Brazil Empire Lives On

 Brazil 
        Empire Lives On

Brazil
has not completely finished the process of becoming a
Republic. Nor has it completely abolished slavery.
In 21st-century Brazil the elite feel as distant from the people

as they did in the 19th century. The Brazilian elite do not

feel like citizens who pertain to the same people.
by:
Cristovam Buarque

 

One
hundred fifteen years after the Proclamation of the Republic, the Brazilian
members of Congress still call each other "Noble Colleague."
It is as if the Empire still existed but under the name of Republic.
It is not a matter of congressional etiquette, nor is it true only of
members of Congress.

In
21st-century Brazil the elite feel as distant from the people
as they did in the 19th century. The Brazilian elite are
not citizens. The inequality between the rich and the poor—be it
in income, education, housing, transportation, leisure, food, or customs—is
so large that they do not sit at the same table, do not discuss the
same affairs, do not feel like citizens who pertain to the same people.

The
members of Congress do not call each other "Citizen Deputy"
or "Citizen Senator" because Brazil has not completely finished
the process of becoming a Republic. Nor has it completely abolished
slavery. After Independence, Brazil remained a slave-ocratic empire
for 70 years; then, in only 18 months it abolished slavery in 1888 and
proclaimed the Republic in 1889; yet everything continued much the same
as before. Almost 200 years after Independence, the members of Congress
continue to be nobles, forced labor has been replaced by unemployment,
the slaves have been transformed into famished poor people, and education
continues to be available only to the few.

The
regime became republican but Brazil continued divided between a noble
elite and a plebeian mass. Just as slavery was abolished, little by
little, the Republic expanded the right to vote, permitting liberty
of expression and of political party organizing, but it concentrated
land in a few hands and education in a few heads. The legacy of Lula’s
government, therefore, will be to complete the process of the Republic
and of abolition.

To
do this, we must not repeat 1888 and 1889 by postponing that which everyone
hopes for—a complete Republic, without exclusion, one in which
everyone would be equal citizens. We were elected not only to administer
well, but rather, administering well, to undertake the republican revolution
for which Brazil has waited more than a century.

Since
the republicans did not connect with the people, the Republic was never
completed. As "neo-nobles" they lost their capacity to become
indignant about the poverty surrounding them; they enjoyed the privileges
of aristocrats; they became used to the customs of power and the demands
of the bureaucracy. We in Lula’s government cannot run this risk: disconnecting
from the poor; losing our capacity for indignation; becoming addicted
to the glitter of power; and falling into the clutches of the bureaucracy.
We must not become accustomed to the same incomplete Republic while
forgetting that our task is to complete it.

The
principal way to avoid accommodation is to move forward from the present
difficulties, never forgetting the legacy that our government must leave
to future generations: Administer the present difficulties without losing
sight of the obligations of the dreams for the future; have one foot
in arithmetic and the other in utopia. Lula was not elected to establish
or change the central structure of the economy; nor was he elected to
create equality of income or of consumption. He was elected to make
everyone equal as citizens, thus completing the Republic and abolition.
This will be Lula’s legacy for the future of Brazil.

To
complete abolition we must undertake the intensive, total, radical agrarian
reform that Brazil desires, using 21st-century technology
with no disruption of production. Job creation is another measure necessary
to finish off slavery and interrupt the century-old Brazilian tragedy
of transforming the shackled and fed slaves into the free, starving
unemployed.

To
complete the Republic we must guarantee an egalitarian education to
all citizens, which is possible only through free, quality public schools
for everyone. A society is not a republic when it invests practically
80 times more upon the private education of middle-class children—R$
240 thousand (US$ 71 thousand) —than upon the public education
of poor children—R$ 3,200 (US$ 949). Middle-class students spend
R$ 1,000 (US$ 297) per month and receive educational investments
for up to twenty years. The others receive R$ 800 (US$ 237) per year
and remain in school an average of four years. This is not merely
inequality: It is difference. And as long as this sort of difference
exists, the country will not be a Republic.

Lula’s
legacy is the completion of the Republic and abolition. His role is
leading Brazil so that we take the measures necessary to change reality
in the four years before the elections of 2006, creating a dynamic in
which the republican revolution will continue in the following years.
So that, before the end of his administration, all Brazilians will be
literate, all children will be attending schools of increasing quality
and, before the bicentennial of Independence, all Brazilians will have
the equivalent of at least a high-school education.

This
is possible. Poor countries with more difficulties than ours have already
done this. We have the resources and the know-how. It is possible if
the administration has zeal, determination, and the support of society,
especially that of the members of Congress when they vote on the next
budget. This is the greatest obstacle: convincing the noble heirs of
the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889 that the time has come to make
a decent investment of the national resources in a republican revolution,
one that can be achieved only by providing free, quality public education
for all.

But
action by the administration and the Congress will not be enough. What
are you doing so that we can complete the Republic and abolition?

 

Cristovam
Buarque – cristovambuarque@uol.com.br,
59, Ph.D. in economics, is Brazil’s Minister of Education. He was
the rector of the University of Brasília (1985-89) and the
governor of the Federal District (1995-98).

Translated
by Linda Jerome LinJerome@cs.com
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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