Dictatorship Cloud Hangs Over Brazil’s Efforts to Assert Its Military Might

Armed Forces BrazilIn recent years, the Brazilian military has embarked on a mission to re-invent itself by means of a combination of purchases of new military equipment, grandiose plans for constructing a nuclear submarine, and the leadership offered by a pronouncedly pro-military president, as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has turned out to be.

In addition to these factors, a growing number of alliances have been formed with key extra-hemispheric and other regional actors, with Brazil demonstrating its interest in becoming something more than simply a regional military power.

The Brazilian military has a history composed of both high and low points, the latter being its tendency to intervene in governmental affairs, reaching its apogee in the 1964 military coup that set up the military junta which ruled the country harshly until 1985.

Brazil’s current global military ambitions are rooted in the major operations in which the country’s military was involved during World War II in Italy, as well as its current domination of the UN’s peacekeeping force in Haiti.

Interestingly, the Brazilian armed forces have not been engaged in combat on its own continent in one way or another since the latter part of the 19th century, when Brazil participated in the War of the Triple Alliance from 1864-1870 against Paraguay.

When it comes to its dark eras, the Brazilian military has been involved in a series of coups, the last of which occurred on March 31, 1964, when it overthrew the constitutional presidency of João Goulart and proceeded to retain power until 1985. During that period, five military presidents were “elected” by their fellow senior commanders to lead the military junta ruling the country.

The regime finally stepped down that year amid nationwide demonstrations calling for a return to civilian rule. For many years and based on sound evidence, sober allegations have been made that Washington backed that military coup, which it has always framed in Cold War terms.

Brazil’s military is also known for having developed a strong industrial base for much of its weapons output, particularly during the height of military rule in the 1960s-1980s. Brazil’s weapons arsenal includes the well-known Tucano fighter aircraft, which is still widely used by other countries in and outside the region, including Peru, not to mention different types of tanks and armored personal carriers (APCs).

The Brazilian military has also had to deal with homegrown insurgencies. In 1974, around 10,000 Brazilian troops were assigned to attack leftist encampments in the Amazon, where guerrillas were said to have been planning an organized uprising against the military regime. At least 60 civilians were killed, with others later disappearing from the jails in which they were being detained. In 2007, Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered the military to open its secret files regarding the “disappeared” insurgents.

About 400 Brazilian dissidents are thought to have been detained and abused throughout the period of the military regime’s rule, with many of them still missing, presumed to have been murdered. In 2006, Maria Amelia de Almeida Teles filed a lawsuit against Col. Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, who headed the São Paulo secret police from 1970-1974, accusing him of torturing her and four family members when they were imprisoned for 11 months between 1972 and 1973.

These developments are not apocryphal neither do they distort the pathological anti-societal creedal beliefs held by the Brazilian military at the time. Most recently, the remains of Miguel Nuet, a Spanish citizen who disappeared during the Brazilian dictatorship, were found in an unmarked grave in the outskirts of São Paulo. According to reports, Nuet had been arrested on October 9, 1973, under suspicion of being a terrorist; the police said he committed suicide while in custody, one month after his arrest.

Gay Issue and Other Scandals

At present, Brazil defense expenditures continue to overshadow those of all South American nations. The Brazilian military is a comparatively large force, currently fielding around 200,000 personnel. The Brazilian armed forces have had a somewhat troubled history in a number of areas, including how they have dealt with homosexual conscripts.

In June 2008, Army Sergeant Laci Marinho de Araújo was arrested on live television because he discussed his personal relationship with another soldier. The army had filed desertion charges against him, saying he had been missing since April; Marinho adamantly insists that he and his partner are victims of sexual discrimination.

Another growing scandal has been the alleged wiretapping of several top government officials including Gilmar Mendes, president of the Supreme Court. General Jorge Felix of Brazil’s Institutional Security Ministry accused rogue elements within ABIN of the wiretapping, arguing that “ABIN, as an institution, has never done and does not do these things.”

