Get the militia, police, and armed forces out of politics!

Euclides Braga Neto, Fortaleza (CE)
Divulgação Presidência da República

According to a 24 July article published at the Congresso em Foco (Congress in Focus) website, the Constitutional Amendment Proposal (PEC) to prohibit active military personnel from participating in government is making its way through the Chamber of Deputies. [1]

On 23 July, while parliament was in recess, the president of the Chamber Arthur Lira (Progressives, PP) dispatched PEC No. 21/2021 to the Constitution and Justice Commission (CCJ). The CCJ will now be obliged to examine this text within a five-meeting deadline.

Deputy Perpétua Almeida (Communist Party of Brazil, PCdoB) is the author of the PEC which proposes the creation of two requirements for active military personnel who want to hold a civilian position in public administration: 1) they must resign from the military if they have less than ten years of service; 2) they must be automatically removed from active service if they have over ten years of service.

Strictly speaking, Perpétua is not proposing anything new. Her PEC simply adopts the same rules that already apply to military personnel in the Constitution’s section on political rights, according to which the only military personnel who are eligible to hold such civilian positions are either military reservists or those who resign from the military if they have less than ten years service. The PCdoB deputy put forward her PEC last year after General Pazuello became the Minister of Health.

Deputy Perpétua Almeida’s proposal should be welcomed as an extremely urgent and necessary measure for the restoring of a minimum of reasonability to a central idea of the National Constituent Assembly that gave rise to the 1988 Constitution: keeping the military out of party-political life and ending the military’s exercise of both military and civilian positions. But it should be seen as only a first step, albeit an important one.

Class conciliation and the militarization of politics

The Workers’ Party (PT) governments of Lula and Dilma, in an attempt to maintain the confidence of financial capital, took their project of class conciliation to its logical conclusion. It was under PT governments that the Armed Forces progressively assumed the role of police, particularly in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

It was during Lula’s first term of office that the Brazilian Army not only participated in but commanded the occupation of Haiti by United Nations troops. This served as a “school” for armed forces intervention into public security in Rio de Janeiro and the occupation of the ‘Carioca’ (Rio de Janeiro) hills. Such an intervention would have been unthinkable before 2002 due to the deep scars left in the national memory by twenty years of military dictatorship (1964-84). However, this process did not occur without its contradictions.

The clash between the Lula government and General Augusto Heleno over the Brazilian Army’s intervention in Haiti, which saw it accused of involvement in local gang disputes, executions, and rape, is well known. Another important issue that disturbed the military while the PT was in government was the establishment of the Truth Commission, which investigated a series of crimes committed under the dictatorship’s repression. Even though no high-ranking officer has as yet been punished, the old guard of the upper ranks has never forgiven the PT for daring to give life and prominence to the Truth Commission.

This relationship’s controversial brew began to boil over after Dilma Rousseff’s narrow victory over Aécio Neves (Brazilian Social Democracy Party, PSDB) in the 2014 elections, a victory that coincided with the end of the commodities boom; then there was Rousseff’s second-term surrender to the economic, financial and foreign exchange policies of financial capital led by former IMF economist Joaquim Levy; the beginning of Operation Lava Jato, which resulted in Rousseff’s impeachment and Lula’s imprisonment shortly after, followed by the election of Bolsonaro.

Militia-ization and militarization of politics

Brazilian political life has been hijacked by militiamen, police officers, and armed forces soldiers in the last few years. The genocidal president that now governs the country has moved within these three sectors for decades.

Since the 2016 elections, candidates for executive and legislative positions with names like ‘general’, ‘colonel’, ‘captain’, and ‘delegado’ (chief/sheriff) have multiplied. All of these candidates identified with ‘Bolsonarismo’ and its neo-fascist ideas, and some of them are even explicitly linked to the militias.

Furthermore, there are over 6,000 positions in the direct administration of the Bolsonaro government that are occupied by police officers and armed forces members. Only a few of these people, Generals Braga Neto, Augusto Heleno, and Eduardo Ramos, have salaries of over 100,000 reais (US$19,300) per month. If they were in the reserve, their pay would not reach 20,000 reais (US$3,860). In addition to their outrageous salaries, these potentates can participate in countless deals that involve everything from government purchases of items such as COVID vaccines to public works.

