Brazil

Statement on the Braziliam Referendum on debt

Marcos Arruda
PACS, Institute of Alternative Policies for the Southern Cone of Latin America
September 14, 2000

Rio de Janeiro – The Nereu Ramos auditorium in the National Congress in Brasilia, yesterday afternoon, was crowded. People were standing on the hall-ways and were also packing the hall outside the auditorium. The national and international press was also there. The National Coordination had carefully designed the program, but some of its members were still revising the figures just before they were announced. The public included representatives of a large spectrum of civil society organizations who had participated in the Referendum. There were some Catholic and Protestant Bishops and a number of senators and congressional representatives, as well as opposition party leaders.

Pastor Ervino Schmidt, general secretary of CONIC – the National Council of Christian Churches – opened the session. He explained that CONIC was one of the organizers of the Referendum. Its membership includes the Roman Catholic Church and seven Protestant denominations. He invited representatives of more than 20 representatives of some of the church authorities and social organizations to the table. He also invited Ivo Poletto, of Caritas Brazil, to moderate the session. Mr. Poletto called on Fr. Jose’ Alfredo Goncalves, secretary of the Pastoral Office of CNBB, the Brazilian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, to announce the partial results of the Referendum (see attached message).

Fr. Alfredo began: “The total number of voters in the country was five million…” He could not go on. The public began to clap and shout, gradually everyone stood up and clapped and hailed for two or three minutes. A sense of victory, so rare a feeling in recent years, overtook the crowd. Finally he was able to go on: “five million four hundred and seventy six thousand… in more than 3000 municipalities of Brazil”, or 5.16% of the number of voters in 1998.

The votes on the three questions were distributed as follows:

1) Should the Brazilian government keep the current agreement with the IMF? 93.81% said NO, 4.56% said YES, 1.21% blank and .43 null.

2) Should Brazil continue to pay the foreign debt without making a public audit as prescribed by the 1988 Constitution? 96.57% said NO, 2.19% said YES, .9 blank and .36 null.

3) Should the Federal, state and municipal governments continue to use a large part of the public budget to pay the internal debt to the speculators? 94.93% said NO, 2.45% said YES, 1.3 blank and 1.32 null.

Following the announcement of the results, Poletto read the eloquent messages of support to the Brazilian Referendum, sent by international personalities and institutions related to the International Jubilee Campaign, among them Mr. Antonio Teixeira, of Angola, Mr. Eric Toussaint, of Belgium, and Dr. Walter Oswald, of Germany. He then invited Rep. Jose’ Dirceu, president of the Workers’ Party, and Senator Heloisa Helena to present the two projects they are sponsoring in their respective houses of Congress. The first, demanding a national official Referendum, in the terms of the Constitution of 1988, about the agreement with the IMF and a public audit on the foreign debt. The second, proposing the unilateral cancellation of the debts owed Brazil by countries which have a per capita income lower than Brazil’s.

After short presentations by church and social leaders, the public still heard the messages of Donna Andrews, of the South African Jubilee Campaign, and Beverly Keene, of the Argentinian Jubilee Campaign. Beverly referred to the path opened by the Brazilian Jubilee Campaign who organized the Tribunal of the Foreign Debt, and announced that more than seven highly indebted countries of the South, among them Argentina, were taking similar initiatives in the coming months.

It should be noted that:

1. The National Referendum was a people’s initiative. It has no legal power, but it is a very powerful political expression of the public will.

2. People were free to vote, not compelled as they are by the national legislation when official elections are held.

3. The Referendum did not benefit from any support of the large media. Publicity was restricted to the austere financial means raised by the organizers of the Campaign in each state. The media and the Brazilian government were massively loud against the Referendum. Their attack included lies and bad words. They tried to discredit the Referendum using every possible form of aggression. The government tried to identify the Referendum as an electoral tactic of the opposition parties. It also tried to pressure the Catholic church leaders to dismantle the initiative.

4. More than 130,000 people voluntarily participated in the collection of votes in the streets, squares, churches, offices, trains, subways of cities and also in remote villages. It was one of the strongest expressions of direct democracy the country has ever experienced.

5. The Executive and the Legislative powers of government are called to listen to the voice of the people of Brazil. The demands are clear: Stop the agreement with the IMF and make a public audit of the financial debts. In the language of the campaigners: in defining governmental expenditures, give priority to paying the social and environmental debts!

The organizers published a statement with the title: “THE REFERENDUM CONFIRMS: LIFE ABOVE DEBT!” The statement will be available in one or two days.

LIFE ABOVE DEBT!

Categories: Brazil, Odious Debts, South America

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