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Military Personnel

According to Article 143 of the 1988 constitution, military service is obligatory for men, but conscientious objection is allowed. Women and clergymen are exempt from compulsory military service. Military service obligation extends from 18-45 years of age for compulsory military service, with 17-45 years of age for voluntary service. The conscript service obligation is 9-12 months. An increasing percentage of the ranks are "long-service" volunteer professionals, accounting for about one-third of the total in 1997, and three-quarters of the total by 2013. Women were allowed to serve in the armed forces beginning in early 1980s when the Brazilian Army became the first army in South America to accept women into career ranks. Women serve in Navy and Air Force only in Women's Reserve Corps.

As of 2010, the manpower available for military service [males age 16-49] was over 53,000,000, of which the manpower fit for military service was estimted at nearly 39,000,000 [about 75%]. Each year over 1,700,000 males reached militarily significant age, of which the manpower fit for military service might be estimted at about 1,250,000 of whom only about 5% are actually called to the colors. By 2013 Brazil's military had nearly 320,000 personnel in uniform, but only 70,000 conscripts serving in the Army.

At age seventeen, men are required to register for the draft and are expected to serve when they reach age eighteen. About 75 percent of those registering received deferments. Generally, those from the upper class and upper middle class find ways to defer, and as a result the ranks are made up primarily of lower-class and lower-middle-class recruits. Those who are conscripted generally spend up to one year of regular enlistment at an army garrison near their home. Some are allowed six-month service terms but are expected to complete high school at the same time. These are called "Tiros de Guerra," or "shooting schools," which are for high school boys in medium-sized interior towns, run by army sergeants. The army is the only service with a large number of conscripts; the navy and air force have very few.

The conscript system was primarily a means of providing basic military training to a sizable group of young men who then return to civilian life and are retained on the reserve rolls until age forty-five. The army recognizes that it provides a public service by teaching large numbers of conscripts basic skills that can be valuable to the overall economy when the young men return to civilian life.

A subset of lower-class young men during their early teen years are encouraged to seek military training as a life option. In these young men's search for what can best be described as formulaic solutions to troubling psychological experiences associated with a tumultuous institutionalized transition to adulthood, military training came to represent a form of self-cultivation and self-therapy. Some youth also hoped military training would enable them to actively disengage with local political processes and find shelter from troubling social inequities and injustice. On 18 December 2008, President Lula signed the National Defense Strategy, concluding a fifteen month drafting exercise. The strategy states that "the basis of national defense is the identification of the nation with the armed forces and the armed forces with the nation." For this reason, mandatory military service is viewed as essential for the future. The strategy states explicitly that the armed forces must "limit and reverse the tendency to lower the proportion of draftees and raise the proportion of professionals." Consistent with the overall goal of encouraging the Brazilian government,s vision of national development, military service is viewed primarily as a means of unifying the population and fostering greater social equality. The strategy document states specifically that its objectives include forcing higher socio-economic classes to provide a larger proportion of military draftees and opening more places in military academies to students from more diverse backgrounds.

The Strategy states: "1. The national defense basis is the identification of the Nation with the Armed Forces, and of the Armed Forces with the Nation. This identification requires that the Nation understands that the causes of development and defense are inseparable. Therefore, the Mandatory Military Service will be maintained and reinforced. This is the most important guarantee of the national defense. It may also be the most effective republican leveling mean, allowing the Nation to stand above its social layers.

2. The Armed Forces will limit and reverse the tendency to diminish the proportion of recruits, and increase the proportion of professional soldiers. In the Army, setting aside the need for experts, most of the troops shall always be composed by recruits from the Mandatory Military Service. In the Navy and in the Air Force, the need to count on specialists trained over many years shall have, as a counterpart, the strategic importance of keeping open the recruitment channels.

The conflict between the advantages of professionalism and the values of recruitment should be attenuated by means of education technical and general, but following an analytical and capacitating guidance that will be delivered to recruits during their service period.

3. The Armed Forces will move towards making Military Service really mandatory. They will not be satisfied to let the lack of proportion between the higher number of those obliged to apply for the Military Service and the lower number of vacancies and needs of the Armed Forces to be solved by a self-selection criterion of those who are willing to be enlisted. The predominant use of this criterion although affected by better financial appeals limits the military service potential, and hinders its national defense and republican leveling objectives."

The means by which the strategy plans to democratize the armed forces will be a new form of national service. All young people will have to be available to the military which would be able to select the best qualified as its recruits. Everyone else would go into a "civil service" which would receive basic military training and be available for mobilization in the case of a national emergency of some sort. The strategy does not, however, provide any information as to what sort of national emergency would require the mobilization of potentially millions of poorly trained young Brazilians or how the basic training of about three million civil service members per year will be managed by the limited number of military professionals available.

Some of the specific proposals, such as increasing conscription, actually could reduce the effectiveness of the military and divert resources from modernization. The emphasis on societal benefits over professionalism in military service is consistent with the views of a President and other government leaders who started in politics under the military government of the 1970s and 80s and want to ensure that the military,s capacity to become involved in politics remains circumscribed. The socialist background of Lula,s Workers, Party is clearly evident in the efforts at social engineering through mandatory national service at the cost of more effective defense.

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