Brazil’s military poised to amass power after three-decade wait


General Antonio Hamilton Mourao would be Brazil’s vice president. General Augusto Heleno would be defense minister. And General Oswald Ferreira is likely to run a new infrastructure ministry.
If ex-Army Captain Jair Bolsonaro wins the runoff vote against the Workers’ Party’s Fernando Haddad on October 28, he has promised to name as many as five generals to his cabinet, giving the security forces their biggest public role in decades. In addition, at least 38 former soldiers, police officers and firefighters rode the coattails of the former paratrooper to win election to congress October 7. In 2014, only 14 veterans won.
“This is because of the insecurity that we’re experiencing in Brazil,” said Waldir Soares de Oliveira, a re-elected congressman and ex-cop known as Deputy Waldir. “No one can cope with this wave of insecurity any more.”
Just over 30 years after the end of a military dictatorship, Brazil’s security forces are back in a big way. Even if Bolsonaro loses, there’s now a significant law-and-order bloc in Congress voted in by a population terrified by rising crime. With more than 63,000 violent deaths last year alone, the number of Brazilians murdered in 2017 outstrips US combat deaths for the entire Vietnam War.
Military Mindset
“The issue isn’t just the uniform,” said Ivo Herzog, whose journalist father, Vladimir, was murdered by the military government in 1975 and remains one of Brazil’s biggest symbols of the struggle against the dictatorship. “It’s the extreme right in power, going against all democratic achievements.”
In 1985, amid economic crisis and after years of pressure, Brazil’s military leaders gave way to a civilian president. Three years later, congress drafted a new constitution, widely considered one of the world’s most progressive, offering legal protections to minority groups and many of the benefits of a welfare state. But no one has ever been prosecuted for the torture and murder committed during the 20 years of military rule. Bolsonaro has cast the future of democracy into doubt. He became famous—and in some corners infamous—for derogatory comments against women, indigenous peoples and Afro-Brazilians. He has said the main problem with the dictatorship is that it didn’t kill enough people, and that he would refuse to accept the election results if he lost. He has since said that he would respect the constitution if elected.

Taking Control
“There are grim echoes in the 2018 election to the start of the military dictatorship that began in 1964,” Robert Muggah, research director of the Igarape Institute in Rio de Janeiro, said on Friday. “The logic of extrajudicial violence and extermination is returning to the conservative discourse.”
Under Brazil’s constitution, public security is technically the responsibility of states.
But over the past year, for the first time since 1988, the federal government has deployed the military to tackle rising crime in Rio de Janeiro and the influx of destitute Venezuelan immigrants in Roraima.

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