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Military Professionalism and Professional Militarism in Brazil, 1870–1970: Historical Perspectives and Political Implications*

  • Frederick M. Nunn


Since 1964 Brazil has been governed by successive regimes dominated by the armed forces and presided over by army generals. The men in charge of Brazil's destiny are professional officers, and like their counterparts in the neighboring Spanish American states they conceive of their governance as an obligation as much as a privilege, if not more. The professional officer in Latin America today is as far removed from his nineteenth century counterpart as ballistic missile systems are from the ballista.



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1 Two excellent sources on the Brazilian army in the late Empire and early Republican periods are: João, Baptista Magalhães, A Evoluçāo Militar do Brasil: Anotaçōes para a História (Rio, 1950); and Nelson, Werneck Sodré, História Militar do Brasil (Rio, 1968).

2 The Emperor ‘abandoned the army ’ and allowed it to fall prey to the press and political demagoguery. See Gilberto, Freyre, Ordrm e Progrcsso (2 vols., Rio, 1959), I, ch. I, 355passim.

3 Luis Alves de Lima held the War portfolio in 1855–7, 1861 and 1875–6. See Theodorico, Lopes and Gentil, Torres, Ministros da Guerra do Brasil (Rio, 1946).

4 Charles, W. Simmons, Marshal Deodoro and the Fall of Pedro II (Durham, N.C., 1967); see also Magalhães, , op. cit., pp. 310–25; and Sodré, , op. cit., pp. 130–62.

5 In The Soldier and the State: The Theory of Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, Mass., 1954), Samuel P. Huntington cites corporateness, expertise, responsibility and a sense of career as bases of professionalism.

6 Heitor, Lyra, História da Queda do Império (2 vols., Sāo Paulo, 1964), I, 413–18.

7 The military imperative, i.e. defense against external enemies, is discussed in David, B. Ralston (ed.), Soldiers and States: Civil-Military Relations in Modern Europe (Boston, Mass., 1966), p. vii.

8 Lyra, , op. cit., I, 415.

9 ibid., II, 10–17.

10 O Exército Visto Por um Civil (Rio, 1960), p. 244.

11 In Rebellion in the Backlands (Os Sertões), tr. and ed. by Samuel, Putnam (Chicago, 1944), especially pp. 225 ff.

12 See Nationalism in Brazil (New York, 1968), p. 51.

13 See Dever Militar e Poittica Partidária (São Paulo, 1959), pp. 28–33.

14 ibid., p. 34.

15 For remarks on the impact of foreign training and internal reform in the officer class see Magalhãcs, , op. cit., pp. 339–45.

16 A case study of German military training and its early socio-political ramifications can be found in the author's ‘Emil Körner and the Prussianization of the Chilean Army: Origins, Process and Consequences, 1885–1920’, Hispanic American Historical Review, I, no. 2 (May 1970), 300–22. Hereafter cited as HAHR.

17 According to Bertholdo Klinger of A Defeza Nacional, the letter ‘z’ was mistakenly Set in type for the first issue. It remained so for several issues as a kind of ‘symbol of originality ’. Hereafter cited as ADN.

18 The Grupo Mantenedor is listed in Leitão de Carvalho, p. 43; and in each issue of ADN.

19 AND, I, no. I (October. 1913), I.

20 ibid., p. 2.

21 During 1969 the author made a survey of writings on this subject in the army journals of most of the South American countries. The tone may be different but the message is the same; by the First World War armies of the major countries all believed this was their mission. See the author's, ‘The Latin American Military Establishment: Some Thoughts on its Origins and an Illustrative Bibliographical Essay’, The Americas, xxvii, no. 2 (October. 1971), 135–51.

22 ADN, I no. 12 (September. 1914), 373–4.

23 See Sodré, , op. cit., pp. 186–9.

24 These organizations are called variously military police forces, public forces (força pública), state militias and state armies.

25 See João, PandiáCalógeras, Problemas de Governo (2nd ed., São Paulo, 1936), pp. 232–5.

26 Calógeras, , Problemas de Administraçāo (2nd ed., Sāo Paulo, 1938), pp. 96120passim.

27 Sodré, , op. cit., p. 195. A number of Sodré's conclusions on this period are based on Calógeras’ earlier works.

28 See Vivaldo, Coaracy, Todos Con tam sua Vida: Memórias de Infância e Adolescência (Rio, 1959), pp. 260–3.

29 See Tristão, de Alencar Araripe, Tasso Fragoso: Um Pouco de História do Nosso Exército (Rio, 1960), 485–7.

30 A complete list of members of the first French mission can be found in Almanak do Ministério da Guerra 1921, (Rio, 1921). The organization and functions of the mission are found in English in Department of State Files, National Archives, 832.30/57, Crosby to Secretary of State, 2 May 1922. Hereafter cited DSF.

31 Araripe, , op. cit., p. 492; DSF, 823.30/57, cited.

32 ADN, VI, no. 67 (April 1919), 225–8.

33 Bertholdo, Klinger, Parada e Desfile duma vida de Voluntário do Brazil na Prirneira Metade do Século (Rio, 1958), pp. 115–16. Klinger's book was written in ‘ortografla simplificada Brazilcira’ adopted in 1940 but not widely used. See also his Narrativas Aotobiográflcas: vol. I, Corno Fue Tenente (Rio, 1944), 159–79 passim.

34 See Estevão, Leitão de Carvalho, Memórias de um Soldado Legalista (3 vols., Rio, 19611964); I, 157222; for a discussion of divisions in the officer corps over the French mission.

