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Ministério da Defesa - Ministry of Defense

Although today's Brazilian military is thoroughly apolitical, the civilian ministry remains small and anemic compared to the armed services it ostensibly governs. By the end of the 20th Century, rare were the countries that did not congregate its Armed Forces under a ministry of defense, subordinate to the Head of the Executive. In Brazil, until the year of 1999, the three Armed Forces remained in independent ministries. However the quarrel on the creation of a Ministry of Defense, integrating the Navy, the Army and the Aeronautics is old. The Constitution of 1946 already cited the creation of an only Ministry, that resulted in the institution of the E.M.F.A, to the time called General General staff.

Ex-President of the Republic Marshal Castello Branco, defended the thesis of the creation of a Ministry of the Defense. He signed Decree 200, of 25 of February of 1967, that the Ministry of the Armed Forces foresaw the promotion of studies to elaborate the law project creating. However, the proposal was abandoned. During the Constitutional conventional of 1988, the subject came back to the quarrel and one more time it was filed. Finally in 1992, President Fernando Enrique Cardoso, then candidate to the Presidency, declared that in its plan of government the quarrel for creation of the Ministry of the Defense was foreseen.

The President of the Republic intended to still create the Ministry in the first mandate. The idea was to optimize the system of national defense, to legalize one politics of sustainable defense and to integrate the three Forces, rationalizing its activities. But only in 10 of June of 1999, the Ministry of the Defense was officially servant, the General staff of the Armed Forces extinct and the Aeronautics and Army, Navy department had been transformed into Commands.

During the years 1995/96 the EMFA, responsible for the studies on the Ministry of the Defense, evidenced that, amongst 179 countries, only 23 did not possuíam Armed Forces integrated for an only Ministry. Of these 23 only three, between them Brazil, possuíam dimensions politics to justify its creation, as for example, territorial extension and trained and structuralized Armed Forces.

The Ministries of the Defense of Germany, Argentina, Chile, Spain, U.S.A., France, Great-Britain, Italy and Portugal had been chosen for deepened analysis because they possuíam some type of identification with Brazil, as territorial extension, population, cash of the Armed Forces, amongst others.

To give continuity to the creation studies, President Fernando Enrique created the Inter-ministerial Work group that defined the lines of direction for implantation of the Ministry of the Defense. Reeleito, it nominated senator Élcio Álvares, Extraordinary minister of the Defense, in 1º of January of 1999. The senator was the responsible one for the implementation of the agency.

The three services are separate from each other, except in three areas: the Armed Forces General Staff (Estado-Maior das Forças Armadas--EMFA), the National Defense Council (Conselho de Defesa Nacional--CDN), and the Armed Forces High Command (Alto Comando das Forças Armadas--ACFA). The EMFA, which is involved in planning and coordination, interprets interservice views about policy and comes the closest to functioning as a ministry of defense. It is headed by a four-star general, and the chair rotates among the services. The ACFA is involved with more immediate, day-to-day problems. It is composed of the ministers of the three services, their chiefs of staff, and the EMFA chief.

According to Article 91 of the constitution, the CDN is "the consultative body of the president of the republic in matters related to national sovereignty and the defense of the democratic state." The members of the CDN are the president, the vice president, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, the president of the Senate, the minister of justice, military ministers, the minister of foreign affairs, and the minister of planning. The CDN has authority to "express an opinion in instances of declaration of war and the celebration of peace" and to "express an opinion on the decreeing of a state of emergency, state of siege, or federal intervention." In addition, the CDN is authorized to "propose the criteria and conditions for the use of areas that are vital to the security of the national territory and express an opinion on their continued use, especially in the strip along the borders, and on matters related to the conservation and exploitation of natural resources of any kind." The CDN also may "study, propose, and monitor the progress of initiatives necessary to guarantee national independence and the defense of the democratic state."

Interestingly, the highest level consultative body available to the president is the Council of the Republic (Conselho da República). This body does not include any military minister or officer, although the president may call on a military minister to participate if the matter is related to the respective ministry's agenda. According to Article 89 of the constitution, the Council of the Republic has authority to make declarations of federal intervention, a state of emergency, and a state of siege (all security-related issues).

Since January 1, 2003, when President Lula assumed office, much had changed in Brazil. By 2004, Defense Minister José Viegas, an experienced diplomat with extensive service in political-military affairs, commanded the respect of senior military leadership. However, as Viegas consolidated power within the Ministry, stress with the services was inevitable. The Minister created, for example, a four-star level secretariat of cooperative studies headed by a diplomat. Many officers felt such senior civilian placements within the Ministry diminished the military's access and rendered it less effective in fighting important bureaucratic battles.

In addition, within the Ministry there were problems in the chain of command. Although the Chief of Defense and the Secretary for Strategy, Policy and International Affairs are four-star generals with direct advisory roles to the Minister, their positions are unofficially subordinate to the service commanders. Their ability to impose &jointness8 is compromised. Morale among the senior military grades has been negatively affected, leading to transfers and some retirements.

Brazilian Minister of Defense Jose Viegas presented his letter of resignation to President Lula da Silva on 04 November 2004. Vice President Jose Alencar formally took over the defense ministry portfolio on 8 November (Minister Viegas retained authority until that date). The resignation came as a result of months of tensions and disagreements between Viegas and senior military commanders over military pensions and other institutional problems, culminating in the recent Herzog case, in which senior army officials had not cleared with Viegas a controversial communiqu concerning human rights abuses during Brazil's military era.

Viegas' tenure as DefMin had personified a clash of cultures between two of Brazil's oldest institutions -- its foreign ministry and its armed forces. Viegas, trained as a diplomat "to listen, negotiate and compromise," was out of step with military services that expect their senior leader "to issue orders and get results." The problem was not one of lack of respect in the military for civilian authority, but rather the military's preference in its civilian minister for a political figure capable of engaging with congress and the treasury to secure funding and protect perogatives.

By 2008, with Nelson Jobim as Defense Minister, Brazil had for the first time, effective civilian leadership and a mandate to modernize its armed forces. For the first time in decades, Brazil was beginning to consider security issues as an important element of foreign policy.

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Page last modified: 20-11-2011 19:09:17 ZULU