The military in politics

Photography Studio_Hill and Adamson, Lookout_Sergeant and Private of the 42 Gordon Highlanders, Edinburgh Castle, 1843-47.


It is time to re-discuss the role and character of the Armed Forces.

Among the threats to life, political and civil freedom conquered in the 1988 Constitution and the future of Brazil, as a nation, is the return of the military to politics. It has already manifested itself in the 2016 Coup, in the judgment of the habeas corpus of Lula in the Federal Supreme Court, in the politicization of the Military Police, in the agreement and coexistence with the militias, in Bolsonaro's policy of arming his militant bases and, now, in the Army commander's decision not to punish General Eduardo Pazuello, violating his own internal law – the Disciplinary Regulations of the Army.

The broad and general opposition to the decision, including demonstrations by reserve general officers or the significant silence of others such as the former Army commander, opens an opportunity for us to debate and build a majority in society with the objective of redefining the role of the Armed Forces. Armed Forces in the Constitution, starting with changing the mistaken article 142, which maintains military tutelage. So that there is no doubt that the Armed Forces do not hold the power of moderator or arbiter of the nation; on the contrary, they are subject to constitutional civil power. Most constituents, in the spirit of top-negotiated transition, kept this authoritarian rubble: the military as a moderating power.

As if the 7 years of dictatorship of the fascist Estado Novo were not enough under the leadership of Vargas, associated with the General Staff of the Army – it is for no other reason that General Góis Monteiro, de facto head of the Army, received the title of Constable of the State Novo–, and the 21 of the military dictatorship, the military party imposed itself in the Constituent Assembly by defining the Armed Forces as guarantors of the constituent powers and, on the initiative of any of them, of law and order.

But the same article also says that the Armed Forces are organized based on hierarchy and discipline, under the command of the President of the Republic, provided that he is elected within the framework of the Constitution. The problem is that in these last 34 years nothing has changed in the Armed Forces in relation to the years of military dictatorship. On the contrary, the political transition to democracy granted amnesty to the military and their crimes, which were more than proven in the same way that occurred in the Estado Novo. Just remember Filinto Muller, head of the political police, who later became a senator for Arena.

In the Bolsonaro government, the military greatly expanded its presence in politics, whether in Congress or in government, including active-duty military personnel such as generals Luís Eduardo Ramos, Braga Neto and Eduardo Pazuello. Without the necessary quarantine, as in other countries, the military entered politics and she entered the barracks.

As if the facts were not enough, the memoirs of General Villas Bôas, former commander of the Army, is a public confession of the illegal and unconstitutional intervention of the General Staff of the Army in politics and in the election of Bolsonaro.

There is not and will not be democracy with the military in politics. This is a basic principle of all democracies, as the military have a differentiated situation, guaranteed by the nation, the functions they occupy and the missions they are entrusted with in the armed defense of the homeland. Therefore, they are prohibited from joining unions and going on strikes and, while in active duty, they cannot join political parties.

The differentiated situation of the military guarantees them their own and special, integral retirement, without minimum age barrier. They have their own hospitals, academies and schools at all levels, research institutes of excellent quality, their own clubs. And they have just received expressive salary increases while civil servants are living under pressure or even salary losses in the face of inflation.

They have benefits such as cost and maintenance allowance, gratuity for being able to study – the constitutional limits and ceilings in practice were illegally abolished for the military. And their budgets do not suffer the limitations of the spending cap and golden rule, being able to become, in practice, a caste within the service with privileges and advantages that go beyond those inherent to the special function they perform.

To the nation's scandal, the Bolsonaro government appointed thousands of military personnel to positions throughout the public sector. Generals and colonels occupy not only the ministry and the Planalto, but the entire public administration. The Ministry of Defense was militarized and became, in practice, the General Staff of the Armed Forces, losing its civilian character; and the Office of Institutional Security, hypertrophied, is today a political police and political espionage body associated with Abin (Brazilian Intelligence Agency).

