Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Brasil's military and police and Haiti - Clearing up some confusion

As ther seems to be some confusion on the subject, I thought I would quickly post a little something to set right what appears to be a common misunderstanding about the difference between the Brazilian military and police forces.

The Policia Militar in Brasil, which has been criticized by groups such as Amnesty International among others, despite its somewhat ambiguous name, has absolutely nothing to do with the Brazilian military. They are part of the civilian police force. The Brazilian military (army) presence in Haiti is in no way connected with the Policia Militar that is involved in the favelas in Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. The Policia Militar in Brasil are controlled by the respective states they operate in (every state has its own force), and not by the nation's Ministry of Defense, unlike the army. They are totally separate entities.

With very few exceptions, such as in 2003 and again in 2006, since Brazil's return to democracy in 1985, the government of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been very careful not to give the military any sort of formalized law enforcement role in Brazil. In fact, members of Lula's Partido dos Trabalhadores have often been among those calling for increased accountability and transparency in the law-enforcement regime currently in place in Brasil.

Having spent time in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, I can say that, much as it has been in Haiti, the situation in the favelas is often one in which heavily-armed gang members are squaring off against an often-equally brutal police force with thousands of civilians helplessly caught in the middle.

1 comment:

Babette said...

I am constantly amazed by where you have been, what you have seen, and what you know and remember. Keep it up.