Brazilian Armed Forces Complain of Obsolete and Broken Equipment and Low Wages

Cover of Brazil's Veja magazine Brazil's armed forces, the largest military in Latin America, are badly equipped, demoralized over pay and stuffed with generals, according to a report by the latest edition of the Brazilian most read and authoritative news magazine Veja.

The report was published a few weeks after President Lula da Silva announced a significant boost in strategic and defense industry funding

The forces are facing their worst crisis because the government has failed to make them a priority and to realize the role they should play in national affairs, political scientist Geraldo Cavagnari of Campinas State University is quoted as saying in the Brazilian weekly.

"Brazil has celebrated 22 years of democracy after 21 years of dictatorships. Now the military is attracting the country's attention with a rare intensity," says the report.

But soldiers are fed up with outdated weaponry such as 30-year-old rifles and Korean War-era tanks, it says.

Some 88% of the air force's planes are more than 15 years old. Of the navy's 21 warships, only 10 are in operation. Just two of its five submarines are in service. Low salaries and lack of funding also are major complaints, according to the magazine.

With 290.000 men and women, Brazil's military is the 15th largest in the world. But ranked by the number of personnel per head of population, it is eighth in the Americas, behind neighbors such as Venezuela. However, there is a high ratio of generals to other troops, Veja says.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said that defense investment is set to almost double to US$ 5 billion with emphasis in re-developing the defense industry.

In the mid seventies when the Carter administration imposed an arms embargo on the Brazilian military regime for alleged human rights violations, the country developed a significant defense industry and became an important global exporter of arms and military equipment, including aircrafts, armored vehicles and patrol vessels.

Some more sophisticated and secret programs included the development of a nuclear powered submarine, missiles and satellite launching rockets plus nuclear energy.

The magazine says the military's main concerns are defending the Amazon, containing Brazil's leftist neighbors and maintaining its ability to protect the country's maritime territory.

In a poll carried out for Veja by CNT/Sensus, 82% of military personnel surveyed and 72% of civilians said the Amazon region risks being occupied by a foreign power.

Some 88% of civilians, compared with 53% of the military, said the army should fight drug traffickers and other criminals operating in cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, according to the poll.

Mercopress

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