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Interview with the Head of the Brazilian Armed Forces Joint General Staff, Gen. José de Nardi

Interview with the Head of the Brazilian Armed Forces Joint General Staff, Gen. José de Nardi

By Dialogo
June 21, 2011

On September 6th, 2010, Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim appointed Gen. José Carlos de Nardi as the first Head of the Armed Forces Joint General Staff. The position was aligned with the new National Defense Strategy and was created after the Ministry of Defense’s reorganization. On the day of the appointment, Minister Jobim made a point of saying that the new position has nothing to do with the prior Head of the Armed Forces General Staff (EMFA – Estado Maior das Forças Armadas). The new position is hierarchically equivalent to the commanders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and General De Nardi is responsible for deploying the Armed Forces on joint exercises, for instance, while it is the commanders’ responsibility to train each of their respective forces. During his first visit to the U.S. Southern Command since he took on his new functions, in March, General De Nardi spoke with Diálogo.

Diálogo – How do you see the participation of the Brazilian Armed Forces in actions such as the retaking of some of the slums in Rio de Janeiro?

General De Nardi – The Armed Forces’ participation in retaking slums in Rio de Janeiro is provided for in the Federal Constitution, in Article 142: To secure law and order. In keeping with recommendations, their use in activities of this kind should occur episodically and in a restricted and predetermined area. This is precisely the context in which federal troops are acting in underprivileged communities in Rio de Janeiro.

Diálogo – On what does the success of the Armed Forces’ support for the police depend?

General De Nardi – In Brazil there is a constitutional charge to secure law and order, within predetermined parameters of time and space, without the Armed Forces taking on police functions, in other words, keeping their focus chiefly on homeland defense, the fundamental role of any armed force. In Brazil, police activity is limited to the country’s public-safety agencies. Along the border, the Armed Forces have police powers only in order to support actions that may perhaps have to be taken in fulfillment of their constitutional mission, and not in order to replace other public-safety actors operating in the same area.

Diálogo – How can Brazil help other countries in the region in this regard? And in regard to partnership in the fight against drug trafficking?

General De Nardi – There is no idea of cooperation among the armed forces of South America on matters of a police nature. What does exist is the possibility for the armed forces to act along the border, in constitutional situations and without a view toward replacing other public-safety agencies. The approach to issues linked to drug trafficking is directly linked to the Ministry of Justice. Integration of the South American nations via an international cooperation plan that aggregates police technology and intensifies intelligence actions is the model that will be sought for the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime between Brazil and neighboring countries.

Diálogo – What is the situation of the countries where Brazil has a peace-keeping presence, like Haiti and now Lebanon?

General De Nardi – Initially, it is important to emphasize that Brazil only acts with forces keeping peace and not with forces imposing peace, in observance of the provisions of the Federal Constitution and always under the aegis of international organizations, such as the UN and the OAS. The situation in these countries, according to the UN, requires stronger support from the international community, which is being provided through the presence of peace forces, including with Brazilian participation.

Diálogo – Why is it important for Brazil to participate in contingents like Minustah? What is Brazil’s role as a regional and international power, and how do the Armed Forces contribute to this?

General De Nardi – Participating in contingents like Minustah plays an important role in increasing troop training and the participation of the Armed Forces in peace operations, joining UN peace forces or those of regional multilateral organizations. Fulfilling international commitments is a valuable instrument of foreign policy, positively projecting Brazil’s image on the international scene. Aside from these aspects, it can also be considered a demonstration of dedication and responsibility in contributing to preserving world peace and security, reinforcing the principles of multilateralism and the peaceful resolution of disputes. I would also emphasize the important aspect of relationships and integration with armed forces of other countries. Regarding its role as a regional power, Brazil understands it to be much more important to participate, as another member, in the joint and regional efforts of all the South American countries. In this way, it is seeking to establish an eminently regional position in several aspects, among which is its relationship to the defense of the subcontinent.

Diálogo – What is going to be the participation of the Brazilian Armed Forces in events such as the World Cup and the Olympic Games, in terms of VIP security, in the streets, stadiums, etc.?

General De Nardi – The Brazilian Armed Forces will participate as an integral element of a greater context, in which various other actors will be equally involved. Their use for security activities will be strictly within the anticipated constitutional and legal limits, seeking to collaborate for the success of all the events mentioned. The experience already acquired through participation in large events like the 2007 Pan-American Games will serve as an important base for the activities carried out. The participation of the Armed Forces in both events, however, will still be a subject to be decided by the Brazilian government in future agreements on the matter.