The conviction of eight of the Army soldiers involved in the death of musician Evaldo Rosa and waste picker Luciano Macedo, in April 2019, is a fundamental step. However, unfortunately, it is not enough to restore the loss of life and pain of families and/or the sense of social justice. The conviction does not mean, it is worth emphasizing, a change in the paradigm of Military Justice or the role of the Armed Forces [e das polícias militares por extensão] in Brazilian society, which continue to be operated from the idea of protecting the social order and subordinating civil life.
The dilemmas of civil-military relations remain intact and, worse, aggravated by a movement that involves the radicalization and closure of civic space promoted by Jair Bolsonaro (no party), as well as the historical reinforcement of military insulation and its asymmetries, such as those that dispense different treatment and legal and legal rites for soldiers and officers.
The military logic is that of the hierarchy and, to the extent that the officer responsible for the unit responsible for the shootings that killed Evaldo and Luciano was held responsible, the military subordinates to him and who fired their weapons were also condemned.
It is in the key of security and public order that it is possible to understand the cruel context that caused the deaths of Evaldo and Luciano and that takes its toll in lives; almost always black lives subjected to injustice and violence, indelible marks of Brazilian social life.
Just as an illustration, between 1992 and 2021 (until mid-September), the Armed Forces were called 144 times for Law and Order Guarantee Operations (GLO), with only 8 of them already in the Bolsonaro administration. In other words, the problem is not just a dysfunctional government prone to authoritarian positions and/or the Armed Forces themselves.
Brazil accepts that they are used as plaster for almost all the country’s problems and, in doing so, it is not surprising that the military has been so central to the country’s social life for years.
Journalist Natália Viana, in her book “Collateral damage: the intervention of the military in public security”, explains well how the GLO are fundamental to this symbiotic movement between political power, police and military that, in the end, is the cause bigger than what happened.
According to her, the inclusion in the 1988 Constitution of the possibility of the Armed Forces acting in case of GLO, mainly due to pressure from the Army, maintained the idea of combating external enemies and disruptors of internal order.
And, in the social representations of who the internal enemies are that generate fear and insecurity, Evaldo and Luciano fit the perverse stereotypes of suspect elements — which, consequently, made the Army’s military feel authorized to use lethal force against them. There was no stop order; there was no “rule of engagement” or observance of the fact that at that time there was no restriction on movement or coming and going. When in doubt, the option was to shoot.
But the issue is not just about the individual conduct of the eight convicted soldiers. In general, the three Powers of the Republic, with their reverential fears in the face of the traumas of the dictatorships, reproduce the normative “puxadinho” created by the Constituents and do not build new and rational bases for the relationship between civilians and the military.
The Parliament, for example, took almost a year just to appoint rapporteur for the National Defense Plan, which is the guiding document on the role of the military in Brazil. In doing so, it delegates to the military themselves the definition of their mandates and attributions and omits their responsibilities. Nor does it advance in the analysis of the PEC, which limits the participation of active soldiers in positions of a civilian nature.
In short, the deaths of Evaldo and Luciano do not change the fact that we are facing a very functional arrangement for politicians, who did not carry out structural reforms in public security and who, therefore, have someone to turn to and/or delegate responsibility ( the blame?) in moments of crisis. But, at the same time, it is an arrangement that serves as a source of funding and organizational identity for the Armed Forces in times of absence of conflicts with other nations and/or external antagonists.
The conviction of the eight soldiers fulfills their legal institutional role and is very important as a symbolism, but it does not effectively transform the social and institutional bases that allowed them to occur. Therefore, there is nothing to celebrate.
remember the case
7.Apr.2019: Army soldiers fire more than 80 shots at a car, with a family inside. Musician Evaldo Rosa dos Santos dies instantly
Apr 18, 2019: The recyclable material collector Luciano Moraes dies, wounded in the shooting attack
May 21, 2019: Evaldo’s widow, Luciana Nogueira, and seven other people testify
14.out.2021: After two and a half years and four postponements of the trial, the Military Court condemns eight soldiers for the two deaths