Other scandals include the so-called “Massacre of the Baixada Fluminense,” in which 29 were killed by an armed gang, in a northern region of the state of Rio de Janeiro. A military policeman named Carlos Jorge Carvalho was found guilty in 2006 of arming and training the gang, and was sentenced to 543 years in prison.

In June 2008, eleven soldiers were arrested for handing over three men to a Rio de Janeiro gang. The three, two students and a laborer, were subsequently murdered. These are just a few of the disturbingly large number of daily incidents involving uniformed personnel implicated in a range of illicit activities with street gangs.

Budget and Weaponry

Since before the 1990s, Brazil had capped annual military spending at about US$ 3 billion, or 1.78% of the country’s gross domestic product, as compared to the region’s average of 1.98% of GDP. This budget was allocated to equipment acquisition programs as well as to salaries, maintenance, training and infrastructure development of the three military branches. However, starting in 2004, Brazil’s military expenditures started to climb rapidly.

In 2007, Brazil’s military budget bordered US$ 3.5 billion; this year, the budget has reached US$ 5 billion. This is a relatively, an astounding figure, which would be difficult for any other power to match, with the probable exception of Venezuela’s armed forces, which is presently involved in a large weapons’ procurement program with Russian, Spanish and likely Chinese suppliers, to be for by “petro-dollars.”

Brazil also possesses significant weaponry, though its recent military purchases from foreign companies have been more a part of a regular maintenance process rather than an effort to stress any preponderance of military strength in the region. However, this attitude began to change in 2006, as part of a replacement schedule, when Brazil purchased four C-295 military transport planes from EADS CASA, a Spanish weapons manufacturer.

To demonstrate its growing military prowess, a massive 10-day military exercise code-named Albacora was carried out by the Brazilian armed forces at Rio de Janeiro’s Macaé Port in September 2007. This included the deployment of over 8,500 troops, along with 250 military vehicles, 19 warships, and 50 aircraft.

Half of the aircraft were helicopters – among them navy Eurocopter HU-14 Super Pumas and UH-12/13 Fennecs/Esquilos, AgustaWestland AH-11A Super Lynx AH 11A, and Sikorsky Aircraft SH-3A/B Sea Kings, army HA1 Fennecs/Esquilo, Eurocopter HM1 Panthers, and air force H-34 Super Pumas and H-50 Esquilos.

This is not to say that the Brazilian military is focusing only on weaponry, the question of the new goal and objectives of the military are being discussed in strategic terms. Roberto Mangabeira Unger, minister of the Strategic Affairs Secretariat of the Presidency has declared that “one of the main reasons for devising a national defense strategy is to have a shield not only against aggressions, but also against intimidations. If Brazil wants to explore its own path it cannot be subject to intimidations.” An inter-ministerial commission headed by Minister Jobim has been charged to define how the military should act “in times of peace or war.”

The Brazilian military is once again taking on a greater role in internal security initiatives, specifically, combating the drug trafficking cartels that recently have been emboldened to more openly operate in the country. In March 2008, the Brazilian army burnt as many as 7,000 coca crops in Tabatinga, Amazonas state. Also found on site was a laboratory capable of processing cocaine. There have long been fears that Colombian drug cartels were formally outsourcing the cultivation of coca and cocaine-processing to neighboring countries, such as Brazil.

Another possible use for the military, resulting from an idea attributed to Carlos Minc, Brazil’s minister for the environment, is that the armed forces should patrol the questionable use of nature reserves in the Amazon. “I am going to propose the creation of patrols or movements by army regiments to watch over the big parks and reserves,” he was quoted as saying.

Since Brazil has around 300 nature parks and reserves, this would be a sizeable task for any military establishment to take on, particularly since corruption routinely has encouraged payoffs to be paid to senior military commanders for providing protection and looking the other way when cattle-ranchers were being illegally allotted the use of public lands, at an under-the-table price, often involving the destruction of rain forests.

