When Flying I Feel Like a Nurse in an Ambulance, Going to Tend to Patient Brazil

Plane at sundown In 2002, precisely 674,086 voters elected me a senator of the Republic for the Federal District of Brasília (DF).  During the campaign, I said that Brasília would only have a future if Brazil made a revolution for education.  And that, besides defending DF interests, a senator of the Republic would have the role of fighting for this revolution in all the country.

In adherence to this position, at the beginning of the mandate I accepted President Lula’s invitation to occupy the post of Minister of Education.  It would be a contribution for Brazil and the DF:  to make the revolution Brazil needs, creating quality schools for all, with the worker’s child attending the same school as the boss’s child.  And I tried.  In the few months I served as minister, I presented projects of law necessary for the revolution.  That was a function of senator of the Republic for the DF.

Back in the Senate since 2004, I have kept my promise to represent the DF by fighting for the rights of our Brasília cities, while never stopping the fight for all Brazil.  Since then, together with other congress members representing Brasília, I was present in all the struggles concerning the Federal District.  And, as a senator of the Republic, I was present in all the great national debates.

It was as senator of the Republic that I won passage of the project of law, already approved and now in force, establishing the national salary floor for the teacher, and also the law assuring each child a place in the school closest to his or her home, beginning on the child’s fourth birthday. 

Besides those, which have already become law, I presented more than 100 projects, almost all geared towards the interests of the entire country.  All this leads me to say that I am a senator for Brasília and a senator of all the Republic of Brazil.  Thus, I ran for President of the Republic in 2006 without, I knew, any chance of election but knowing that I could carry the voice of the DF to the national scene, defend a Brazilian revolution, and place education on the national agenda.

Unfortunately, the function of senator of the Republic is not very well understood.  Some believe that a DF senator must limit his or her actions to the DF, not involving him or herself – or wasting time in travel – in the defense of national problems. 

And, therefore, some have defended the idea that the DF senators should return the monthly transportation tickets that the Senate offers to the other senators.  They do not know that these tickets are not received; rather, they are used or not used, depending upon the request of the senator to fulfill his or her obligations to visit electoral bases and defend and change the country.

It is important that all Brazilians know how many tickets were used, by whom, and towards what end.  Therefore, I suggested to José Sarney, president of the Senate, the idea of divulging which tickets are issued by the Senate, for which passenger, with what destination and end, authorized by which senator.  All in the interest of transparency.

We are senators of the Republic and, therefore, we have the obligation to care about what happens in the entire country.  Each one of my laws deserved – and continues deserving – to be defended throughout the country, even at the cost (and consumption) of dozens of trips throughout our immense country.  These trips were not taken for diversion or leisure.  The Senate, obviously, should not finance that sort of trip for any senator, whether from the DF or any other state.

It is necessary to know whether the tickets were used for personal benefit or for work:  the debate over ideas, the defense of projects, the attempt to wake up the national population to the necessity of making the revolution that Brazil needs.  As senator of the Republic, when I take an airplane I feel like a nurse in an ambulance, going to tend to a patient called Brazil, or like a journalist going to report for a means of communication.  Fulfilling my obligation as Senator of the Republic.

It is a shame that many people, including some who are well informed, see the senator as just another city council member and not as a senator for the entire Republic.  In fact, many nights, after finishing my Senate work, I customarily assume the role of city council member:  visiting cities, conversing with the population, defending specific interests because this is necessary in order to serve the voters directly and to make the continuation of my political life viable. 

But this additional effort is only justified if, once elected, the politician also fights for our Brazil.  Including, making the effort demanded by the necessary trips.  Serving as a DF senator of the entire Republic.

Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District.  You can visit his website – www.cristovam.org.br – and write to him at cristovam@senado.gov.br.

Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome LinJerome@cs.com.

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