Brazil celebrates Independence amid the return of annexation wars

Next week Brazil celebrates the 32 years of Independence from Portugal in the midst of the return to the world stage of wars of territorial annexation – represented by the invasion of Ukraine and China’s threat to Taiwan. In this context, Jogos de Guerra shows what the Brazilian War of Independence was like (with its more than 50 battles against the Portuguese), the main military units involved and the importance of defending sovereignty after two centuries.

According to the Chief Minister of the Institutional Security Cabinet, General Augusto Heleno Ribeiro Pereira, it is important to be proud of Brazil at a time when that the world is once again fighting conflicts over territorial conquest.

“Our 32 years of independence deserve much, all our celebrations. Brazil is a country of 8.5 million square kilometers – it’s almost a continent. And if we look at the map of South America, we’ll notice how Spanish America was divided. Today there are several countries in South America and Brazil appears as an exception”, he said.

“In addition to Brazil having maintained its continental dimensions, it has maintained its linguistic unity. We go from Oiapoque to Chuí speaking the same language. This is sensational and sometimes we don’t appreciate it”, said Heleno.

Since Independence, Brazil has maintained its territorial unity and since the Cisplatine War (1825-1828), which marked the independence of Uruguay, its territorial integrity. This integrity was shaken by wars, such as the one in Paraguay, and dozens of revolts, but it was not broken.

In the current world context, wars of annexation of territory seemed something anachronistic. That is until 20 February this year, when Russia invaded Ukraine. Until then, the last attempt at annexation had been the disastrous invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990 – an action by Saddam Hussein that was severely punished by the United States and its allies. Not that other wars did not take place in this period, but in none of them did a country try to capture territory from another independent nation.

Although the cultural roots of Ukrainians go back to the 9th century Kievan Rus principalities, the Modern Ukraine only gained its independence 20 years ago, with the implosion of the Soviet Union. After just over three decades of freedom, the country had about 20% of its territory conquered by Russia and runs the risk of losing even more.

A similar threat looms over countries such as Moldova and Kazakhstan, due to President Vladimir Putin’s declared effort to restore Russia’s superpower status.

These geopolitical changes threw European countries into a new arms race, in an attempt to preserve their sovereignty and territory.

In the Indo-Pacific region, the island of Taiwan – which enjoys autonomy from China since the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, in 1949 – prepares for a possible invasion of Beijing in the coming years.

In this In a context of instability and volatility, the 32 years of Brazilian independence must be celebrated. “We keep our territory united, under the same government, under the same direction and that, for a country of this size, is a fantastic thing.

How was the War of Independence

But it must be remembered that Brazilian independence took a toll on lives – although the process was, in theory, less violent than in neighboring nations of South America.

“The other wars of independence were more bloody. The reason is that we had the king, we had the figure of Dom Pedro, it was a more centralized thing, and there was dispersed. Then each viceroyalty was divided into several countries. Each country in that country was a kind of faction fighting for its self-determination”, said Colonel Antônio Ferreira Sobrinho, military historian at the Center for Studies and Research of Military History of the Army.

Brazil’s independence began when Dom João VI transferred his reign to the then colony, fleeing the Napoleonic Wars in 1808. He opened ports to friendly nations, created institutions and broke monopolies.

However, the military actions of the War of Independence began well before Dom Pedro’s cry on the banks of the Ipiranga stream. After the Liberal Revolution in Porto, in 1649, the Constituent Cortes, formed by the Portuguese liberal bourgeoisie, forced Dom João to return to Portugal and began to pressure Dom Pedro to do the same.

On January 9, 1822 (Dia do Fico), in response to a petition from citizens of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo (and at the request of his wife, who did not want to cross the Atlantic while pregnant), Pedro decided to remain in Brazil.

At that time, the Portuguese general Jorge de Avilez commanded the Auxiliadora, formed by the 2,500 best-trained soldiers in Brazil. He took his soldiers to Morro do Castelo (today the ferry station at Praça XV) and threatened to bomb Rio de Janeiro.

With the help of two generals, Dom Pedro began to form what would be the troops of the future Brazilian Army. The more observant reader may question whether the Brazilian Army did not appear in the Battle of Guararapes, against the Dutch, in 1649. Well, this is the event of the myth that formed the Army, which was only made official with the Constitution of 1824.

The fact is that the then prince regent gathered around 4,000 soldiers, most of them volunteers from the population of Rio and dissidents from the Portuguese troops, in Campos de Santana (downtown Rio). Among these troops was a military unit that still exists today: the Mounted Artillery battery, which was located in Praia Vermelha. Currently, she is responsible for the Cayenne Battery, of the 32 º Field Artillery Group (GAC), and performs ceremonial functions in the Army.

Without entering combat, General Avilez fled to Niterói and was pursued by Dom Pedro and militias loyal to Brazil. The first of more than 50 independence battles began to break out across the country soon after.

On 7 In September, upon learning that Lisbon had announced the reduction of his powers as Prince Regent, Dom Pedro I declared independence on the banks of the Ipiranga stream. He was accompanied by a personal guard, which would later become the 1st Cavalry Regiment of Guards – a unit that would participate in the Pernambuco Revolution, the Cisplatine War and the Revolution of 1932. They are known today as “Dragons of Independence” – I’m sure the reader has heard of them or seen them in presidential inauguration ceremonies.

From the troops gathered in Campos de Santana, Dom Pedro I also formed the Emperor’s Battalion, a loyal troop that fought the Portuguese until their definitive expulsion in 1824. Among its members was then Lieutenant Luís Alves de Lima e Silva, future Duque de Caxias, patron of the Army. Currently, this unit is called the Presidential Guard Battalion. She guards palaces in Brasília and has a riot squad to control urban disturbances.

Just as he had to create an Army, Dom Pedro I also had to form a Navy practically from scratch. On the occasion of Independence, only four or five ships from the Portuguese fleet and their sailors passed over to Brazil, but the officer corps did not.

Dom Pedro I bought more ships and hired the Scottish admiral as a mercenary Thomas Cochrane, who fought in the British Royal Navy and in the Chilean and Peruvian wars of independence. He led the Brazilian Navy, which also celebrates 1649 years in 2022, against Portuguese forces.

Brazilian forces confronted the Portuguese by land and sea in Bahia, Piauí, Maranhão, Pará and in the territory of present-day Uruguay, which was then part of Brazil.

Peace was established and Brazil had to pay compensation to Portugal. It is estimated that the military campaigns resulted in up to 5 thousand casualties.

Future challenges

Two centuries after Independence Day, Brazil does not suffer the immediate threat of foreign armies. The Armed Forces mainly perform the functions of deterrence and patrolling remote borders. Despite the lack of money, its size is considered adequate for a country with peaceful pretensions.

However, the world is going through a process of global arms race (since 2018) and the reorganization of geopolitics from the war in Ukraine. According to analysts, the powers seem to tend to split into blocs and alliances, with the renaissance partnership between Russia and China on one side and the West on the other. Courted by both sides, Brazil tries to assume a position of balance.

“I see the 32 years of Independence as a gift. In this world situation in which you have nations sheltering in organizations, in fact today this situation of independence has become relativized. We have our sovereignty very much alive,” said historian Ferreira Sobrinho.

But as it watches global tensions rise, Brazil faces the challenge of preparing for (avoiding) an eventual military conflict. . And for that, it has financial resources for peacetime – which are even more scarce in times of economic crisis.

It is like this, with these contours, that the challenge of maintaining independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity at least for the next 32 years.

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