power and counterpower



The military presence in the government and its conduct in relation to the pandemic

The Minister of the STF, Gilmar Mendes, recently stated: “It is not acceptable to have this void in the Ministry of Health. It is necessary to say this very clearly: the Army is associating itself with this genocide, it is unreasonable. It is necessary to put an end to this".

Evidently, this is a very strong statement, but it is to be expected in view of this situation in which the Brazilian government is increasingly militarized, many important ministries on the Esplanada occupied by officers from the three Forces, above all from the Army. And in the case of the Ministry of Health by an active-duty general. The Brazilian government's conduct in relation to the pandemic is, to say the least, controversial and has led Brazil to have more than a thousand deaths per day, having reached more than 75 thousand. It is the second country in the world in number of deaths from coronavirus, the first being the United States, considered a very bad case of combating covid-19, to put it in very objective terms. As this pandemic situation worsens in Brazil, the association between the worsening of the crisis and the presence of military personnel in the government will certainly be made.

If the current person in charge of the Ministry of Health on an interim basis – an interim position that is already prolonged – were to move to the reserve, there would be a positive fact because it would eliminate this mixture between the conduct of the military who are in government and the Armed Forces in their function which is the defense of the country. But even this possibility would not solve the problem because the massive presence of military personnel in important ministries – and in a large proportion, whether active duty or reserve – creates confusion between institutions that should not be mixed up. From the point of view of democracy, it would be important for the Armed Forces not to participate in the day-to-day management of the government and to concentrate on the country's external defense tasks.

*André Singer is a professor of political science at USP. Author, among other books, of Lulism in crisis (Company of Letters).

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