In this vein, private military-run institutes have multiplied in recent years to mediate business with the federal government. These include the General Villas Bôas Institute (IGVB), the Federalist Institute (IF), the Força Brasil Institute (IFB), and the SAGRES Institute. To mention just the last two, the Força Brasil Institute is up to its neck in the scandal around the attempted purchase of overpriced vaccines. Then there is the SAGRES Institute, which is beginning to elaborate a so-called ‘Projeto de Nação’ (Nation Project), a kind of government plan for the country with a view to the electoral contest in 2022, one that has been elaborated with the collaboration of active military personnel and the private military-run institutes.

It is unacceptable that the police and military forces continue to parade their threats, their virulence, and their weapons by their side as part of the political and ideological struggle. Whoever is employed by the State to perform the functions of public safety and national security maintain, therefore, the right to a monopoly on arms. They cannot have the right to engage in politics in the exercise of his or her function. They must cease being a police officer or armed forces member and become a civilian, if they want to participate in party-political life and run for public office, whether as a candidate or when appointed to positions by mayors, governors, and the President of the Republic himself.

Get the militia, police, and armed forces out of politics

With the PEC 21/2021 proposed by deputy Perpétua Almeida (PCdoB) as a starting point, we suggest a series of complementary measures for debate and transformation into new bills, which could be presented by other left-wing deputies or even drawn up in the form of laws of Popular Initiative that not only include the police and the armed forces, but judges, magistrates, and prosecutors as well.

This is because a judge should not be able to acquire their position through a public contest and then find themselves at the top of one of the three branches of power in the Republic. They can either remain in their post in the judiciary or immediately withdraw from their post to either run for positions in the Executive and Legislative branches or assume government ministry or secretary posts.

For all these reasons, we propose:

1. No civil, federal, or military police officer, no armed forces member, or no magistrate in active service and in full exercise of his or her functions can stand for public office or take up any post in the executive and legislative branches of the government.

2. The grace period for former police officers, former armed forces members, and former judges to run for public office shall be ten years after their passing into the reserves, their retirement, or their termination from service.

3. End the special courts for military police and armed forces members. These courts are only justified in times of war. All trials should take place in civilian courts and all criminal investigations to be undertaken by civilian justice.

4. Bring an end to the Military Police (PM), an excrescence of the military dictatorship. Unification of the police forces into a single, preventive, investigative civil police force, with exclusive dedication to their role and the prohibition of ‘bicos’ (odd jobs) and extra work for private security companies.

5. Transformation of military ‘bombeiros’ (firefighters) corps into civilian forces that are linked to city planning, urbanization bodies, and those for the prevention of fires, floods, and catastrophes in general, both in urban and rural areas and environmental preservation zones.

6. Direct election of ‘delegados de polícia’ (local police chiefs/sheriffs), solely for the performance of duties related to public security, by the corps and the communities with a mandate that is revocable at any time.

7. External control of the police by the communities and by municipal, state, and national public security bodies.

8. A full guarantee to all police and armed forces members of: 1) the right to vote in all executive and legislative elections; 2) the right to unionize; 3) the right to strike, but only with the assurance that, at the moment the strike is declared, all weapons and equipment are deposited in police stations and barracks under the supervision and control of a commission formed by trade unions and social movements.

These are some proposals that start from a very different logic to that which now prevails in the Bolsonaro government. These proposals aim to civilianize the police and the armed forces, and restrict their participation in politics, particularly that of their commanders and leaders, while they are on active duty. These are not just measures that restrict their role, they are also measures of civilianization, in that they subordinate the security and armed forces to civil society as public servants.


[1] Edson Sardinha, “PEC que proíbe militares da ativa no governo avança na Câmara” (PEC that prohibits active-duty military in the government advances in the Chamber), Congresso em Foco website, 24 July 2021.

This article is an English translation of “Fora milícia, polícia e forças armadas da política!”, [], Esquerda Online (EOL), 26/07/2021.

Translation: Bobby Sparks