In August 2008, amidst growing tensions between Indian tribes and landowners, an AP story reported that “top military generals warn that too much land in Indian hands, especially along Brazil’s borders, threatens national security and could lead to tribes unilaterally declaring themselves independent nations.”

The military already controls important aspects of Brazil’s aviation industry, which frequently has been criticized in light of the high number of plane crashes and other accidents, including incidents involving facilities across the country in recent years.

For example, in 2007, a TAM Airlines Airbus crashed at Congonhas, killing 199 people. This tragic event in particular prompted a massive re-evaluation of the military’s management of the civilian aviation industry and raised the possibility for having the industry revert to civilian control.

Patrolling Haiti

On the regional and international scene, the Brazilian military was the founder and remains a leading contributor to the United Nations Stabilization Mission to Haiti (MINUSTAH). The Brazilian-led mission, in which its military has played a somewhat controversial role, was deployed there beginning in June 2004, a few months after constitutionally-elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was pressured out of office by a coup allegedly orchestrated by the U.S., France and the UN.

Brazil’s military involvement in this mission has been riddled with problems and its resulting image has been blemished, particularly by its soldiers’ trigger-happy tendency, their disrespect for ordinary Haitians and, at times, a lack of professionalism. In January 2006, Lieutenant General Urano, the Brazilian Commander of MINUSTAH, committed suicide.

In June 2008, Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim announced that Brazil would send an additional 300 troops to Haiti, 100 of them from the Engineer’s Battalion. According to MINUSTAH’s official UN webpage, the force’s current strength (as of July 31, 2008) totaled 9,040 “uniformed personnel, including 7,105 troops and 1,935 police, supported by 474 international civilian personnel, 1,166 local civilian staff and 192 United Nations Volunteers.” The force remains headed by a Brazilian military officer, Major-General Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz.

The Brazilian minister declared that “the problem is that we have to be in Haiti. It is Brazil’s duty to be in Haiti because Brazil is a major power. And as a major power, we have a responsibility towards the Latin American countries. The country does not need money, because there are already big international donors. The problem is: the money is there, but there are no projects.”

Such a comment, redolent of neo-Manifest Destiny rhetoric famed by early 19th century U.S. leaders, lends the belief that Jobim and his senior colleagues may now explicitly view their country as the Western Hemisphere’s new “city on the hill.”

Lula Enters the Picture

Lula has been keen to remain on the right side of the military and has made some firm declarations professing his desire to build a revitalized, more powerful military. This is somewhat ironic of Lula, taking into consideration that as a union leader in the 1980s he was very critical of the armed forces, but today he caters to their every expansion plan, including, outlandishly enough, entertaining the construction of a nuclear submarine, scheduled to cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

It will be interesting to learn more about Lula’s commitment to the matter of investigating the military regime’s dark past and what Lula might do should he discover that some high ranking military officials, as is likely, were involved in human rights abuses and disappearances of enemies of the regime.

He declared in August 2007 that “we should set a deadline and plan what strategy to use so we can definitively know and recover,” and then added “one of the wounds that remains open is finding the remains of many adversaries.” He has stopped short, however, of actually delivering justice to the victims’ families. The members of the military dictatorship are protected by a 1979 amnesty that even the vociferous Lula has been unwilling to challenge even at his most ebullient moment.

Brazil’s Military Industry

During the 1970s the Brazilian military industry was highly respected, with its Tucano air fighter as its hub contribution to tactical weaponry at the time, with the aircraft still in use today. Brazil’s military industrial companies, Embraer, Engesa and Avibras have built other type of weaponry, specially from the 1960s to 1980s, besides the Tucano.

