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Brazilian Army



As in most Latin American nations, the Brazilian Army has been the most influential of the services because of its size, deployment, and historical development. Not only did senior army generals occupy the presidency from 1964 until 1985, but most of the officers who held cabinet posts during that time were from the army. In 1997 the army totaled 200,000 members.

Considering the short conscript tour (usually nine to ten months), the army has a high number of conscripts: 125,000. Because of the need for literate and skilled young men to handle modern weapons, the army has served as a training ground for a large reserve force. Its highly professional officer corps serves as a nucleus around which the trained service would be mobilized if required.

The noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps is not well developed. NCOs have virtually no autonomy or authority. Emphasis on training and professional development is for officers only. The NCOs account for slightly more than one-third of the total army strength. About half of the NCOs are sergeants, who serve as command links between officers and ranks. Some also serve as middle-level technicians.

In the early 1990s, the army began to undergo a generational change. The generals of the early 1990s had been junior officers in the early 1960s and had witnessed the military coup in 1964. Their worldview was shaped and influenced by the anticommunism of that time. These generals were being replaced by colonels who had entered the army in the early 1970s and whose view of the world had been shaped less by ideology and more by pragmatism. The United States, particularly through its counterinsurgency doctrines of the early 1960s, was more influential with the older group of officers.

The Army General Staff (Estado-Maior do Exército--EME) directs training and operations (see fig. 14). The EME has expanded from four sections in 1968 to fifteen sections in 1994. It is headed by the EME chief, except in the event of a war.

From 1946 through 1985, the army was divided into four numbered armies: the First Army was centered in Rio de Janeiro, the Second Army in São Paulo, the Third Army in Porto Alegre, and the Fourth Army in Recife. Historically, the First Army was the most politically significant because of Rio de Janeiro's position as the nation's capital through the 1950s. The Third Army was also important because of its shared border with Argentina (Brazil's traditional rival in Latin America) and Uruguay. In 1964, for example, close to two-thirds of the Brazilian troops were in the Third Army, and somewhat fewer than one-third were in the First Army. The rest were sprinkled throughout the Second and Fourth Armies. The Planalto Military Command (Comando Militar do Planalto--CMP), comprising the Federal District and Goiás State, and the Amazon Military Region Command (Comando Militar da Amazônia--CMA) supplemented the four armies.

On January 1, 1986, the army was restructured from four numbered armies and two military commands into seven military commands. The major addition was the Western Military Command (Comando Militar do Oeste--CMO), whose territory encompasses the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul (previously under the Second Army territory), and Rondônia (previously under the CMA). Each of the seven military commands has its headquarters in a major city: Eastern Military Command (Comando Militar do Leste--CML), Rio de Janeiro; Southeastern Military Command (Comando Militar do Sudeste--CMSE), São Paulo; Southern Military Command (Comando Militar do Sul--CMS), Porto Alegre; Northeastern Military Command (Comando Militar do Nordeste--CMN), Recife; CMO, Campo Grande; CMP, Brasília; and CMA, Manaus. The CMP and CMO are led by major generals (three-star); the other five are headed by full generals (four-star). The army is divided further into eleven military regions. The CMSE is made up of only one state, São Paulo, and is in charge of protecting the industrial base of the country.

The changes were instituted as part of a modernization campaign to make the army better prepared for rapid mobilization. The reorganization reflected Brazil's geopolitical drive to "occupy the frontier" and the growing importance of Brasília, the Amazon, and western Brazil. In 1997 there were major units around Brasília, four jungle brigades, and five jungle battalions extending from Amapá to Mato Grosso do Sul. A tour with jungle units is a coveted assignment and is considered career-enhancing.

The move to occupy the Amazon and the short-term political implications of the army's reorganization should not be overstated. The army's geographic organization and distribution have continued to reflect a concern with internal rather than external defense. In what is perhaps an anachronism, the CML in Rio de Janeiro continues to have some of the best troop units and the most modern equipment (see table 29, Appendix). Command of the CML is still a coveted assignment, and the Military Village (Vila Militar), Rio de Janeiro's garrison or military community, is still considered one of the most important centers of military influence in the entire country. Principal army schools are located there or nearby. The CML is also important in countering the trafficking of drugs and armaments.

In a significant political development, the army established a formal High Command in 1964. Before that time, a clique of generals residing in Rio de Janeiro controlled major decisions of the army. Throughout the authoritarian period, tensions often existed between the High Command and the five generals who served as president. This tension was such that President Geisel dismissed Minister of Army Sylvio Frota in 1977. Since the January 1986 restructuring, the High Command has been composed of the seven regional commanders, the chief of staff, and the minister of army. The High Command meets to discuss all issues, including those of a political nature, and is responsible for drawing up the list of generals from which the president chooses those who will be promoted to four stars.

Data as of April 1997



 



 


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Table A. Selected Acronyms and Abbreviations
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Geography
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Historical Setting

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The Military Role in Society and Government

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Brazil and International Conflicts, 1917-95
Foreign Military Influence
The Military Role in the Intelligence Services
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- The Military in the Amazon
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