The Ibero-American Defense College Directors Conference (CDCDIA) is a forum that arose from the recognition of a shared cultural identity among Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of the Americas and those of Europe’s Iberian Peninsula. As such, Portugal and Spain are part of the CDCDIA and sent representatives to this year’s conference, held August 29–September 2, at the Brazilian War College in Rio de Janeiro. Diálogo spoke with Professor Isabel Ferreira Nunes, PhD., director of the National Defense Institute (IDN) in Portugal.
Diálogo: What is the importance of bringing European and Latin American countries together at an event like this conference?
Professor Isabel Ferreira Nunes, PhD.,director of the IDN: This is the first time I attended this conference and it was a very interesting experience. This contact with countries that have realities very different from ours is extremely enriching. What most caught my attention, in this case, was the impact of the geographic context in which each country finds itself. And I am not referring to their location in the Southern Hemisphere, but to the specific position of each of these countries in that their geographic location determines their political interest and also their economic and social conditioning. And that was, for me, the most interesting and innovative feature, because in fact it is very, very different from the context that we have in Europe, particularly in the context of the European Union.
Diálogo: What was the most important thing Portugal brought to this conference?
Prof. Nunes: I hope that the most important thing that Portugal brought to this conference was precisely this contribution of what it is to decide, plan, and react in a context of shared sovereignty, which is in fact a different context, and is the one that we have in the European context. We have a context of shared sovereignty, of sovereignty that is always contextualized, but which allows us to always retain the national interest, which is what sometimes regions of the globe that are less integrated than Europe have some difficulty in understanding, assuming that a situation of shared sovereignty will mean less freedom. And this is not so. We have greater freedom because we have more options to choose from.
Diálogo: How do you assess the use of the Portuguese Armed Forces in the fight against COVID-19? Was there excessive use?
Prof. Nunes: The Armed Forces and the security forces gained a lot of sympathy, solidarity, and also a good reputation in terms of their ability to manage that crisis in such a short period of time. With regard to possible overuse, on the contrary, the Armed Forces and the security forces were an element of great tranquility in the streets, especially in big cities like Lisbon or Porto. There was a close relationship of cooperation between civil society, the Armed Forces, and the security forces, of understanding of the guidelines that were given. In fact, the government also did a good job in the way it communicated with the population in a very clear way, very objective, scientifically based, and often, that is, very often, throughout the day, we were all, as citizens, receiving detailed information about the evolution of the situation. The most visible element on the streets in those days when we were all confined was the tremendous social support that the Armed Forces gave, for example, to the homeless, to people in need. And that generated the good reputation that I mentioned.