Among these we can find EE-17 Sucuri tank destroyer, the EE-9 Cascavel armored reconnaissance vehicle, the EE-3 Jararaca scout car, as well as the MB-3 Tamoyo tan. The EE-T1 Osorio main battle tank was Engesa’s flagship tank. With the end of the Cold War and major conventional warfare operations, Brazil’s military industry ran out of clients, forcing Engesa and Avibras to file for bankruptcy in the mid-1990s.

Lula made clear his intention to exhume Brazil’s military industry during a September 2007 trip to Spain. In an interview with Spanish daily El Pais, the Brazilian leader declared that “in the 1970s, we had modern factories that built tanks […] But they have been dismantled. Brazil must return to what it had. To rebuild our weaponry factories, we must buy.”

In 2007, Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica SA, or Embraer, said it was studying the development of a military transport plane that could compete with the Lockheed C-130. If the plane is manufactured, the Embraer C-390, could transport up to 19 metric tons (21 tons). This would be the heaviest aircraft ever produced by the company, the world’s No. 4 aircraft manufacturer. If manufactured, it would be available by 2011 or 2012.

Embraer’s leading military aircraft is currently the Super Tucano turbo-prop model, which mainly has been used to train air force pilots. In 2006, Brazil sold 25 of these aircraft to Colombia, in a deal worth US$ 235 million. In June 2008, EP Aviation announced that it purchased a 314-B1 Super Tucano fighter (without the two .50-caliber machine guns normally attached to the wings) from Embraer, for the price of US$ 4.5 million.

EP Aviation is a subsidiary of Blackwater Worldwide, an exceedingly controversial U.S. private security contractor that has been heavily involved in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A June 2008 Associated Press article reported that preliminary negotiations are now being carried out between Embraer and U.S. authorities to sell eight Super Tucanos to Iraq.

The Tucano is a light aircraft normally used for pilot-training but it can also be used for light attack missions or for air patrols. In August 2008, Chile announced that it had contracted Embraer to construct 12 Super Tucano for the Chilean Air Force. Also, during the LAADS 2007 weaponry exhibition, the Brazilian Flight Solutions company unveiled its FS-01 Watchdog, a new medium tactical unmanned air vehicle.

In February 2007, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) announced that it had sold its 2.12% stake in Embraer for a profit of US $163 million (before taxes and bank fees). EADS CEOs Tom Enders and Louis Gallois said in a statement, at the same time, “we remain fully committed to our partnership with Embraer, which has matured over many years. Brazil and Latin America are important markets and we will continue to strengthen our industrial presence in the region.”

Until Embraer regains its lost eminence as a designer/manufacturer of military aircraft, Brazil’s armed forces are relying on foreign companies to re-invigorate their inventory. The U.S. Boeing Co. has joined other manufacturers of military technology (like Russia’s Sukhoi, Sweden’s Saab and France’s Dassault Aviation) in making a bid to sell specific military models to Brazil.

The corporation’s representatives visited Brazil in March 2008 and were keen on marketing Boeing’s F/A-18 Hornet twin engine, tactical aircraft. It is expected that Brazil will purchase anywhere from 24 to 36 planes in this category from whatever company wins the bid.

At the same time, Russia’s Rosoboronexport and Italy’s Agusta Aerospace are vying for a $500 million contract to supply Brazil with 12 helicopters. Rosoboronexport is offering its MI35 helicopters while Agusta is offering the AW-109. Other competitors are the American Bell Helicopter and the French-manufactured Eurocopter.

Integration, Deals and Projects

Perhaps one of the most ambitious projects for Brazil’s military is that of its proposed nuclear submarine. For decades, Brazil has attempted to build a nuclear sub without much success. Last year, Lula declared a new attempt for the country to construct a locally-built vessel.

On the face of it, the project seemed far-fetched if not slightly ludicrous, since Brazil has no perceived external enemy threat (Venezuela being an extreme long shot), and because the project would be immensely expensive and could only be produced by 2020, if everything went according to plan.

In February 2008, an interesting development occurred. Lula visited Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Buenos Aires, and the two leaders agreed to jointly build nuclear-powered submarines, since both countries have had a nuclear history.

