No one saw it coming. The wave of protests that took over Brazil in the past few weeks has shaken up the country. And despite the fact that several major cities have already announced the reversal or even cutback of the bus fares that sparked the protests, the demonstrations are still going on and even increasing in scale.
The question that has now been posed by many observers is, "Do the protesters have a common cause?" Acknowledging that the lack of a cause may impair the force of the protests, a video has been released, allegedly affiliated with the Brazil Anonymous group, proposing "five causes" that the Brazilian population should adhere to. The video was released with the purpose of uniting the people, giving them a determined voice, and giving the government a chance to show that they are really "listening," as President Dilma Rousseff claimed. In this sense, I support its purpose. The "five causes" are listed below, together with an explanation of my view on why they are justified.
1. NO to the PEC-37
PEC-37 is a measure that was originally going to be voted on in Congress on June 26. Voting has now been postponed indefinitely as a result of the protests. PEC-37 would remove all the powers of criminal investigation that are currently bestowed upon the Public Ministry. If the bill is approved, the only organ responsible for criminal investigations in Brazil, including government-related investigations, would be the police force. The Public Ministry, however, would still have the power to overlook these investigations, and would still participate in the judgment process. The system would work like the U.S., with the police investigating, and the district attorneys prosecuting.
While the PEC-37 is not a theoretical blunder — it would not necessarily lead to complete impunity, as most people are blindly arguing — it fails to take into consideration the reality of the highly corrupt police force in Brazil. Here, the police are underpaid and under-trained. A lot of them are corrupt. The police is therefore not reliable enough to be granted this exclusive power. Essentially, Brazil is not ready for a measure like PEC-37, at least not yet.
2. Immediate Resignation Of Renan Calheiros From the Presidency Of the National Congress
Renan Calheiros is a notoriously corrupt politician, known primarily for his involvement in corruption scandals that took over Brazil around 2005. Calheiros is accused of embezzlement, among other things. In 2007, he renounced his post as president of the Senate, precisely because of corruption allegations which were gaining momentum against him and were generating national attention towards the widespread corruption in Congress. This year, Renan was re-elected president of Congress, counting on support from the Workers Party (the current ruling party), and several other parties allied with the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (Calheiros' party).
3. Immediate Investigation Of Irregularities in World Cup Spending
Brazil’s World Cup will be one of the most expensive in history, at an estimated cost of around R$30 billion. Now, I am all for the World Cup, as I argued in my previous article, but I am also for this “third cause.” Many investigations of World Cup constructions point to over-spending, including payment for services that were never carried out. The government claims that many of the increases in costs were due to unanticipated works and FIFA demands. I am skeptical, especially given the history of corruption and deviation of public money that Brazilians are too familiar with, but because the spending process is not really transparent, no one really knows the truth.
4. A Law Making Corruption in Congress a Crime
This one is pretty self-explanatory.
5. An End to the "Privileged Forum"
The “privileged forum” is an institution inherited from the time while Brazil was still a Portuguese colony. In Brazil, political authorities are judged in a different tribunal from that in which most of Brazilians that commit crimes are judged in. Only crimes of responsibility and of criminal nature are subject to this privileged forum. The rest are judged in common tribunals, according to the specific nature of the crime. The video argues this is an insult to the 5th article of the Brazilian constitution, which says that “all are equal under the law, without distinction of any nature whatsoever.” Although I am not a lawyer, based on my research on the issue, I agree. Politicians should not be held to a different standard from the people they serve.