Brazil National Security
BRAZIL'S ARMED FORCES (Forças Armadas) have played an active
political role ever since they helped overthrow the empire in 1889.
From 1930 until 1964, they asserted their moderating power (poder
moderador--see Glossary) and intervened frequently in the political
process. In 1964 the military ousted the civilian president and
governed for twenty-one years.
A national security doctrine, with two major elements, guided the
military regime. The first element was a broad definition of security
that included not only defense against external aggression but also
internal defense against insurgency and communism. By using repressive
measures, the military countered domestic insurgencies successfully
from 1967 through 1973. The second element was economic development.
Under the military, the role of the state in the economy grew considerably
with the expansion of Brazil's industrial base. High economic growth
rates of the 1968-73 period helped to legitimize military government.
The armed forces returned to the barracks in March 1985. Although
they have continued to assert themselves politically, their political
influence has been reduced substantially because of several factors.
First, as Brazil has sought to consolidate its democracy, the National
Congress (Congresso Nacional; hereafter, Congress) and civilian
ministries have become more involved and influential in broadly
defined security issues. Second, the military was forced to compete
with civilian ministries for extremely limited resources and was
unable to halt a continual decline in its share of government expenditures.
And third, although the 1988 constitution preserves the external
and internal roles of the armed forces, it places the military under
presidential authority. Thus, the new charter changed the manner
in which the military could exercise its moderating power (see The
Military Mission since 1988, this ch.).
Furthermore, the armed forces were unable to promote and fund pet
projects effectively in the nuclear, space, missile, and armament
arenas. President Fernando Collor de Mello (1990-92) exposed Brazil's
secret, military-sponsored nuclear bomb program, the so-called Parallel
Program (Programa Paralelo). As a result, several of Brazil's nuclear
programs were placed under international monitoring. Collor also
placed the Brazilian space program controlled by the Brazilian Air
Force (Força Aérea Brasileira--FAB) under civilian
oversight. In addition, the Brazilian government announced in early
1994 that Brazil would seek to join the Missile Technology Control
Regime (see Glossary), and succeeded in doing so in October 1995.
Brazil's armaments industry, supported by the military regime, collapsed
without any major intervention by the state to shore it up.
Geopolitical changes and a shifting civil-military balance within
Brazil recast the country's security interests. One geopolitical
change in the early 1990s included a transformation from bipolarity
toward multipolarity in the international system. Another change
involved greater integration between Brazil and Argentina. Political
and economic uncertainties in 1995 also influenced the Brazilian
military's perceptions of the country's national security.
Since the 1950s, Brazil's rate of military expenditures has been
among the lowest in the world. In 1993 this figure dropped to only
1.1 percent of the gross national product (GNP--see Glossary). This
trend reflects the low level of external threat. Brazil is by far
the largest country in Latin America and enjoys generally good relations
with its ten South American neighbors. There is no threat to Brazil's
internal security in the narrow sense of insurgencies. The politically
inspired terrorism of the late 1960s and 1970s is nonexistent.
Despite the low level of defense expenditures, Brazil's armed forces
are the largest in Latin America, with 314,000 active-duty troops
and officers in 1997, including 132,000 conscripts. The Brazilian
Army (Exército Brasileiro), the largest service (accounting
for 66 percent of the total armed forces), has 200,000 active-duty
troops and officers. The Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil), totals
64,700 members, and the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), 50,000.
With no serious external or internal threats, the armed forces
are searching for a new role. They are expanding their presence
in the Amazon under the Northern Corridor (Calha Norte) program
(see The Military in the Amazon, this ch.). In 1994 Brazilian troops
joined United Nations (UN) peacekeeping forces in five countries.
The Brazilian military, especially the army, has become more involved
in civic-action programs, education, health care, and constructing
roads, bridges, and railroads across the nation.
Debate in Brazil concerning national security policy has been practically
nonexistent. Political dialogue is limited to discussion of the
revisions of the constitution, where only modest changes in the
role of the armed forces are expected. None of the political parties,
except the Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores--PT), has articulated
a position on defense matters. Although some civilians are experts
in defense matters, their influence is negligible. There is no tradition
of congressional oversight of the military, and the defense-related
bureaucracy remains minuscule. Civil society continues to show a
complete lack of interest in issues related to defense. The modest
attempts by the armed forces to reevaluate their role, structure,
doctrine, strategy, and tactics are conducted in a vacuum. Some
analysts believe that the creation of a ministry of defense is a
necessary condition for establishing civilian control of the military.
Data as of April 1997
Data as of April 1997