While ongoing protests in Brazil have (understandably) occupied a growing amount of space in recent days, Brazilians are not the only ones making their voices heard.
In Chile, as the fight for educational reform approaches its third year, over 100,000 people took to the streets, continuing to demand educational reform. And while the linked article focuses on the tiny number of vandals in the article, what is worth taking away is that around 100,000 people gathered peacefully, continuing to insist that education in Chile (like in Brazil) receive better investment and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, in Costa Rica, Ticos throughout the country have taken to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the government over a variety of issues, ranging from the temporary cancellation of an agreement with China to develop an oil refinery, to a recent presidential scandal regarding Laura Chinchilla’s traveling on a private jet apparently owned by a drug lord (to say nothing of the organ-trafficking ring recently uncovered and mentioned in the first link).
And in Paraguay, following up on a protest of 3,000 late last week, citizens took to the streets throughout the country last night, drawing inspiration from the demonstrations in neighboring Brazil to demand better infrastructure and public services and an end to corruption.
To be clear, these demonstrations are not mere imitations of what is going on in Brazil - the Costa Rican protests are born of the individual issues facing the Costa Rican nation, and the struggle for educational reform in Chile goes back to 2011. And even the Paraguayan protests, which demonstrators admit have been inspired in part by Brazil’s demonstrations, are based on their own internal issues and struggles particular to lived experiences in Paraguay. Nonetheless, when considered alongside Brazil, it is clear not only that people throughout the region believe demonstrations to be an appropriate and effective means of shaping politics and politicians, but that these democracies are open enough that large groups can gather to make their voices heard. Even when there is police violence (and there still is), it is not repressive enough to stifle public dissent altogether, and that is a not-insignificant thing in countries like Brazil, Paraguay, and Chile that have seen far more repressive crackdowns on smaller rallies under dictatorships in the last 50 years.
As for Brazil, the demonstrations that are now entering their third week continue to affect politics and local economies. Yesterday, the Senate passed a bill that made corruption a “serious” crime – effectively elevating it from a misdimeanor to a felony – increasing the penalties for political corruption. At the same time, the Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for former Federal Deputy Natan Donadon, who in 2010 was convicted of embezzlement. By upholding the conviction, the Court made Donadon the first politician to be actually sentenced to prison for corruption since Brazil’s constitution went into effect in 1988.
Fernando Henrique Cardoso [again]. To wit, three moments in history:
- In 1994, while running for president, he defended the need for a constitutional assembly to provide reforms to Brazil’s constitution.
- In 1998, as his first term wound up and he was running for president for a second time, he defended a constitutional assembly to provide political, tax, and judicial reforms to Brazil’s constitution.
- In 2013, when President Dilma Rousseff (from the Workers Party, the main opposition to Cardoso’s PSDB), proposes a constitutional assembly in order to address political reforms that people in the streets are calling for, he calls Rousseff’s administration an “authoritarian regime.”
Although Cardoso remains the symbolic “head” of the PSDB, he stopped being a serious political figure years ago, thanks in no small part to his irrational hatred and hypocritical attitudes towards the PT. To be clear, there are plenty of legitimate criticisms of Rousseff and of the PT more generally that one can lobby, but you don’t hear them come from Cardoso. This latest ad hominem and unrealistic criticism of the PT is just another reminder of how far he’s fallen from his status as a progressive sociologist during the military dictatorship.
[H/t to Aline for links to the archived articles.]
President Dilma Rousseff backed down from the proposal to have a plebiscite to convoke a constitutional assembly, the president of the Organization of Brazilian Lawyers [OAB], Marcus Vinicius Coelho, said this Tuesday (25th), after participating in a meeting with the president, the vice president, Michel Temer, and minister José Eduardo Cardozo (Justice) in the Planalto Palace.
The change of the Planalto’s stance with regards to the issue – which was the principal and most polemical proposal the president presented in response to the demonstrations that have taken the streets in recent weeks – will be publicly presented by the minister of Justice, according to what Coelho reported.
According to the president of the OAB, an organization that since yesterday is one of those most opposed to Rousseff’s proposal, the model that should be publicly proposed now is that the very political reform itself be included in plebiscite. Translation: specific questions, yet to be determined, but that will involve basic reforms to the electoral process, and not to the present system of representation, will be offered to the population, which will be able to vote yes or no to each of the points. The OAB president said that the idea is to hold the plebiscite in October, in a way that would be valid for the 2014 elections.
This is not exactly bad news, but it’s not necessarily clear it is great news, either. Clearly, the presidential will to address the people’s political concerns and demands is there, and, depending on those “specific questions, yet to be determined,” perhaps a plebiscite on political reform will have a broad and long-lasting effect. That said, the plebiscite could offer toothless reforms, too, and implementation of policies without constitutional revision [if that is the case] could be difficult. At the risk of being vague, it is too early to say exactly what will happen, but one thing is certain: the broader political issues are going to take awhile to resolve, and there is no guarantee that they will address the structural, systematic, or practical issues that demonstrators in Brazil have raised. Rousseff’s meeting with leaders and governors are good early steps, but they are far from clear indicators of the unqualified success of demonstrators to transform Brazilian politics. While the popular will for political reforms is currently broad, the ways, effects, and extent of those reforms is far from certain right now. Simply (and perhaps obviously, but worth stating anyways), this is going to take awhile, and will be worth following in the coming months.