Brazil, National Security Doctrine

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Brazil, National Security Doctrine

The National Security Doctrine was a set of principles and beliefs that evolved out of the Brazilian officer corps' participation in the dismantling of the empire in 1889. Out of that experience came the belief that the military was directly responsible for the well-being of the nation.

In the first quarter of the twentieth century, the officer corps, especially the army, considered the military as the only force capable of both building a national consciousness that superseded regional differences and solving the problems of the country. This view colored the military's vision of its mission and its role in society, and influenced its actions. Though the doctrine of national security grew out of early experiences, it was refined from 1949 to 1964 at the Escola Superior de Guerra (ESG, or Higher War School) and the Escola de Comando e Estado Maior do Exército (ECEME, or Army Command and General Staff School). The doctrine offered the rationale for the 1964 military coup that overthrew President João Goulart and provided the justification for repressive actions of the subsequent military governments. According to the doctrine, national security and economic development were possible only if Brazil's economic, political, and social structures were altered, and civilian elites lacked both the will and ability to make changes. Inherent in national security ideology was adherence to the capitalist development model, with government intervention, and anticommunism as espoused by the United States.

Courses studied at the ESG and ECEME, which included classes on inflation, banking reform, Land Tenure, voting systems, transportation, education, and conventional and guerrilla warfare, gave Brazilian officers the confidence that they had the ideology, trained personnel, and institutional will to maintain internal order while developing the country. That belief led the officer corps, many of whom helped formulate the national security doctrine as instructors or students at the ESG and ECEME, to overthrow the Goulart government and install a series of military presidents who attempted to implement the doctrine's precepts.

The economic policies of the various military governments attacked inflation and promoted rapid growth, which led to the so-called economic miracle. Rapid development allowed the military governments to claim legitimacy on the basis of seemingly successful economic policies. Ironically, the "miracle" coincided with the period of the greatest political repression. Using the national security doctrine as justification, the military governments imposed censorship, eliminated popular participation in politics, controlled labor unions and political organizations, and curtailed civil and human rights. Political rights were denied opponents of the regimes, and arbitrary arrests, exile, torture, and murder with methods used in the name of national security through statutes such as the SNI Law, the National Security Law, AI-5, and the 1969 Constitution.

Use of the doctrine to justify government actions began to lose force with the relaxation of the system in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and seemed to disappear with the return to civilian rule in 1985. The officer corps now concentrates on preparation for external threats, and the development of technical expertise and institutional discipline; it generally takes a nonpolitical stance. Still, underlying military thinking is the concept that economic and social progress occurs when internal order is maintained.

See alsoBrazil, National Security Law .


Numerous works speak of the national security doctrine but the most comprehensive is Antônio Arruda, ESG História de sua doutrina (1980). Alfred Stepan, ed., Authoritarian Brazil: Origins, Policies, and Future (1973), provides an excellent analysis in the chapter "Professionalism of Internal Order and Military Role Expansion." Formulation and implementation of the doctrine is sprinkled throughout Thomas E. Skidmore, The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil, 1964–1985 (1988), and Ronald Schneider, Order and Progress: A Political History of Brazil (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Carvalho, José Murilo de. Forças armadas e política no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, 2005.

Couto, Ronaldo Costa. História indiscreta da ditadura e da abertura: Brasil: 1964–1985. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Record, 1998.

                                 Sonny B. Davis

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Brazil, National Security Doctrine

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