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The Military Mission since 1988 in Brazil

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Brazil Military Mission since 1988

Article 142 of the 1988 federal constitution states that "The armed forces, which consist of the navy, the army, and the air force, are permanent and normal national institutions organized on the basis of hierarchy and discipline under the supreme authority of the president of the republic." It adds that "Their purpose is to defend the fatherland, guarantee the constitutionally established powers and, on the initiative of any of said powers, law and order." Significantly, the 1988 constitution fails to include the clause that the military only be obedient to the executive "within the limits of the law." Thus, the armed forces have been placed more firmly under presidential control. According to Complementary Law No. 69 of July 23, 1991, the army's mission is also to cooperate in the national development and in civil defense.

According to Article 84 of the 1988 constitution, the president has the exclusive authority to appoint and dismiss the ministers of state, decree a state of emergency or state of siege, serve as supreme commander of the armed forces, promote their general officers, and appoint them to posts. The president may also declare war "in the event of foreign aggression and when authorized by the National Congress." He also presides over the National Defense Council.

There has been little debate in Brazil's civil society regarding the role of the armed forces. José Murilo de Carvalho, a political scientist, has called for such a debate, arguing that it is necessary to define the tasks of the armed forces before addressing issues of defense expenditures. Civilians, however, have not taken the initiative in defining those tasks.

The military has been seeking a new role, primarily to justify even its meager budget. The armed forces have seemed increasingly irrelevant, given the lack of an external threat (Brazil is involved in a common market, joint ventures, and nuclear cooperation with Argentina, its former rival); the lack of an internal threat (no political group in Brazil is calling for the use of violence to overthrow the government); and the demise of communism. In addition to a peacekeeping role, some of the potential new roles for the military include broader participation in the Amazon, involvement in the counter-drug war, and civic action. In late 1994 and 1995, the armed forces were involved intermittently in providing public security in Rio de Janeiro. On May 18, 1995, Governor Marcello Alencar appointed hard-line retired General Nilton Cerqueira, who was elected federal deputy in 1994, as state secretary of public security; General Cerqueira was well known as commander of the Rio de Janeiro DOI-CODI in the 1970s.

Data as of April 1997



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