Brazil’s military-industrial complex is a highly influential and institutionalized aspect of Brazilian society. For most of Brazil’s history, the military and its willingness to use force when needed, has been seen as the institution that has protected the stability of the country throughout various internal issues. From 1889-1964 the military had in some way intervened in Brazil’s internal politics 6 times, each time restoring stability and then handing power over to a new authority. This culminated in 1964 when the military decided to permanently involve itself in the affairs of the state, and the reign of Brazil by a military junta was established (O’Neil et al 2018). During the period of rule by military dictatorship (1964-85), the military made strong inroads towards the creation of a large-scale military industrial complex that would advance the economic and policy goals of the state. Military think-tanks such as the Superior War College, and the dictatorship’s creation of specified R&D institutions assigned to each branch of the armed services allowed the Brazilian defense industry, through the rise of arms exports, and the technological investment in nuclear and space programs, to assist in propelling the Brazilian economy to new heights and allowed Brazil to become a leader among the Global South in military R&D (Conca, 1998; Zaborsky, 2003; Zibechi, 2019). During the 1990’s the Brazilian defense sector saw a major collapse. The reasons for the collapse are still being debated, but it has been speculated that it was due to such possible factors as a change in the international demand for arms, the changing nature of the post-soviet arms market, and institutional issues within the Brazilian state itself (Conca, 1998).
Since the establishment of democracy in Brazil in 1988, the formerly preeminent role in daily politics the military played has waned, but with the election of President Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, the military-industrial complex has seen a resurgence. Lula’s government paid more attention to the desires of the military, and with influence by the military-industrial complex, finalized Brazil’s official National Defense Strategy (END) in 2008 (Zibechi, 2019). The profound influence of the Brazilian military-industrial complex has allowed Brazil to establish regional dominance, and has facilitated their projection of state power to go beyond the regional boundaries of South America, with Brazilian power now displayed across the world stage. In 2017 Brazil’s defense budget was the largest in South America, and ranked them 11th in terms of defense expenditure in the world (Rezende & Blackwell, 2019). Brazilian defense industry exports are rising again with Taurus and Embraer finding themselves in the headlines amid concerns about the exportation practices in Brazil’s defense sector. Brazilian weapons that have shown up in the Syrian civil war, as well as military plane and vehicle sales to African nations have compounded these concerns (Muggah &Thompson, 2016; Sanchez, 2015).
All of these issues involving the Brazilian military-industrial complex have come to full light recently due to the election of Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro who ran a reactionary campaign has touted the benefits of the military past. During the campaign Bolsonaro, a former military officer himself, promised to elect former members of the military to key cabinet positions, a promise he subsequently fulfilled upon taking office. Seven of his twenty-two ministers have backgrounds in the military. His vice president, Hamilton Mourao, was a high ranking general, whom Bolsonaro served under during his time in the military. Concerningly, Mourao was sacked from his position in the military in 2017, for stating that the military should affect a coup if the Brazilian judiciary failed to mitigate corruption. This, as well as Bolsonaro’s initial pick for transport minister, a man who wanted to complete army projects in the Amazon started by the junta in the ‘70s, highlights a growing concern that the military will make a significant return to direct influence on the day to day politics of Brazil (Albertus, 2018; Boadle, Brooks, & Chan, 2018; Zibechi, 2019).