When President Michel Temer signed the decree declaring a federal intervention in Rio de Janeiro’s security system, he completely altered Brazil’s political debate. Up until Friday, we were discussing how the 2018 presidential election would unfold, or that TV presenter Luciano Huck dropped out of the race (again), or even the government’s inability to approve the pension system reform. These subjects are now minor issues – and the pension reform is officially not going to happen this year. For the record, the project was already dead, despite the government’s attempt to suggest otherwise.
It is paramount to be accurate when talking about the intervention: this is a federal intervention, not a military one. Even if the decree puts an Army General in charge of Rio’s security apparatus, he reports to the Minister of Justice (a civilian) and has the President (another civilian) as his commander-in-chief. This case is not about relations between the military and civilians, but rather a matter related to our federacy.
The military aspect of the intervention exists because the government usually uses the Armed Forces whenever called upon to act on issues of public safety. Now, for ten straight months, army soldiers will work as law enforcement in Rio de Janeiro. Which raises the risk of corruption in the relations between the military, police forces, and organized crime.