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Brazil’s World Cup 2014: Private Security “Made in the USA“

Security has become a market in itself, and only those who can pay have access to it.

As the World Cup nears, the Brazilian press has reported that the American company Academi, formerly Blackwater, carried out training of Brazilian military personnel and federal police in April.

The training is a facet of the military cooperation agreement between Brazil and the United States signed in 2010 during the second term of the Lula de Silva administration in preparation for containing terrorist acts during this year’s World Cup. Academi is a private security company based in the United States, and has used mercenary soldiers in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When the agreement was signed, the Brazilian government maintained that the accord would permit the “strengthening of dialogue and opening of new cooperation prospects on a balanced and mutually beneficial basis.” According to the Brazilian government, it was attempting to “perfect already existing and future cooperation in areas such as high-level delegation visits, technical contacts, institutional meetings, student exchanges, training of personnel, visits by ocean vessels, and sporting and cultural events.”

The minister of defense at the time, Nelson Jobim, declared the agreement “very general” and a sort of “giant umbrella” beneath which “many possibilities will open in terms of future negotiations”, but did not give details in terms of what those negotiations would be or what they would mean.

Although the terms of the agreement regarding its activities are generic, the concept of security promoted by the United States and the services offered by Academi are more concrete. “It is a logic of commercialization, of privatization, and a move toward the use of third-party security,” affirms Esther Solano Gallego, professor of International Relations at the Federal University of Sao Paulo.

The industry that capitalized on the concept of “terrorism” has increased the use of “security” as a market platform. Within the framework of the “security” initiatives of the United States government, Academi offers on its official website everything from assistance to foreign militaries, to training in the fight against transnational terrorism and the interception of weapons of mass destruction.

The concept of “security” that guides U.S. military doctrine has influenced and continues to influence the signing of international agreements within the framework of the “war on terror,” where the enemy is found within the general public, an enemy that must be attacked using every possible means. “The concept of ‘enemy’ and ‘terrorism’ as a basis for security is a type of security with a large ideological component,” states Gallego.

In a country without a history of terrorist incidents, Gallego considers the potential terrorist threat at the World Cup minimal. The risk of instability during the event is a different matter. “Possible demonstrations are being organized by some groups of the Brazilian populace to protest and confront police,” Gallego explains.

An internal enemy

The enemy indicated by the media, governments, and the police are social movements. Even an anti-terrorism bill currently being debated in the Brazilian Congress defines these groups as “enemies,” using actions like those of Black Bloc as justification for the law.

“We cannot understand Black Bloc as a terrorist phenomenon. This category is not applicable. The problem is that a social and political neurosis has been created as a result of the actions of Black Bloc in the streets. There was no serious debate about what was happening and these bills appeared (like the anti-terrorism legislation) without internal coherence, as a political play, that does nothing more than create more serious problems and raise the climate of social tension,” emphasizes the professor.


Academi’s actions are often carried out without information about what is happening. “The training of the Brazilian police surprised us because nothing had been communicated with respect to the intervention of this mercenary company. This is one of the principle problems–the lack of information surrounding Academi’s actions, which makes supervision, demand for respect of the law, and social accountability very difficult.”

Professor Gallego asks, ”Until what point is it legitimate to delegate control over security and violent assignments to a mercenary company over which the citizens have no control?”

“In the case of Academi it is even more controversial and polemic because the company has accumulated lawsuits and, furthermore, is a foreign company that is exporting a security model to Brazil that the Brazilian people have not chosen. In some ways it is an interference in the sovereignty of the citizenry,” she adds, noting that Brazilian citizens were not consulted about the initiative.

In the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, the Brazilian government’s security secretary for mega-events affirms that “there was no prior indication that there would be third-party instructors,” which is to say, the contracting of the services of Academi.

Freedom of movement

Jobim, Brazil’s ex-minister of defense, explained at the time of the signing of the agreement that such an accord did not imply the authorization of the use of military bases or the right to unlimited movement of U.S. personnel inside Brazil. However, on the eve of the World Cup, Complementary Law 276/02 is making its way through Brazil’s Congress. It is an executive law that would allow the nation’s president to delegate to the minister of defense and the heads of the armed forces the ability to grant permits and would allow for the temporary presence of foreign forces in Brazil, without authorization by Congress. On April 23, the bill was approved in a House session by a vote of 270 to 1.

In accordance with the legislation, foreign forces would be allowed in to participate in improvement programs, officially or unofficially, and even for scientific and technological purposes, to attend to supply situations, to provide repairs or support, and for search and rescue missions. Now the bill is awaiting approval by the Senate.

Security for the world

Academi offers a concept of global security, defined on its website as, “Your trusted partner in global security. Effective security proven to change the world.”

This company is considered the largest private army in the world. Since its founding under the name Blackwater, and just after September 11, it obtained private security contracts with the George W. Bush administration that amounted to over one hundred million dollars, according to Jeremy Scahill in his book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Two years after its creation, the company, which was responsible for the killing of seventeen civilians in Iraq, changed its name to Xe Services in an attempt to clean up its reputation. After 2010 the company was sold to a group of private investors, and the name was changed once again, this time to Academi.

In 2010, Academi signed contracts with the Obama administration worth 250 million dollars for operations in Afghanistan and work for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), not counting without the hundreds of contracts established with banks and diplomats, principally from the U.S.

It has been thirteen years since 9/11 and it seems that the war on terror has no end. It has, however, generated huge profits for private companies like Academi that sell private security, and for the United States’ war industry. During the decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense expenditures and profits skyrocketed; in 2010 alone the annual U.S. defense budget doubled, and industry profits have quadrupled. Indeed, security has become a market in itself, and only those who can pay have access to it.

Translation: Miriam Taylor

Editor: Laura Carlsen/Americas Program

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