In Response to Protests, Brazil’s Congress Votes to Invest 100% of Oil Revenue into Education and Healthcare
President Dilma Rousseff conceded many of the demonstrators’ demands, and called for a national compromise to improve public services, by investing 100% of Brazil Oil revenues in education and health care.
NERITA OEIRAS, TRNN PRODUCER: This was a busy week on Brazil’s political agenda. After a wave of protests that involved more than 100 cities throughout the country, several moves took place in the political arena.
On the third week of social unrest, on Monday President Dilma Rousseff met governors and mayors to discuss topics being demanded by those protesting on the streets.
DILMA ROUSSEFF, PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): People are now out on the street saying that they desire for change to continue, that those changes be increased, that they occur even faster.
The country wants accountable political representation, a society where citizens, and not the economic power, are in first place. It is very good that people are voicing all this out loud.
OEIRAS: President Rousseff proposals where directed to improve basic services and infrastructure, on the belief that the popular uprising was not so much anti-government as it was motivated by income inequality and lack of basic services.
She then outlined a governmental action plan of five agreements in favor of the population. Dilma suggested that local governments would take action for immediate improvements.
The first agreement involved fiscal responsibilities and the guaranty of economic stability, with particular attention to inflation control.
In the second agreement, President Rousseff proposed a broad political reform that will put emphasis on citizen involvement on public decisions.
As part of the political reform and in order to immediately attend some demands, on Thursday, senators and congressmen on both chambers of Brazilian Congress quickly approved alterations in the penal code, considering corruption as a hideous crime, which minimal penalty raise from two to four years of incarceration.
In a third agreement, Dilma Rousseff proposed reforms to immediately improve the public health system, with the hire of international professionals as an emergency measure, but also thinking long-term by increasing the seats in the public universities to graduate more health professionals.
Regarding public education, Dilma suggested that the chambers would approve to use 100 percent of royalties coming from oil extraction on the public education system. Congressmen and senators immediately discussed this proposal, and on Wednesday they finally approved to split 75 percent education, 25 percent health.
Finally, to address the public transport issue, President Rousseff suggested an urban mobility agreement, promising to invest $25 billion in transportations systems. Dilma also reduced taxation on diesel to lower the cost of providing transportation.
On the streets, protests are still ongoing all over the country. Local movements haven taken the streets. In Rio de Janeiro, residents of favelas, taxi drives, LGBT community, health professionals, users of public transportation, and even leftist movements like Aldeia Maracanã and the United Socialist Workers’ Party have taken the streets to claim for immediate changes in their relevant topics, like on this protest we encountered downtown on Thursday at 5 p.m.
It is undeniable that protests have taken politicians to work out of their comfort zone, legislating in the same week about topics that have long been discussed, but never before obtained parliamentarian unanimity.
One important conquest for the population was the drop of constitutional amendment number 37 (the PEC 37) by 430 votes against, nine votes in favor, and two abstentions, all this in a matter of days after debating it since 2011 when it was introduced.
During this week, parties of the government and from the opposition arrived to a historic consensus. Pressured by the population, parties showed that efficacy and dialog are possible.
The opposition, who many feel could have taken more advantage of this fragile moment for the government, seemed divided. Senator Aécio Neves, favorite candidate of the opposition for the next election, criticized Dilma’s posture, accusing her of trying to “abstain from her responsibilities and transfer them to the National Congress”.
Contrasting Neves’ criticism, PSDB colleague and São Paulo’s governor Geraldo Alckimin declared that the meeting with the president was profitable and praised her decision to invest $25 billion in urban mobility.
Jailson Silva from Observatorio de Favelas, an NGO working inside Rio’s poorest neighborhoods, believes the most important issue is to achieve the participation of the general public on the main decisions.
JAÍLSON SILVA, DIRECTOR OF NGO OBSERVATORIO DE FAVELAS (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): In Brazil, poorest pay higher taxes than richest, and therefore there is a set of several dissatisfactions.
PT’s government disappointed people in several aspects, the main one being the participation of society in public decisions. Their political program included creating more participatory mechanisms, like plebiscite, referendums, and the possibility to revoke political mandates. None of these proposals have been implemented.
JOSÉ GOMES TEMPORÃO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ISAGS, FORMER HEALTH CARE MINISTER 2007-2011 (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Twenty-five years ago, in the context of political struggles, we created a new health system, generous, universal, that pretended to be a model in public health system. It is being repeated now, in a context of political struggles, with people in the streets, unsatisfied. That is a precious moment, because we can take steps forward regarding the question of public health.
Twenty-five percent of royalties from oil invested in public health was a remarkable achievement, but not enough. We must conquer 10 percent of all public incomes to be invested in health care to properly finance the system.
I insist that on the basis of all our problems, there is the question of financing, in this case the health care system.
ARY PIMENTEL, LECTURER, FEDERAL UNIVERSITY RIO DE JANEIRO (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We can no longer watch soccer inside the stadiums. It became so expensive that we can no longer be part of it. People who were used to going to Maracanã and other stadium over the country now can no longer pay 400 reais to watch a match, and now they can only see it from the street.
People understood that it would be much more interesting to take the streets and not to be passive, and to became socially active even about soccer, to transform the history of the country. That is what we have built during these last weeks.
A protest organized by the People’s Committee to World Cup and Olympics took place outside the final game of the Confederations Cup, with people protesting against the privatization of the stadiums, and other social issues affecting those who demonstrated.
PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): It is more than just being against the government. It is against neoliberal development policies that exclude popular participation.
LUIZ FERNANDES, PCB (PARTIDO COMUNISTA BRASILEIRO) (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): In the name of stability and governance, PT have made pacts with bourgeois and representatives of capital. This government has detached itself from workers’ demands, and that explain why leftist movements are now on the streets criticizing the government’s posture in favor of monopolies and great capital.
PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We the indigenous were violently taken out of the Aldeia Maracanã only because we defended our rights in favor of the indigenous populations.
PROTESTER (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Brazilian government is not left. it is a government that carries on economical politics that are directly linked to imperialism and international financial capital.
The people now on the streets is the result of a frustration with a government that presented itself as a worker’s government, but in reality it represents the owners.
OEIRAS: This Sunday, in the historic Maracanã stadium, Brazil won the Confederations Cup, defeating Spain in the final game. Now we are left to know if the waves of protest will also come to an end.
Reporting from Rio de Janeiro for The Real News, this is Nerita Oeiras.
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