[6/30/05] MST Update #93 The Political Reform that Brazil Needs

Dear Friends of the MST

The political and social crisis that Brazil is facing is an opportunity for activists and society in general to discuss possible solutions. The MST, along with 45 organizations and movements, signed a DECLARATION TO THE BRAZILIAN PEOPLE, that makes the following recommendations to the government:

1- Ministerial reform, suspending conservative and/or corrupt ministers

2- Changes to economic policy

3- Wide-sweeping political reform

4- Fulfillment of social rights guaranteed in the Brazilian Constitution, such as the right to work, land, housing, education and culture, which are kept out of reach by current economic policy.

5- Discussions with society regarding a new model of development, possible with the reemergence of mass movements.

Unfortunately, part of the bourgeois press refused to publish the social movements’ declaration and opted to misrepresent it as a show of support for Lula. To clarify the content of the declaration, the MST affirms that we will only overcome the crisis by adopting the five above measures. The solutions are not based in party politics, which would increase “governability‿, but not resolve the people’s problems, such as access to land, unemployment, hunger, the distribution of wealth and lack of popular participation in government decisions. To stimulate debate and reflection around this issue, we disseminate the following contribution of State Representative Father Sérgio Görgen (PT-RS).

The Political Reform that Brazil needs

By Father Sérgio Görgen

1. Direct Democracy: create permanent mechanisms for direct popular participation in political decisions.

2. Social Control over the State: popular participation via mechanisms to control the budget of all branches of government; popular participation in the auditing of the government and punishing all parties implicated in corruption; convocation of popular participation in whistle-blowing and testifying against corruption, while protecting their identity; the establishment of promoters who audit the State; ban on corrupt companies’ participation in any government contracts.

3. End the spoils system: an end to the individual congressional amendments, prohibition of public officials maintaining ties to companies that hold state contracts.

4. End of Career Politicians: prohibition on more than two consecutive terms, and a requirement that a four year pause precede election to a new office or appointment to a post.

5. Recall options: in addition to the already existing option of a recall referendum, recalls via judicial order or by party vote.

6. Limited Immunity: End of congressional immunity, except in cases related to the right to opine and complain or in functions that are directly related to the office held.

7. Direct Democracy: On-going convocation of plebiscites, referenda and consultations in important decisions.

8. Campaign Finance and Political Parties: public financing for political campaigns; strict laws banning private money, whether personal or from third parties.

9. Politicians’ wages: calculated as the average of the public servants’ wages in the district elected (federal congressmen, average of federal employees; state congressmen, average of state employees, etc.)

10. Party Loyalty: ban on changing parties for three years after election; party term, if official leaves their party, their position remains within the party; reversibility contingent on a democratic decision by the party in question.

11. Expanded Special Legislative Assemblies: deliberation and approval of budgets, budget guidelines and annual municipal, state and federal plans by expanded legislative assemblies of representatives elected for two year terms, to discuss and vote on the laws with candidates not only from political parties, but also labor unions, associations, social movements and student organizations.

12. Popular Initiatives: precedence for processing and voting on initiatives with a minimum number of verified signatures of voters.

13. Popular Municipal Assemblies: end of city councils as they currently exist, establishment of Popular Municipal Assemblies, with no fixed salary, and a per diem to offset costs for meetings; municipal assemblies with full-time city councils only in cities of more than 100,000 residents (in which there would be Popular Assemblies by neighborhood); access to representation in the Municipal Assemblies conferred by membership in political parties, associations, social movements, labor unions, student organizations, etc.

14. Representation by gender and historically excluded ethnic groups: minimum quotas in all municipal, state and federal legislative arenas for indigenous peoples (when applicable), blacks and women.

15. Executive offices (President, Governors, Mayors) of six years with no possibility of reelection: up until the fourth year of office, signatures of 30% of registered voters could justify a recall election and if they receive more than half of the votes could suspend the term of the executive and call new elections.

16. Unicameral National Congress: end of the Senate, and when a decision requires balance between the states, the votes of the state delegations in the Brazilian Congress will be weighed equally, regardless of the state’s population.

National Secretariat of the MST


Via Campesina discusses the debt owed by ranchers in the Brazilian Congress

On June 27th, representatives of the Via Campesina, congressmen and small farmers discussed the debt owed by ranchers. Since 1980, latifundiários have postponed their debt payments and have still not paid them. Social movements ask that Lula propose the exchange of their debts for land, to be destined to Land Reform.

Pará Court pursues suit against landless

The most recent chapter of violence in the state of Pará is the largest displacement of landless camps carried out in Brazil to date. Judge Líbio Moura, of the Land Court of Marabá authorized the eviction of 48 landless camps. The court, created by the state government in 2003, was intended to mediate rural conflicts. Nearly 20,000 people will be homeless at the end of the operation.

MST supports plebiscite to prohibit arms sales in Brazil

The number of firearms deaths in Brazil in the last 10 years surpassed the number of victims in 26 armed conflicts around the world, including the Gulf War and the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. During this period 325,551 people died from gun wounds, an average of 32,555 deaths per year. Statistics from UNESCO.

translated by Friends of the MST volunteer Lincoln Ellis