs);

Create/reform security and defense institutions: guidelines such as the creation and profile of the national guard, making the national public security force permanent, utilities for a coast guard and for civil control of the aviation area, who should take care of the borders, who should take care of presidential security, how to deflate the GSI, among other things, should be the object of public debate in the first year of government. Some of these issues may even be the subject of deliberation at the XNUMXst National Defense Conference, worked jointly with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, popular movements, industrial associations and other political subjects;

Withdraw the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin) from the GSI, leaving it with the Chief of Staff or a Secretariat for Strategic Affairs;

The Legislature can act by facing pending issues, such as the quarantine period for military personnel who leave the Forces and go to politics, regulating the legislative advisory services of the Forces that work in Congress and end up acting as lobbyists, propose criteria for choosing 4 stars (such as sabbaths in Congress, like in other countries), relocating the budget of other areas such as health, sports, assistance, education that are currently executed by the Ministry of Defense for their final areas. The Executive can help by suggesting agendas and projects;

The Union's transparency and oversight bodies can act notably by identifying the existing budget revolving door between active and reserve military personnel in the construction of notices and assembly of companies that provide services to the Union through these public selection processes, often with waiver of bidding . It is possible to identify and blame the well-known “door handle military”, who open the doors to lobbying companies (not just arms), for the misuse of public resources and illicit enrichment;

The civil judiciary needs to confront the military judiciary and the military public ministry, so that they, at the very least, supervise compliance with the military regulations that the military themselves created;

The press can contribute by not using the “off” as the main resource for articles that only serve to demoralize the profession, in addition to reports on military moods that contribute to the coup atmosphere. Left-wing vehicles need to tirelessly show that Lula invested in defense and Bolsonaro only lined the pockets of some officers and clarify the privileges that the military career has over other public and private civilian careers;

Popular organizations need to guide the theme. For example, (a) public category unions can discuss isonomy between State careers; (b) the women's movement must denounce the fact that guns kill, and join initiatives for gun control and police demilitarization; they can also denounce the misogyny and lack of policies for equality of gender and race present in the armed forces, especially in the army; (c) environmentalists should focus on who is responsible for policing the Amazon, guiding the Calha Norte project; as well as remembering that the current senator Mourão was administratively responsible for the policies in that territory in the last four years; (d) youth movements need to understand that the reduction of police violence against young black people requires control measures, such as the installation of cameras in uniforms, which, in turn, demand an end to the subordination of the military police to the armed forces and governors simultaneously ; they can also, as possible recruits of these forces, demand compliance with rules that preserve their integrity, which has already been proven with the use of cameras;

Lula must command and call on the Brazilian people to do so along with him.

The militarization of politics during the Bolsonaro government was accompanied by the politicization of the barracks; they are inseparable pairs. But the demilitarization of politics and the depoliticization of the barracks are not Siamese twins of military professionalization. Professional soldiers intervene in politics and carry out coups. Building popular control over state instruments of violence is not a simple matter. However, it is not impossible, as suggested in this article.

*Ana Penido is a postdoctoral researcher at the San Tiago Dantas Program (UNESP – Unicamp – PUC-SP).

Originally published on the website Defense and Sovereignty Observatory.


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