Even more intriguing was a declaration by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that France would be contributing to the project. In fact, it is believed that the French Scorpene-class submarine (a diesel-powered attacked sub) will serve as the model for Brazil’s nuclear vessel.

In December 2006, then-Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Brasilia where he met with his Brazilian counterpart, Celso Amorim. Russia’s state-run arms exporting company Rosoboronexport demonstrated the performance attributes of the BuK-M2 antiaircraft missile system at the LAADS 2007 exhibition of defense technology in Rio de Janeiro.

While it is unclear whether Brazilian officials showed any interest in the weapons system, it is worth highlighting that Russia’s well-known weapons manufacturer specifically chose the Brazilian exhibition for BuK’s debut.

In early February 2008, Jobim traveled to Russia where he met with Lavrov as well as Defense Minister Anatoly Sedyukov. In April 2008, the London security publication Jane’s Defence Weekly revealed that Brazil and Russia had reached an agreement on joint ventures involving military technology, including the VLS (Veículo Lançador de Satélites) launch vehicle.

In February 2008, there was a noteworthy meeting between Lula and French President Sarkozy, in the town of Saint-Gorges de Oyapock, on the border between French Guyana (a French overseas territory) and Brazil. Reports say that Sarkozy was pushing to sell military technology to Brazil and arrange for Brazilian companies to be licensed to build French weaponry like the Rafale fighter plane and the Scorpene class submarine.

In the past decade, the South American giant has become France’s most important ally in the region. Hence it was no surprise that Sarkozy stated that “there is no taboo. Brazil is a democratic power and a friend of France. We, the French, are transparent with friends, and the two countries are willing to work for world peace.”

IBSA Front and Center

In May 2008, Brazil sent several warships to South Africa to participate in military exercises, as did India. Hence, there is mounting talk about the growing depth and strength of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) alliance. It is noteworthy that there is a, albeit modest, security aspect to the arrangement, as the three countries are all regional military powers. Brazil’s navy had sent the Liberal and the Independência, both of which are guided missile frigates of the Niterói class, to participate in these IBSA military exercises.

Other exercises to promote regional integration included joint military exercises in June 2007 involving nearly 200 pilots of the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and the Argentine Air Force (FAA). The pilots used 18 fighter planes for training operations, which include intercepting suspicious air traffic, reconnaissance and search and rescue operations.

Most recently, in August 2008, Brazil and Venezuela carried out Operation VENBRA 5, involving 260 soldiers from the FAB and 140 from the Venezuelan Air Force (ANV). This VENBRA operation was a joint training and simulation exercise to improve cooperation between both air forces in order to combat illicit airline flights. The exercises took place in the Venezuelan Bolivar and Brazilian Roraima border regions.

Brazil in a Militarized Region

A May 2008 article in Rotor & Wing summarizes Brazil’s security woes, observing that “with no quarrels along its 16,885-km borderline with 10 adjoining countries, Brazil’s contemporary threats, if any, would arise not from any recognizable state and military entity but from non-state groups, transnational criminal organizations, proxies, and other bodies operating in more complex, ambiguous, and multidimensional terms. The risks could come from sabotage, terrorism, piracy, and the staging and stockpiling of illicit drugs and weaponry.” Thus, a more vigorous Brazilian military must be put in the context of military and non-military events taking place in the region.

With regards to examples of a regional arms race being staged, Venezuela, Colombia and Chile could be theoretical security factors to Brazil. Not the least, even Peru is making strides when it comes to military deployment. In 2007 Brazilian Senator José Sarney, a former president who is now a key ally of President Lula, declared that Venezuela posed a “threat” to Brazil and Latin America.

In response, Venezuelan General Alberto Mueller Rojas told the Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo, “that’s simply ridiculous … Venezuela is not in any sort of arms race. Ex-president Sarney must be crazy or simply joking around.” He then added that Sarney “knows perfectly well … what is the size of Brazil’s (armed) forces and what is the size of Venezuela’s forces. It’s an abysmal difference.”

