The commander of Brazil’s army has expressed concerns over the potential for corruption and politicization of the military as it is deployed for anti-crime efforts, casting further doubt on the increasing reliance on the force amid a nationwide security crisis.
In a recent interview with Brazilian news outlet Estadão, General Eduardo Villas Bôas strongly warned against the frequent use of the country’s military in public security efforts to combat organized crime. Villas Bôas cited concerns that the armed forces could become more vulnerable to corruption by organized crime groups and politicization linked to the country’s upcoming 2018 elections.
“There are concerns over contamination of the troops, and for this reason we want to avoid frequent use of the armed forces,” Villas Bôas told Estadão. Although corruption does not yet appear to be a “systemic or institutional problem,” Villas Bôas said, several recent cases accusing low-ranking soldiers in the city of Rio de Janeiro of ties to organized crime “raise concerns.”
Villas Bôas added that Brazil’s state governments have been “negligent” in their use of the military, explaining that the “simple deployment of the armed forces does not have the capacity, in and of itself, to resolve the public security issues [the country] is experiencing.”
Villas Bôas also warned that ahead of a general election scheduled for later this year, many state governments may resort to the “political use” of federal military interventions as a “convenient” and politically expedient solution to mounting security concerns among the public.
As InSight Crime has recently reported, Brazil’s military is increasingly being tasked with domestic policing functions amid the country’s deteriorating security crisis and ongoing political and economic instability.
InSight Crime Analysis
The high-level warning over the increasing use of the military in public security roles, including the rising potential for the forces’ corruption and politicization, should be considered a wake up call for a shift in the country’s approach to rising insecurity.
Across Latin America, the trend toward militarization of citizen security efforts has proven ineffective at reducing organized crime activities and has often lead to increases in human rights abuses and corruption.
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In 2016, the commander of Mexico’s armed forces expressed similar concerns over the corruption and politicization of the military when the body is called to fill in the gaps of failing civilian policing. General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda said that sending “soldiers prepared for war” to “enter fully into combat against drug traffickers” has caused “serious problems” in Mexico, including exacerbating criminal fragmentation and contributing to spiraling violence.