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Brazil: Brazilian President Signs Decree Authorizing Use of Armed Forces in Amazon Region

(Sept. 19, 2019) On August 23, 2019, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed Decree No. 9,985 (Decreto No. 9,985, de 24 de Agosto de 2019) authorizing the use of the armed forces to assist in fighting fires in the Amazon forest.

Article 1 of Decree No. 9,985 authorizes the use of the armed forces to guarantee law and order (Garantia da Lei e da Ordem) and for subsidiary actions from August 24 to September 24, 2019, in the border areas, indigenous lands, federal protected areas, and other areas of the Legal Amazon (Amazônia Legal) states that require preventive and suppressive actions against environmental crimes, and surveying and combating fire outbreaks.

Article 2 of the Decree provides for the use of the armed forces in other areas of the Legal Amazon if the governor of the respective state requests the president of the republic to authorize their use, subject to the provisions of article 15(3) of Supplementary Law No. 97 of June 9, 1999 (Lei Complementar [L.C.] No. 97, de 9 de Junho de 1999)—namely, when the respective head of the federal or state executive branch formally recognizes that the instruments listed in article 144 of the Federal Constitution (Constituição Federal [C.F.])—the federal police, federal highway police, federal railway police, civil police, military police, and military fire brigades—are considered unavailable, nonexistent, or insufficient to the regular performance of their constitutional mission.

Article 3 of Decree No. 9,985 determines that the minister of defense is to define the allocation of available resources and the commands responsible for the operation, while article 4 states that the armed forces are to be used in conjunction with the public security organs, coordinated by the commands referred to in article 3, as well as with public environmental protection agencies and entities.

Law and Order Guarantee

The law and order guarantee is derived from article 142 of the Constitution, which states that the armed forces (the navy, army, and air force) are permanent and regular national institutions, organized on the basis of hierarchy and discipline, under the supreme authority of the president, and are intended to defend the homeland, the guarantee of “the constitutional powers” (the executive, legislative, and judicial) and, at the initiative of either of them, law and order.

According to article 15 of L.C. No. 97, the use of the armed forces in defense of the homeland and in the guarantee of the constitutional powers, law and order, and participation in peace operations is the responsibility of the president, who must direct the minister of defense to deploy those forces. Section 2 of this article requires that the use of the armed forces to guarantee law and order, at the initiative of any of the constitutional powers, must take place in accordance with the directives issued by the president subsequent to the use of the instruments intended for the preservation of public order and safety and the security of persons and assets listed in article 144 of the Federal Constitution.

Section 4 of article 15 provides that preventive and suppressive measures by the armed forces to guarantee law and order are to be initiated at the direction of the president, in a previously established area and for a limited time, under the conditions provided for in section 3 of article 15.

Article 1 of Decree 3,897 of August 24, 2001 (Decreto No. 3,897, de 24 de Agosto de 2001) sets the guidelines for the planning, coordination, and execution of the actions of the armed forces and federal government agencies in order to guarantee law and order.

Legal Amazon

The Legal Amazon encompasses eight states—Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondonia, Roraima, and Tocantins. It was created on January 6, 1953, by Law No. 1,806 (Lei No. 1.806, de 6 de Janeiro de 1953) and later redefined by Law No. 5,173 of October 27, 1966 (Lei No. 5,173, de 27 de Outubro de 1966) for the purpose of economic and development planning for the region.

According to Brazil’s Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA), 56% of the Brazilian indigenous population resides in the Legal Amazon.

Updated September 19, 2019.