Having concrete effects from this Monday (6), the Guarantee of Law and Order (GLO) decreed by President Lula (PT) last week was received with skepticism by experts who follow the issue of public security in the country. For experts on the subject, the initiative does not have the potential to contain the spread of organized crime, as indicated by the objective set out by the government.
The document signed by Lula foresees the use of 3,700 military personnel from the Air Force, Army and Navy who will be expected to operate specifically in the ports of Santos (SP), Itaguaí (RJ) and Rio de Janeiro, as well as in the international airports of São Paulo. Paulo (Garulhos) and Rio de Janeiro (Tom Jobim/Galeão). It also includes preventive and repressive actions at borders. Troops must operate in these locations until May 2024. The work includes vehicle inspection, patrolling and similar actions.
The President of the Republic’s initiative came after the intensification of the chaos generated in Rio de Janeiro due to the death of a militia member. In general, a GLO grants the Armed Forces police power until public order is reestablished. The Ministry of Defense, which has a specific manual on this type of mission, states that GLOs are implemented “in cases where traditional public security forces are exhausted, in serious situations of disturbance of order”.
Sociologist Ricardo Moura, from the Violence Studies Laboratory at the Federal University of Ceará (LEV/UFC), observes that the moment is worrying due to recent situations that have added to the set of facts that, in the area of public security, challenge the Brazilian state. This is the case of the diversion of machine guns from a barracks in Barueri, in Greater São Paulo, recorded in mid-October – according to the Instituto Sou da Paz, which has been surveying incidents of this type since 2009, this was the largest diversion of weapons of the Brazilian Army in the historical series. Despite this, Moura projects that the GLO does not tend to produce the expected effect.
“I believe that, at this exact moment, the idea of relying on the Armed Forces to combat organized crime would not be a good idea. (1:40) There needs to be work to investigate these allegations, a more rigorous investigation, and the Armed Forces should also not perform the role of an internal security force. We have the Federal Police itself, which could be strengthened and could very well carry out this type of activity.”
Professor Rodrigo Lentz, researcher at the Institute of Political Science at the University of Brasília (Ipol/UnB), also suspects the chance of success of a GLO in managing problems such as the rise of organized crime. “The experience of studying the Armed Forces in Brazil shows that they have been increasingly used as a national police force, and the problem of public security in the country is only getting worse. So, it is another chapter of a security policy guided by a vision of national security, which is a notion that was only updated from the dictatorship period and which continues to be, in right-wing or left-wing governments, something very close to Bolsonarism. The role of the military in a case like this is to wipe the ice. It won’t solve anything.”
In this sense, Ricardo Moura sees the government’s initiative as a measure with a more media profile, aimed at giving some signal to the population about the search for solutions to the exacerbation of violence. A survey carried out by Atlas consultancy at the beginning of October showed that 62.7% of Brazilians interviewed point to crime and drug trafficking as the main challenge that must be faced by public authorities.
“I believe that there is a symbolic issue in the GLO, with the aim of showing that there is a certain commitment from the federal government, and in this case, the Armed Forces embody this. But we have noticed, in recent years, an erosion of both the credibility and the effectiveness of the Army in dealing with such complex criminal situations, like the one we see.”
Moura recalls the controversy that surrounded the last GLO enacted in Brazil, which was implemented in Rio de Janeiro, in 2018, under the command of General Braga Netto. The military’s management is currently being investigated by the Federal Police on suspicion of embezzlement of funds. “The results are very ambiguous. There is no way to say that this GLO was necessary or that it was an effective measure. On the contrary, we had several questions about the Army’s ability to deal with this type of action”, observes Moura.
Rodrigo Lentz sees, in this scenario, an indication of political-institutional and organizational strengthening of the Armed Forces. “Every time the Armed Forces are called into politics, they exact a price. They are visualizing institutional gains. This will also, in theory, bring a positive agenda for them because it will get out of the very turbulent agenda generated by January 8th, which continues and will continue in the Judiciary, and sell them as supposedly those who will bring the solution to a structural problem. , as is public security.”
Finally, Lentz sees that Lula’s GLO tends to generate another side effect: the expansion of the participation of members of the Armed Forces in the “criminal economy”. “There is no organization that operates in criminal economic activity and does not have the participation of the State. We have recently seen that large-caliber machine guns were arming these organizations that operate in drug trafficking. The Army is today controlling the entry of drugs and weapons across the border and now, together with the Navy and Air Force, the criminal economy logistics cycle will close. The side effect of this is very serious. This whole situation is very worrying.”
The LEV researcher highlights that the characteristics of such criminal organizations, especially those closely related to drug and weapons trafficking, challenge the State in many aspects, especially due to the discrepancy between the pace of action of these groups and the speed of public bureaucracy. For Ricardo Moura, the difficulty in combating these groups is not exactly to be confused with a lack of political will.
“I don’t believe there’s a lack of will. It is about dealing with organizations that are deeply embedded in society, which have ramifications within the institutions themselves, so much so that we have police officers and even magistrates complicit in these practices. It is a type of crime that goes beyond the limits, state borders and goes beyond the borders between countries. While they have a very strong dynamism, the State is a certain slowness.”
The sociologist points out that, to manage a problem of this nature with some degree of success, the State needs to coordinate interstate actions and make use of the work of the Federal Police, which, in the expert’s view, needs to be reinforced. “The country is dealing with an activity that is fragmented, has capillarity and is interstate. These actions require coordination between the federal government and the states, and this is also something that the Army cannot handle. He is not prepared for this type of clash. We would perhaps even need to think about new institutional designs for integrating these forces, but then it would be another body, another agency that would act in this sense, not the Army.”
Editing: Vivian Virissimo