By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – With the approval of both of Brazil’s legislative houses, the intervention decree issued by President Michel Temer last week, the Armed Forces now have full command of security operations in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
However the wording of the decree has been criticized by both those opposed to the measure and by those who have now been in put in charge of those operations.
One of the concerns expressed is – how far, legally, can the Armed Forces go to restore peace and security in the state.
“They have one shot at this (intervention). It has to work,” retired General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira said during a TV interview over the weekend. “What we hope is that the army will have a legal backing and operational flexibility to do everything it can do.”
The current commander of Brazil’s Army, General Eduardo Villas Bôas agrees, going even further and stating that his troops need ‘guarantees to act without the risk of a new Truth Commission in the future’.
The Truth Commission was installed in 2011 by the Brazilian government to investigate serious human rights violations committed during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985) with several military personnel being found guilty of torture and even death of those who opposed the regime.
Those opposed to the military taking over Rio’s security say that if these assurances are given to the Armed Forces it will be the same as a ‘license to kill’.
“The role of the Armed Forces is historically marked by the increase in the number of violations of rights, operating in the logic of ‘fighting the enemy’ and, according to this logic, the black population, the poor and those living in favelas and peripheries are the one who should be ‘combated’,” criticized the National Council of Human Rights (CNDH), which is linked to the Human Rights Ministry.
Opponents also criticize the wording that allows for the search and seizure of entire streets or areas, without legally specifying individuals being targeted.
Justice Minister, Torquato Jardim, justified the leeway allowing the troops to enter people’s homes and businesses stating Rio is ‘at war’ against domestic enemies.
“Anyone can be an enemy, they have no uniforms. You have to be prepared against everything and everyone, all the time,” justified Jardim in an interview earlier this week to daily Correio Braziliense. Jardim however, said that in all searches the individuals’ rights would be rigidly upheld.
With the escalating violence in the state and the alarming number of police officers killed on and off duty in recent months, the federal government gave in to the appeals of Rio’s governor, Luiz Fernando Pezão for a more active engagement of federal troops in combating crime although for many the decision was made hastily and without much planning.