Lula Finds out the Brazilian Military Still Pack a Heavy Punch

Brazil's Army commander Enzo PeriBrazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva fired a four-star general, Maynard Marques de Santa Rosa, who was the head of the Army Personnel Department after a controversial message by the official circulated in the Internet.

According to the Ministry of Defense, Nelson Jobim, the minister of Defense, talked to the commander of the Army, general Enzo Martins Peri, and they agreed that firing general Santa Rosa was the best course after it was confirmed that he had criticized the Truth Commission.

In an Internet message the general declared that the proposed Truth Commission, which he called “the commission of calumny,” was going to be run by “fanatics.”

The firing of Santa Rosa comes a decade after the creation of the Ministry of Defense and its being placed in the hands of civilians. Nelson Jobim is the sixth civilian minister of Defense.

All the others left the position following ugly disputes with the Armed Forces. The exception was the vice president, José Alencar, who occupied the position for only a short time to calm things down after one of those disputes.

Jobim has survived because he sided with the Armed Forces after the original document calling for the Truth Commission, the PNDH-3, was released in December.

At that time, Jobim and all the heads of the Armed Forces threatened to resign because the commission was going to investigate only crimes that occurred during the military dictatorship (1964-85) as a result of “political repression.”

That phrase, “political repression,” is a code for crimes committed by “agents of the state” (police and military personnel).  The military insist that any commission must investigate crimes committed during the same period by leftist militants as well.

At that time, Lula soothed the minister and the military commanders by changing the wording in the document. The phrase “political repression” was simply removed.

The Truth Commission was not the first difference of opinion between the government and general Santa Rosa. The general also had sharp criticism for NGOs in the Amazon region in congressional testimony when he was head of Strategic Policy and International Affairs.

And he disagreed with the use of military personnel to remove farmers from the Raposa Serra do Sul Indian reserve. It was because of those opinions that he had been placed in a bureaucratic post (Personnel Department).

Now he will get a desk in the Army commander’s office where he will do nothing specific until December when he reaches mandatory retirement.



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