The Soldier and the State in Brazil – Faces of Violence

We need democratic thought to guide, in fact, public institutions, especially those that exercise the State’s coercive power.

Catarina Correa*

We pay for our choices. There is no greater truth when we talk about politics. And Brazil has a history of putting off the future, of leaving conflicts for later, because we are in crisis. But we are always in crisis. So, the reform of institutions is always left for later.

In the late nineteenth century, we moved from an institutionally bankrupt monarchy to a dysfunctional republic. And it is nothing new that presidential systems, especially when they depend on broad coalitions, offer few tools to manage political crises. We don’t have “recall” or politically inept government dissolution. We have the “impeachment”, which depends on the existence of crimes of responsibility. Unfortunate name, since, technically, it doesn’t sound much like what we see in Criminal Law. But, in the end, for those who lose, “impeachment” will always be a blow.

For Brazil, when it began its republican history – and remember, through a military coup –, adopted an institutional structure that offers, as said, few tools to deal with crises. And, to our misfortune, we have, since the end of the 19th century, a superposition of constitutional crises.

We have the crisis of the federation – which already existed when we were still a unitary country – in which all its members are always unhappy, blaming each other for their misfortunes.

We have the crisis of the representative system, generated by parties without permeability, which do not allow society to participate in their structures, which are established as feuds, and whose only interest is, as a rule, the manipulation of the most base policy or simply the division of the booty called the electoral fund.

We have more crises than the space in this article allows us to report. It is really important to remember how these crises were (not) managed.

At a time when institutional weakness – which makes the construction of the future unfeasible, by denying the implementation of coherent long-term public policies – takes hold of the State, there is nothing it can do besides permanently trying to put out fires.

The result of this picture is impatience and frustration with the lack of results. What citizens perceive is just injustice. Injustice in the collection of taxes, in the sharing of tax revenues, in the distribution of public services, in the creation of the desired equality of opportunity.

In our historical experience, these situations of deep political frustration end up being mediated, at their most acute, by the military. When institutions fail, the military feels legitimized to offer a solution.

There was no institutional or social force that was powerful enough to set a clear boundary for these interventions. I refer to all types of interventions, even tweets on the eve of trial at the STF.

Returning to our political history, the republic itself also emerged from a military crisis, that of the Empire. The Old Republic, in turn, revealed the almost permanent presence of the military in political protagonism. The 1930 Revolution, the first impetus for modernization (for better or for worse) in the history of Brazil, had the finger of tenentism. The end of the Estado Novo took place at the hands of the military, who, after fighting for democracy (of the Europeans), gave up on Getúlio Vargas. After that, the precarious Brazilian democracy continued to need the tutelage of the military (anti-coupists): Marechal Lott, for more than once, and Leonidas Pires Gonçalves, just to mention the most outstanding.

Certainly, the climate of intransigence and political intolerance that plagues us from time to time feeds the most serious dysfunction of all: the loss of faith that the political system, with all its imperfections, will be able to help. us to weather the storm.

Certainly, the General on the platform serves as a warning. We need clearer institutional boundaries. We need democratic thought to guide, in fact, public institutions, especially those that exercise the State’s coercive power.

Samuel Huntington, in “The Soldier and the State” (1957), argues that the military operates in a separate but subordinate sphere. His theory – criticized as overly idealized – teaches that political leaders make policy and provide comprehensive guidance on what should be done, while the military sticks to its area of ​​competence – the application of military power. This structure offers clear and precise guidance, but it requires institutional muscle, which we apparently do not yet have.

* Judge of the Court of Justice of the Federal District and Territories

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In this week’s issue, read also “Politics entered the barracks” and “Financial autonomy and the impact of violence against Brazilian women“.

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