Brazil, Intelligence and Security
Brazil gained its independence from Portugal in 1822, seizing upon a period of European unrest to establish its own government. Since that time, the government of Brazil has been traditionally unstable, with large-scale landowners, the military, and democratic forces vying for political power.
A military coup took control of the nation for much of the late twentieth century, but civilians regained control of the government in 1985. Under military rule, political dissidents were taken into custody and sometimes tortured. The government used the intelligence services to conduct surveillance of citizens and infiltrate political organizations. The regime also imposed strict censorship. In 1989, Brazil had its first free elections in three decades. Seeking to distance the new government from the legacy of its predecessors, sweeping reforms were made to demilitarize the national intelligence and security agencies. While Brazil's government has continued to weather scandal and presidential overthrow, the reformed intelligence community established in the early 1990s remains largely intact.
While the armed forces still maintain limited special intelligence units, most of Brazil's intelligence community is civilian. The Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) was created in 1995 to replace the Strategic Affairs Secretariat (SAE). The civilian government's first attempt at a reformed intelligence agency, the SAE supervised the Brazilian intelligence community from 1990–1994. Amid concerns that military interests dominated the agency, despite efforts to demilitarize its operations, the agency was dissolved and replaced with ABIN.
The Brazilian Intelligence agency is the main intelligence and security force in Brazil. Responsible for both internal and external intelligence, the agency coordinates operations between various operational branches and national law enforcement services. Charged with the protection of Brazilian interests both at home and abroad, ABIN collects and analyzes information from a variety of sources. The agency utilizes human, signals, and remote intelligence. The largest operational branch of ABIN is its counterintelligence unit. ABIN's counterintelligence division focuses on the protection of economic interests from sabotage, terrorism, and corporate espionage. The unit also conducts political surveillance of the military and coordinates efforts with law enforcement to ensure border security.
Today, Brazil has the sixth-largest population in the world. Its two largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, have respective populations of 19 and 10 million people. The most populous nation in South America, Brazil is one of the regions leading economies. In 2000, Brazilian intelligence began a series of operations targeting illegal business practices, including money laundering, trafficking of illegal drugs, and corporate espionage.