An interesting development in regional military matters has been the feisty decision by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa not to renew the lease of the military base in Manta to the U.S., which is set to expire in 2009. After President Martin Torriaw6kx, who is presently militarizing Panama’s security capabilities, ended all speculation about his country being Washington’s prospective landlord for a new military base for U.S. forces in his country, speculation switched to either Colombia or Peru, since the other option, Paraguay, recently elected a fairly left-leaning president, who has no intention of handing out an airport to the Americans.

Another development that has attracted international media attention, though it may not necessarily amount to anything significant, has been the creation of the Conselho Sul-Americano de Defesa (CSD – South American Defense Council), an organ of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR/UNASOL). Some South American countries, including, as of now, an initially ambivalent Colombia, as well as Guyana and Suriname, have voiced their support for the project, spearheaded by Brazil.

In spite of all the hype, it is unclear how much of an effective organ CSD could be, for any number of reasons. First, there is a growing proliferation of pan-American organizations in the region, making it somewhat unclear which organization is actually in charge. There is the Andean Pact, MERCOSUR, the Venezuelan-led ALBA, IBA which includes Brazil, the Rio Group, the Ibero-American Secretariat and now UNASUR.

Similarly there is already a hemispheric-wide security entity, the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) and College, both of them based in Washington D.C. The elephant not in the room is of course that the CSD, unlike the IADB, would not have the U.S. as its most influential member. Some analysts would argue that this could lead to greater security and cooperation among a group of autonomous Latin American countries feeling enthusiastic and free, because of Washington’s absence.

An interesting note is that Mexico was not even considered being invited to join UNASUR. It is true that Mexico is not part of South America, however, seeing that Suriname and Guyana, which traditionally orient their foreign relations towards the English-speaking Caribbean, were invited, it would have made some sense to at least have proposed to the Mexicans to join the new bloc in-formation, in the name of Latin American unity.

This touches on a second point, which is whether or not a Brazilian-led South American NATO-style security organization, could achieve integration, security or demilitarization. South America continues to be plagued with security issues that have yet to be resolved and which are likely to create distrust between militaries. Examples of these are:

* Tensions among Peru, Bolivia and Chile

* Argentine distrust towards Chile due to Santiago’s aid to the British during the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas War

* Friction between Colombia and Venezuela and Colombia and Ecuador over the recent infiltration of Colombian forces into Ecuador to attack a secret FARC jungle base

* Concerns last year about a possible infiltration of Venezuelan troops into Guyana

* Historical differences on which country is the leading military powerhouse in the region, Brazil or Argentina, both of which have prideful military high commands which may not be keen on following the lead of the military command of another country (as in the case of cooperation in United Nations peacekeeping missions). The Venezuelan military and the problem-prone Chilean armed forces do not markedly differ in this assessment as well.

An important event that will arguably boost Brazil’s view of its strategy to maintain a strong military comes from the discovery of ultra-deep oil and gas fields in the Santos Basin off the coast of São Paulo state, which are likely to catapult Brazil to the ranks of the world’s major hydrocarbon producers. The aforementioned Rotor & Wing article explained that “the Tupi and Jupiter fields also promise to elevate the state-owned oil company Petrobras from the world’s 11th to sixth biggest energy company, by some rankings.”

Brazilian Relations with the U.S.

The U.S. and Brazil traditionally have at times had strained relations, and always complex ones, Brazil sees itself as South America’s hegemon and does not like to have to share its influence with that of the U.S.

A general parallel could be made to Russo-Turkish relations over influence regarding the Black Sea. In both cases there exists a global power and a regional power (with global aspirations) fighting for control over their respective spheres of influence.

