Brazil’s Demoralized Constitution

Brazil's Demoralized Constitution

    The result of the lack of respect for the Constitution is there for
    all to see: 55 million destitutes surviving on half a minimum
    13 million unemployed, 20 million citizens who don’t know if
    will eat a meal, domestic corporations condemned to failure
    because they need to free-compete
    with privileged multinationals.


    Carlos Chagas


    Last October 5th, was the fifteenth anniversary of our current Constitution. Instead of celebration,
    what we saw in the media was mostly lamentation and criticism. Under the explicit omission of the
    original drafters, some still active in political life and others now in deep ostracism, not a single celebratory
    word was heard about what the new document represented in terms of affirmation of individual and
    social rights in Brazil.

    It is actually fashionable these days to compare the Constitution to
    Geni, the woman in the famous Chico Buarque song –
    "Joga pedra na Geni/ Joga bosta na Geni/ Ela é feita pra apanhar/ Ela é boa de
    cuspir" (Throw stones at Geni/ Throw dung at Geni/ She was born to take a beating/ She is only good to spit
    at"). And to think of the description used by its major craftsman,
    doutor Ulysses Guimarães, who referred
    to the document, with just and redoubled pride, as
    "a Constituição-cidadã, do arrabalde, do macambo e
    da favela" (the citizen-Constitution of the neighborhoods, huts and

    Neoliberals Have Disfigured the Constitution

    It is a shame that the dead can’t speak because if they could, their voices would do more than
    silencing the pervasive and opportunistic criticism. They would help us remember one of the most
    expressive moments in the process of reconstruction of Brazilian democracy. Short is the memory of all
    servile followers of neoliberalism, aligned in rows to try to defend that which is indefensible: the continuation
    of the cruel model that has demolished a significant portion of the successes of our 1988 Constitution.

    The so-called ‘globalized’ modern world, built on illusion, likes to think that it has succeeded in
    promoting the end of History and has led this bloc of irresponsible citizens to blame the Constitution as a way
    to secure some crumbs for themselves from the banquet of the powerful. Happy illusion. To no avail
    was the attempt to disfigure our fundamental law with amendments that alienated our national sovereignty.

    The result is there for all to see: 55 million destitutes surviving on half a
    salário mínimo; 13 million unemployed; 20 million citizens who wake up in the morning without knowing if they will eat a meal
    on that day; domestic corporations condemned to failure because they need to free-compete with
    multinationals privileged by the post-1988 reforms; speculative activity prevailing over productive
    activity; privatizations of public assets built at the cost of much sacrifice and a total unfeasibility of the
    model responsible for having blamed the Constitution as the cause of all our woes.

    This could have been the most perfect Constitution ever in effect in Brazil, had it been duly
    respected and not disfigured by the rage of the neoliberals who pledged to demoralize and transfigure the
    document since its very promulgation, forgetting that it emerged from the will of the Brazilian people as
    expressed by its legitimate representatives.

    Social Rights Suppressed

    The consequences were many: the repeal of fundamental principles such as the monopolies on our
    oil, gas lines, state ownership of the subsoil and even coastwise shipping; suppressed social rights in
    the name of free negotiation between employers and employees; social disaggregation and an
    inordinate increase in violence due to the lack of alternatives given to those strayed from the small club of
    the privileged.

    The neoliberalism that fought the Constitution and succeeded in striking it is now debilitated. The
    agents responsible for our debacle are the elites that ascended into power in 1995 and encroached upon it
    four years later, with the shameful reelection amendment. That’s why they don’t celebrate October 5th.
    They keep pointing to our fundamental law as the cause of the effects created by their suicidal selfishness.

    If an exhortation or a dream was called for, that dream would be the chance to turn back the clock of
    time and go back to the full letter of the new Constitution in Brazil. Nothing is perfect, the world turns
    and adaptations will always be indispensable. What we don’t need, however, are adaptations
    perpetrating themselves like rascals into the Constitution in order to destroy the deepest content it represented: a
    new path towards social improvement.

    In fact, there are still principles which are barely enunciated and have never been regulated, such as
    the one that demonstrates the fallacy of the neoliberals. Article 220 gives Congress the power to
    establish legal means for defense of citizens and families faced with excesses in radio and television
    programming. Censorship, never more; to censor would be to disown all that the Constitution intended to
    consecrate. But how about very heavy fines for those who incur in the practice of vulgarities on the TV screen?
    Why not?

    The Ham Actor Returns

    As if to confirm this line of reasoning, we now have back in Brazil the major ham actor himself,
    defending not only more negative alterations in the Constitution but also a mini drafting session in 2007
    to promote in one big dose all the meanness that he imposed for eight full years, drop by drop. Now that
    his return to the highest power is proved impossible, could he be after what he lost in 1987?

    That was the year when he tried to ascend to the position of relator of the Drafting Session. He lost
    to Bernardo Cabral, under the malicious look of
    doutor Ulysses. Ulysses is no longer with us, but could
    he have visualized the ham actor electing himself for the new Congress and running again for the
    unfeasible dream of pretending to be a jurist?


    Carlos Chagas writes for the Rio’s daily Tribuna da
    Imprensa and is a representative of the Brazilian Press Association, in Brasília. He welcomes your comments

    This article appeared originally in Tribuna da
    Imprensa –

    Translated by Tereza Braga. Braga is a freelance Portuguese translator and interpreter based in
    Dallas. She is an accredited member of the American Translators Association. Contact:

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