The fact is that Bolsonaro tries to entice the military with benefits and advantages even at the risk of breaking the hierarchy, with positions and salary increases, with unlimited funds and budgets while fiscal austerity was imposed on all sectors of the federal administration. Starting with health and education, science and culture, housing and sanitation, environment and infrastructure.

Now, crossing all limits, a general on active duty participates in an openly political demonstration and is not punished according to the Disciplinary Regulations of the Army. This is a clear violation of the principles not only of hierarchy and discipline, but of the Constitution.

It was and continues to be a serious mistake by the constituent to give the Armed Forces the power to guarantee the constitutional powers and even the so-called GLO, guarantees of law and order, the constitutional function of the Judiciary, the federal and civil police, the military police and, if necessary, a professional and fast-acting national force.

With the increasing participation of the military in politics and in maintaining internal order, there is a risk, as the experiences of Mexico and Colombia prove, of penetration of drug trafficking in the Armed Forces. What already happened, by the way, in the UPPs (Pacifying Police Units) in Rio de Janeiro with the control by the traffic of PM high commands.

There is not and will not be democracy with the military in politics. It is time to re-discuss the role and character of our Armed Forces. The first measure is his total removal from politics and public functions –without quarantine and going to the reserve as is the case today–, the abandonment of the GLOs (Guarantees of Law and Order) and the return to the Ministry of Defense of its civil and to the GSI (Institutional Security Office of the Presidency of the Republic) of its legal, not necessarily military, role. It means changing the article of the 1988 Constitution that gave them the power to guarantee the constituted powers, that is, of guardianship over the civil government.

It is time to revise, yes, the contents of the curricula of military schools that need to overcome the backward view of the cold war and the internal enemy. Curricula must have the scientific, pluralistic, democratic and secular nature of public education, without discrimination or prejudice.

It is time to assert the role of Commander-in-Chief of the President of the Republic within the law of promotions of active-duty officers of the Armed Forces approved by the National Congress, to submit the military to the constituted powers arising from popular sovereignty – the President of the Republic and the National Congress.

It is time to modernize the Armed Forces in order to have a modern and current professional Army, which meets the constitutional definition that determines that our Republic is governed in its international relations by the following principles: national independence, prevalence of human rights, self-determination of peoples, not -intervention, equality among States, defense of peace, peaceful resolution of conflicts, repudiation of terrorism and racism, cooperation among peoples for the progress of humanity and granting of political asylum.

None of the foundations of our Constitution nor its fundamental objectives include the cold war, the internal enemy or even the option for the West or the bloc led by the United States. The Armed Forces of the 21st century, as the current crisis proves, first of all need autonomy and scientific and technological sovereignty, a developed national industry and a national defense industry, capable of developing cybernetic warfare and defending our borders with a missile shield. The old-style defense, supported by infantry spread across the country, no longer makes sense.

The Armed Forces, by meddling in politics and occupying executive positions in the government, deviate from their constitutional function and fail to adequately prepare for the current demands of national defense. Demands that are no longer met when we give up scientific and technological development – ​​the deep cut in funding for education and science is the expression of the option for dependence; we delivered the Alcântara rocket launch base to another country; we discontinued the Satellite Launch Vehicle (base for missile development); we abandoned the development of state-of-the-art aircraft; we dismantled the marine industry and our engineering and design companies.

The redefinition of the role of the Armed Forces, with its complete submission to civil power, requires the cohesive participation of parties and civil society entities, popular and trade union movements, academia and intellectuals and, mainly, Parliament and the military itself. We cannot accept, once again, military intervention in politics and its alleged role as the nation's arbiter or moderating power, already rejected by the STF.

I only fear –and I hope I'm wrong– that this task will be in the hands of the left and popular sectors only. This would mean that the political and business elites chose to support, once again, the return of the military to power, despite the teachings of history and the failure of these interventions, the delay and the price we pay. An option like this would lead to the definitive isolation of Brazil and would be doomed to failure sooner or later, as happened with the Estado Novo and the military dictatorship.

* Jose Dirceu he was Minister of the Civil House in the first Lula government. Author, among other books, of Memoirs (Editorial generation).

Originally published on the website Power 360.



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