What's on

October 27, 2011
Leave the Ossuaries Resting

   Once in a while someone from the present government in Brazil brings back the case of the unpunished crimes during the military regime, which they say must be judged in order that we may clean up our past.
   And right now, by comparison, we can see the trial of Hosni Mubarak - the former dictator of Egypt for over thirty years – happen only eight months after he had been ousted.
   Why didn’t Brazil judge the crimes that occurred during its latest dark era?
   Almost thirty years already went by from the end of the dictatorship in Brazil and forty-five from its more repressive period. If the truth be told there were wars being waged: between progressives and conservatives, between leftists and rightists and even a proxy war between Moscow and Washington.
   At the beginning of '70s Brazil’s economy was booming and the government – made up of conservatives and rightists with the blessing of Washington - was on a roll. But in late 1970s with the economy no longer so strong the regime began to fall off.
   Therefore a moderate wing of the establishment prevented the ultra-rightists from taking over and started getting into a conversation with opposition aiming at passing an amnesty law.
   Back then, neither government nor opposition had enough strength to crush each other and in the discussions to approve the law the leftists, who were the losers up to that point, wanted it the more pardonable they could get.
   While at war, on the one hand the left robbed banks, kidnapped U.S. ambassador, killed several Brazilian servicemen and so on, but on the other hand the right owned banks, colluded with American embassy, controlled the country’s Armed Forces and so forth.
   It depends on which side someone is on and they see criminals in every move made by the other side.
   The military regime itself, although in the period all the presidents had been generals, was not a movement essentially from the barracks. Bankers, captains of industry and a burgeoning middle class sided firmly with the government. But in the end the military alone were those to blame for the dictatorship.
   After the extinction of the dictatorial regime the first civil governments were still cautious about upsetting the Armed Forces and avoided speaking of certain themes let alone talking down to its members. However, with the passing of time the military were increasingly sidelined of all-important decisions, including those pertinent to them.
   The creation of the Ministry of Defense, which was designed to be similar to those existent in developed countries, was also meant to downgrade the statuses of highest-ranking officers, making them subordinate to a civilian preceding the president. Until then, they used to having at least four ministers, a fact that undeniably kept the presidency under constant pressure to take their interests into account.
   Nowadays the Military enjoy a single powerless post at the same level as minister – the security command of Brasilia –, but which could appear a form of honoring them sounds more as if they were given only the functions the government expect of them: to obey and guard.
   One could argue that those things are all that the military must do. Otherwise they might become tempted to rule the nation again. Nonetheless, giving the Armed Forces only the police job is the same of extinguishing them, since their scope encompasses much more than that.
   Recent events in Northern Africa can prove the worth of a country maintaining professional Armed Forces by comparing the output of the Arab spring in Egypt and Libya. Mubarak and Gadhafi have both ruled their countries as if they were ranches of their own and dealt with their national servicemen as if they were their musclemen.
   However, Gadhafi succeeded best in completely destroying the military institutions of his nation, giving them militia characteristics. He ever leaned on specials security forces such as Amazon guards and mercenaries to keep his grip on power and weakened any improvement that could build up the regular army.
   It’s no wonder that revolutions sparked off mainly by the same reasons developed in two different directions. The military coup in Egypt is far from being a victory for Egyptians seeking for democracy, but it turned out to be a much better result than the one achieved in Libya that ended up in bloodshed.
   Obviously, the options are open in the land of the pyramids and it relies on the Egyptian people managing well the transition to avoid a counter-revolution or a sort of Islamic, say repressive, government.
   In short, a country’s Armed Forces are nothing else than one of the many institutions a nation has to preserve in order to maintain a democratic system and blaming an institution more than its incumbents for wrongdoings only brings damage to freedom.
   Brazil has passed an amnesty law that has been suitable for both the left and the right until now; it doesn’t make any sense to remain holding grudges of the Military because of some of their former members.
   Today the left wants Brazil to be a global player, a country that should play a leading role on international affairs, though, without powerful Armed Forces it sounds delusional and the country wouldn’t ever be regarded in earnest.
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