Civil-Military Relations, 1985-94
Civil-Military Relations, 1985-94
Alfred C. Stepan has argued that although the Brazilian military
ceded power to José
Sarney (1985-90) in 1985, it retained significant prerogatives.
President Sarney depended on the armed forces because of his weak
political base. According to Professor Fleischer, Sarney was not
well prepared to assume the presidency, so General Ivan Souza Mendes,
the director of the National Intelligence Service (Serviço
Nacional de Informações--SNI) "stepped in to
fill the void" and helped him "organize his presidency."
As a result of his dependence on the military, Sarney's administration
made little progress in gaining greater control over the armed forces.
Congress, meeting as a Constituent Assembly (Assembléia
Constituinte), redrafted the constitution from February 1987 until
October 5, 1988, when it was promulgated. The 1988 constitution
strengthened presidential control of the military by removing the
clause that stated the military was only obedient to the executive
"within the limits of the law." In late 1989, the first
direct presidential election was held in almost three decades, and
in March 1990 Fernando Collor de Mello took office.
Collor de Mello, the prerogatives of the armed forces were reduced
modestly, but erratically, in a "two steps forward, one step
back" manner. Four examples of such reductions can be cited.
First, Collor de Mello replaced the military-dominated SNI with
the civilian-led Strategic Affairs Secretariat (Secretaria de Assuntos
Estratégicos--SAE). Second, he cut defense spending to the
lowest level in decades: approximately 0.3 percent of gross domestic
product (GDP--see Glossary) in 1993, down from 0.9 percent in 1987.
Third, he attempted to establish more effective control over Brazil's
various nuclear and other strategic programs. And fourth, the government
announced that the Brazilian Aeronautics Company (Empresa Brasileira
da Aeronáutica--Embraer), which manufactures the Tucano trainer
and the subsonic AMX fighter, would be privatized (Embraer was privatized
in December 1994).
Furthermore, in 1990 Collor revealed publicly the secret atomic
bomb project developed by the army. On September 5, 1991, Brazil
and Argentina agreed to establish the Brazilian-Argentine Agency
for Accounting and Control of Nuclear
Materials (Agência Brasileiro-Argentina de Contabilidade e
Contrôle de Materiais Nucleares--ABACC). This agreement permits
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect nuclear
installations in Argentina and Brazil. On that occasion, Brazil
also signed, with Argentina and Chile, a treaty forbidding the development,
manufacture, and use of chemical weapons. In December 1991, Collor
participated in the signing of a comprehensive safeguards agreement
among Brazil, Argentina, and the IAEA.
Collor created an interministerial group to formulate a more restrictive
arms-control policy. He increased consultation with the United States
on the conditions for gaining access to the technologies covered
by the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime). He also announced
that Brazil would create a space agency, under civilian control,
to open up activities in this sector and to promote the commercial
exploitation of the Alcântara rocket-launching base. That
agency was established by his successor, Itamar Franco (president,
Under Collor civilian political institutions generally were strengthened.
The government granted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Itamaraty)
even greater autonomy on foreign policy issues, including some defense-related
issues. Congress played a more assertive role, and in late 1990
conducted a major investigation into Brazil's nuclear program. The
investigation, conducted by a Congressional Investigating Committee
(Comissão Parlamentar de Inquérito--CPI), was extensive
and included the testimony of former President João Figueiredo
Collor's political isolation after his first year as president
led him to curry the support of the military. For example, Collor
restored funding for Embraer's subsonic AMX fighter in mid-1991
after denying funding in 1990. In addition, the army announced that
it would not allow a foreign firm to buy the nearly bankrupt Specialized
Engineers, Inc. (Engenheiros Especializados S.A.--Engesa). Instead,
Engesa, which had a debt of more than US$400 million and showed
little hope for profitability, would be turned into a state-controlled
Franco established closer ties with the military. He named various
retired officers to sensitive posts within the cabinet. On several
occasions, he acquiesced to military requests for higher salaries.
The government's relations with the military improved further after
Henrique Cardoso became president on January 1, 1995.
Data as of April 1997