Since the promulgation of the Brazilian Constitution in 1988, the authoritarian vestiges of the civil-military dictatorship have come under criticism.
This ranged from maintaining the consolidated intelligence apparatus at the time, to using the National Security Act to prosecute opponents, in addition to the continued military presence in the state apparatus and in the political decision-making process.
With the arrival of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency, there is a serious deepening of this process.
Without the need for tanks – like last time – the military returned openly and shamelessly to the decision-making table, to well-paid positions and to spaces that re-democratization seemed to deny them.
In this process, one of the aspects that emerges is the co-option and the corporate distribution of civilian public positions in the public administration among active or retired military.
In early 2019, Bolsonaro appointed a soldier, General Fernando Azevedo e Silva, as Minister of Defense. Thus, it broke the assignment of a civilian to this ministry since its creation in 1999.
In February 2020, for the first time since the resumption of democracy, a general became head of the Civil House, joining the already occupied Government Secretariat and Institutional Security Office.
At the end of 2020, about half of federal government ministers were military, and more than 6,157 active and retired soldiers worked in public administration.
In addition to providing access to political power, these positions often contribute to a significant financial increase in the wages of those who occupy them.
A general at the head of Health in times of pandemic
In this context, the case of General Eduardo Pazuello is representative, an active general appointed Minister of Health during the Covid-19 pandemic, although he has no experience in the field. With him, more than 20 soldiers began to occupy key positions related to the file.
During his tenure, the Ministry of Health opposed containment measures and the wearing of masks and encouraged the adoption of harmless and dangerous treatments, such as hydroxochloroquine.
As the surveys of the National Congress have shown, many obstacles to the acquisition of vaccines have been created.
It was also during this period that pandemic data, such as the number of cases and deaths, “disappeared” from public access, withheld from society by the ministry.
During his time at the head of the case, there were around 260,000 deaths by Covid in the country and tragedies such as the 28 deaths due to the lack of oxygen in Manaus.
Besides the disastrous administration, the case of General Pazuello reveals the extent of military corporatism and its potential to leave the most obvious illegalities unpunished.
Shortly after leaving the portfolio, with a new post at the General Secretariat of the Army, and testifying before Congress, denying irregularities in his administration, Pazuello participated (without a mask) in a political event alongside Bolsonaro.
This despite the ban on “publicly demonstrating the active army, without being authorized to do so, on questions of a partisan nature” provided for by the disciplinary regulations of the army and by the statute of the military.
In light of this, the military opened administrative proceedings to investigate his conduct.
Although some servicemen publicly criticized the general’s conduct, Pazuello was not punished and the case was closed.
Senators lamented the military’s decision not to punish the general and former health minister.
Even in the face of such reactions, the military not only failed to punish Pazuello, but also established a 100-year secret about the process related to the episode.
The Pazuello affair reveals the importance of reflecting on the role and responsibility of the military in the political sphere, especially in a context where they are increasingly involved in political life and where many irregularities are revealed, such as those revealed by the Covid IPC in the Senate.
In addition to the prohibition of public partisan political demonstrations, the Military Statute provides for the transfer of functions to the remunerated reserve (retirement) when the soldier “exceeds two years of absence, continuous or not, cumulated because of having started to occupy a position. temporary, non-elective civil public post or post, including indirect administration ”.
Restricting this hypothesis, Bolsonaro published in June 2021 a decree conferring a military character on the posts and functions “exercised by the military” in various bodies, such as the Federal Supreme Court (STF), the Federal Attorney General (AGU), the Ministry of Mines. and energy and even public enterprises.
With this, it allows, in practice, active soldiers to remain indefinitely in these positions, widening and aggravating the process of occupation of administrative and political spaces by members of the Armed Forces.
The necessary regulation of the functions of the army
In response to this process, there are initiatives such as Constitutional Amendment Proposal (PEC) 21/21, which prohibits active military personnel from occupying civilian positions in public administration, in the ‘Union, in the States, in the Federal District or in the municipalities.
The PEC determines that, to exercise these civilian functions, the (or a) member of the Armed Forces, the Military Police or the Fire Brigade with less than ten years of service must leave the activity. If you have more than ten years of seniority, he will automatically be inactive as soon as he takes up his post.
Currently, the Constitution does not address the presence of military personnel in civilian positions, although it limits their eligibility in similar terms (career withdrawal for those with less than ten years of service and reserve for those with more than ten years of service. ), which reflects its concern for the political involvement of active soldiers, including as a means of protecting the armed forces themselves.
This concern is not unreasonable.
The militarization of government, public administration and politics threatens democracy and human rights themselves, as evidenced by the military handling of the Covid pandemic in Brazil.
It is essential to regulate and restrict the participation of active military personnel in civilian posts and in the functions of administration and government, under penalty of naturalizing the subversion of the role of the Armed Forces and permanently and irreversibly undermining the role of the Armed Forces. balance of civil-military relations. caused by the more militarized government since the end of the military dictatorship.