With the rise of leftist governments across the Western Hemisphere, as well as the “Venezuela-effect” in terms of a new leftist-alliances undercutting Washington, as well as a new generation of military power and political leadership, it will be interesting to see how Brasília-Washington relations progress, particularly in regard to how both governments approach Caracas.

In addition, Brazil-U.S. relations have been particularly cautious and uneasy ever since the aforementioned 1964 military coup. According to a November 2006 Associated Press article, Carlos Fico, a professor at Rio de Janeiro’s Federal University, declared to the press that a seven-page document entitled “A Contingency Plan for Brazil,” co-written by then-U.S. Ambassador Lincoln Gordon in the mid 1960s, discussed fears of a possible communist takeover in Brazil and how Goulart might be replaced by the speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress. The document was dated January 6, 1964.

In addition, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) has, for years, supported the belief that the U.S. was involved in planning the coup against Goulart. This charge by COHA was made known in the 1970s, in a COHA report which was later referred to by a number of Brazilian publications, detailing the presence of an American aircraft carrier off the coast of the state of São Paulo, as part of a battle fleet.

This information was conveyed during an Amtrak train ride from Washington to New York, in a chance meeting between COHA director Larry Birns and a former U.S. Navy carrier pilot, who was stationed aboard that carrier, who explained that he and his U.S. naval colleagues were under orders to come to the aid of their Brazilian counterparts with their naval assets, if need be, if the coup that was being carried out had failed that day.

This is not to say that military cooperation between the two hemispheric giants does not exist today. Quite to the contrary, Washington appears keen on bringing Brazilian officials and military academics to the U.S. to study and attend specialized conferences and workshops.

For example, the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS), part of the National Defense University (NDU), located in Washington D.C., has two Brazilian nationals on its faculty: Dr. Thomaz Guedes da Costa is Professor of National Security Affairs and formerly of the University of Brasília. Also on staff at CHDS is Colonel Rui C. Mesquita, a 1983 graduate of the Brazilian Air Force Academy. Mesquita is also an executive assistant to President Lula for four years.

More recently, a press release issued by the U.S. embassy in Brazil reported that, “for the first time in its existence, U.S. Army South has a foreign officer on its staff. Lt. Col. Raul Rodrigues de Oliveira, a Brazilian cavalry officer and UH-60 pilot, [who] began work as a Foreign Liaison Officer at U.S. Army South, the Army component of U.S. Southern Command.”

Furthermore, according to Just The Facts, a research database administered by the Center for International Policy that monitors U.S. defense and security assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean, there has been significant military link between both countries. Between 1999 and 2006, there were 1,454 Brazilian military and police trainees in U.S. programs like the CHDS, the Army Logistics Management College and the Naval Post-Graduate School.

Interestingly there have not been any Brazilian trainees at the former School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, WHINSEC) in Fort Benning, Georgia, but that may be due to the fact that most courses there are taught in Spanish.

What’s Next for the Brazilian Military?

Brazil’s military is at a crossroads. It today faces no external security challenge, no matter what doomsayers may say about the putative intentions of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, yet the country does have a dark past in internal security matters. However, the average Brazilian believes and implicitly trusts in the military, and it can be assumed that the country’s present-day military wants to live up to these expectations.

The Brazilian military is an example of an armed forces which, at least in its own belief, must be prepared to defend its own borders and safeguard its immense treasure trove of natural resources (including recent discoveries of oil and natural gas), while projecting its civic strengths to the world, be it through peacekeeping missions in Haiti, military exercises in South Africa, or the acquisition of a nuclear submarine.

There is a lot of potential for the expanding role of the Brazilian military in global affairs, but the type of legacy it will want to create is more than just a matter of possessing strong leadership and clearly defined goals – it must also have the means and the agreed-upon military doctrine to carry out its self-perceived mission in a democratic ambience and total submission to representative civilian rule.

This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Fellow Alex Sánchez. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) – www.coha.org – is a think tank established in 1975 to discuss and promote inter-American relationship. Email: coha@coha.org.


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