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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