35 See his ‘European Military Influences in Latin America ’ (unpublished MS, Library of Congress, 1941), p. 175.

36 Figures for Brazil as of 1920 included the state militias. Nevertheless, by South American standards the Brazilian army was huge. Argentina's totalled 22,000; Chile's, 21,000; Peru's, 8,000; Bolivia's, 5,500; Uruguay's, 10,000; and Paraguay's, 2,500. These were minuscule armies by world standards; the Polish army alone numbered 300,000 at the same time.

37 An examination of Barbosa's campaign speeches indicated that he was not so much opposed to Hermes as to the candidacy engineered by Pinheiro Machado, the current ‘manda chuva’ of national politics, and the probability that a cabal would manipulate the Marshal. See Ruy, Barbosa, Contra o Militarismo: Discursos Politicos (Rio, 1910).

38 The letter is reproduced in many sources. A thorough treatment appears in the monumental Hélio, Silva, Sangue na Areia de Copacabana: O Ciclo de Vargas, vol. I (Rio, 1964).

39 An open letter of Hermes addressed to the Chief Executive and to the Congress demanded that Bernardes’ electoral victory be made void and spoke of ‘serious consequences that might result if the nation were deceived in the adjudication of the election ’. Clearly Hermes saw guaranty of electoral purity as an army function–as long as the army's candidate was the winner.

40 The obligatory military service law of 4 Jan. 1908 was easily circumvented by those liable, especially if they had the right connections.

41 See Olavo, Bilac, ‘Exército Nacional’ and ‘ O Exército e a Polltica’ (an address to the Pôrto Alegre garrison, 12 10. 1916), reprinted in A Defesa Nacional (Rio, 1965).

42 In his Formaçiāo Histórica do Brasil (5th ed., Rio, 1968), p. 313.

43 ADN, VIII, no. 91 (August. 1921), 315–17.

44A Polltica e o Exército’, ADN, Ix, no. 98 (August. 1921), 33–4.

45 ibid., p. 34.

46 Sec (Lieutenant) Heitor d'Araäjo Mello, ‘O Brasil como Nação Armada ’, Revista dos Militares, VIII, no. 45 (May 1914), 193.

47 ‘Palestra Militar’, ADN, VII, no. 85 (August. 1920), 7–11.

48 832.30/69, Sparrow, to Navintell, , 6 07 1922.

49 See for example, Marechal, Oscar de Barros Falcão, ‘A Revolução de 5 de Julho de 1924’. Revista Militar Brasileira, LXXIV, nos. 3–4 (0712 1961), 71134; and General Francisco de Paula Cidade, ‘Da Missāo Militar Francesa aos Nossos Dias ’, in ibid., XLII, nos. 3–4 (July–December. 1954), 131–86. Hereafter cited RMB.

50 Juarez, Távora, áGuisa de Depoimento sobre a Revoluçāo Brasilcira de 1924, I (Rio, 1924), 88.

51 General Tristão de Alencar Araripe, who studied under French instructors in the staff school (Escola de Estado Maior in 1927–9, emphasizes that the French stimulated independent thought and originality among their students, and encouraged them to ‘spread the word’ to their colleagues. See his ‘A Escola de Estado Major do Exército em um Trecho da sua Evolução’, RMB, LXXI, nos. 1–2 January–June 1960), 5–22 passim.

52 ibid., p. 11.

53 Hélio, Silva's 1930: A Reuolução Traida: Os Ciclo de Vargas, vol. III (Rio, 1966), is a thorough study of the fall of the Republic covering civil-military aspects. In English see John, Wirth, D.Tenentismo in the Brazilian Revolution of 1930’, HAHR, XLIV, no. 2 (05 1964), 161–79; and Jordan Young, ‘Military Aspects of the 1930 Brazilian Revolution’, in ibid., 180–96.

54 See 1930–1940: A República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil e o Exército Brasileiro (Rio, 1941), pp. 13–21.

55 ibid., pp. 39–40.

56 The commander of the Força Expedicionária Brasileira (FEB), Marshal João, Baptista Mascarenhas de Moraes remarked on this in his The Brazilian Expeditionary Force by its Commander (Washington, D.C., 1965), p. 6. See also his Memórias (2 vols., Rio, 1969), I, 121–66.

57 Naçāo Armada, I, no. I (November. 1931), 1.

58 Octavio, Ianni, O Colapso do Populismo no Brasil (Rio, 1968), p. 224.

59 See his ‘ Industria y seguridad nacional: El caso Brasil ’, in Jean, Cazeneuveet al., Ejército y reuolución industrial (Buenos Aires, 1964), pp. 113–51.

60 See Army Minister General Aurélio de Lyra Tavares’ March 1969 address to the Naval School, translated and reprinted as ‘El ejército brasileño y la actual coyuntura nacional’, Estraregia (Buenos Aires), I (July–August 1969), 45.

61 ibid., p. 43–56. passim. Lyra's thoughts were based on his earlier O Exército Brasileiro Vista pelo sen Ministro (Recife, 1968). In this book the Minister would have his reader believe that there are no differences of opinion within the officer corps. This is, of course, wishful thinking.

62 John, Kenneth Gaibraith, How to Control the Military (New York, 1969).

63 See ‘El ejército del Brasil, sus problemas y políticas ’, Estrategia, op. cit., 62–77.

* A grant from the American Philosophical Society made possible the research for this essay.

Military Professionalism and Professional Militarism in Brazil, 1870–1970: Historical Perspectives and Political Implications*

  • Frederick M. Nunn


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