Brazil and International Conflicts, 1917-95
Brazil and International Conflicts, 1917-95
Brazil's involvement in World War I did not include sending troops
In the early years of the war, the Brazilian authorities sought
to maintain strict neutrality, and full diplomatic relations were
continued with the Central (Axis) Powers. Pro-Allied sentiment was
strong among the Brazilians, however, and by 1917, when German U-boats
began torpedoing Brazilian freighters, Brazil broke diplomatic relations
with and declared war against the Central Powers. Participation
in the war was limited largely to naval patrols in the South Atlantic.
As a belligerent, Brazil was represented at the Versailles peace
conference, thereby securing a measure of prestige, as well as a
share of German reparations. This led to Brazilian membership in
the League of Nations .
At the outbreak of World War II, Brazil was again quick to announce
its neutrality, and the Vargas government avoided any action that
seemed to favor either side. The army's numerical growth, from a
1930 level of 47,997 to a 1940 level of 93,000, and its acquisition
of modern weapons gave it the muscle to make its influence felt.
Germany had become an important trading partner for Brazil during
the 1930s and, because the United
States was also neutral, Brazil did not feel uncomfortable in
that category. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,
Brazil broke diplomatic and trade relations with the Axis powers
and supported the anti-Axis resolution of the Pan-American foreign
ministers meeting in Rio de Janeiro in 1942. In the summer of 1942,
a rash of U-boat sinkings of Brazilian freighters and ferries led
to the abandonment of neutrality in favor of participation in the
European war on the side of the Allies.
The Brazilian contribution to the World War II effort was considerably
greater than it had been during World War I. For example, Brazil
permitted the United States to establish air and naval bases in
(Nordeste) and to use Natal in Rio Grande do Norte as a staging
area for transit to Africa. Brazil also made the islands of Fernando
de Noronha available to Allied forces as a base of operations for
patrolling South Atlantic sealanes. In addition, Brazil placed its
navy under United States control in order to join other Allied navies
in antisubmarine defense; Brazil provided corvettes and destroyers
for Atlantic patrols and for convoy escort duty.
Unlike other Latin American countries, Brazil dispatched troop
units to Europe to participate in combat. The Brazilian Expeditionary
Force (Fôrça Expedicionária Brasileira--FEB)
reached about 25,000 strong in Italy in the summer of 1944 to become
part of the United States Fifth Army. The FEB's principal fighting
unit, an infantry division, was committed to combat that September
and remained in almost continuous action for more than 200 days,
winning high praise from Allied leaders. World War II and the military
alliance with the United States left the military with more equipment,
enhanced its organizational and individual skills, increased its
prestige, and ultimately gave it what it had lacked since 1870--combat
seasoning against a foreign enemy. The experience of the FEB in
the Italian campaign also gave the army a popular status somewhat
separate from the Estado Novo and allowed the FEB veterans (Febianos)
to return as heroes. After the war, an elaborate memorial was erected
de Janeiro to honor the 451 servicemen who lost their lives
during the conflict.
Since 1945 the armed forces have not engaged in international combat.
However, Brazil did send units to the Suez Canal in 1956, to the
Belgian Congo in 1960, and to the Dominican Republic in 1965. The
first two instances were in response to UN requests for multinational
peacekeeping forces. The third was in answer to a call from the
OAS, after President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the United States Marines
to Santo Domingo to intervene in the civil war. Brazil complied
by sending the largest contingent of non-United States troops (1,000),
and a Brazilian general, Hugo Penasco Alvim, commanded the OAS forces.
This was called the Inter-American Peace Force (Fôrça
Interamericana de Paz--FIP).
Brazil has been reluctant to get involved in international conflicts
that might require military action. In the early 1950s, Brazil politely
declined the United States invitation to send troops to the Korean
War. In September and October 1990, Brazil, anxious to win the release
of 200 Brazilians being held in Iraq, refused to assist in the military
blockade of Iraq, after Iraq invaded Kuwait. In stark contrast,
Argentina sent two surface ships to the Persian Gulf. Brazil did,
however, comply with UN Security Council Resolution 661 and cut
off all exports to Iraq and Kuwait. The Central Bank of Brazil (Banco
Central do Brasil--Bacen; see Glossary) suspended financial transfers
to Iraq and Kuwait, and Brazil also observed the UN embargo of September
25, 1990, on air cargo.
In the early 1990s, Brazil became increasingly involved in UN peacekeeping
operations. In 1993-94, for example, Brazil sent a company from
the 26th Airborne to Mozambique for six months. By May 1994, 152
members of the Brazilian military and police were involved in five
of the fourteen UN efforts--Angola, El Salvador, Mozambique, the
former Yugoslavia, and on the Rwanda-Uganda border. These included
eleven troops, sixty-six police, and seventy-five observers. A Brazilian
brigadier general commanded the UN officer observer group in 1994-95.
The officers were involved in nonmilitary assignments, in areas
such as medical support, management, and observation. Typically,
a Brazilian officer was assigned to one of the operations for one
year, before being replaced by a fellow officer. Brazil's Congress
had to approve any contributions to the peacekeeping forces. In
1995 Brazil sought to send a battalion to join the UN peacekeeping
force in Angola. Although the ministries of planning and finance
forced a delay because of budget constraints, a Brazilian battalion
went to Angola.
Data as of April 1997