Brazil military in need of new weapons - report

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SAO PAULO, Nov 26 (Reuters) Brazil's armed forces, the largest military in Latin America, are badly equipped, demoralized over pay and stuffed with generals, according to a report by news magazine Veja.

The forces are facing their worst crisis because the government has failed to make them a priority and to realize the role they should play in national affairs, political scientist Geraldo Cavagnari of Campinas State University is quoted as saying in the leading Brazilian weekly.

''Brazil has celebrated 22 years of democracy after 21 years of dictatorships. Now the military is attracting the country's attention with a rare intensity,'' says the report in Veja's latest issue.

Soldiers are fed up with outdated weaponry such as 30-year-old rifles and Korean War-era tanks, it says. Some 88 percent of the air force's planes are more than 15 years old.

Of the navy's 21 warships, only 10 are in operation. Just two of its five submarines are in service. Low salaries and lack of funding also are major complaints, according to the magazine.

With 290,000 men and women, Brazil's military is the 15th largest in the world. But ranked by the number of personnel per head of population, it is eighth in the Americas, behind neighbors such as Venezuela.

However, there is a high ratio of generals to other troops, Veja says.

The magazine says the military's main concerns are defending the Amazon, containing Brazil's leftist neighbors and maintaining its ability to protect the country's maritime territory.

In a poll carried out for Veja by CNT/Sensus, 82 per cent of military personnel surveyed and 72 per cent of civilians said the Amazon region risks being occupied by a foreign power.

Some 88 per cent of civilians, compared with 53 per cent of the military, said the army should fight drug traffickers and other criminals operating in cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, according to the poll.

Reuters AK VP0036

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