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12 Pointers to Turn Brazil’s Congress into a Source of Pride

Brazilian Congress in Brasília Each time that an ethical crisis lays waste to politics, a sort of horror of Brasília emerges in Brazil. The analysts, the voters, and the general population all appear to believe that the 81 senators and the 513 deputies plus the majority of the government leaders are from Brasília.

No current minister is from Brasília. Only eight deputies and three senators come from there. This represents, therefore, only 4% of the Congress. Despite this, Brasília’s current image is associated with corruption and the lack of ethics in politics.

The corruption is instigated by those elected from outside Brasília and by the bad working order of the National Congress itself.

To improve the quality of those elected, it is necessary to bring about a revolution in education and a political reform. The revolution in education is needed to reduce the voters’ vulnerability. The illiterate person is intelligent: he or she votes for a gift because, without employment or income, the voter depends upon the candidate’s favor and becomes indebted.

The person elected, meanwhile, feels no commitment to the voter. If, thanks to education, the voter should have a job and income, his or her independence would greatly diminish the political-favors vote. The countries that have better education are usually the same ones that have less political corruption.

In addition, some changes are necessary in politics, such as the following:

1. The end of all perks, retaining only what is necessary for congressional activities. Any privilege that goes beyond every public servant’s most simple, basic rights should be eliminated.

2. Total transparency of the expenses financed by the Senate and the Chamber for the exercise of congressional activities. Airline tickets are a necessity for each senator of the Republic to fulfill his or her responsibilities but their cost and use must be of public knowledge.

3. Reduction of the senate term to four years. A shorter term permits the voter to correct errors faster.

4. Prohibition of more than one reelection. Constant reelection makes political activity more a profession than a duty. Prohibition of successive reelections could achieve a major renovation, bringing younger people into the Parliament.

5. Lost of mandate for the senator or deputy who assumes an Executive-Branch post. The rule now in effect for anyone assuming the presidency of the Central Bank must also serve for the Ministries. Also, the President of the Republic and the governors must stop using Senate and the Chamber as a way-station by bringing congresspersons into the administration and returning them to the Congress at will. With this measure, the substitute stops being a replacement and becomes the incumbent the moment that he or she assumes the office.

6. Lost of respect for the member of Congress who places his or her children in private school instead of enrolling them in the public schools attended by the children of the majority of his or her voters.

7. Presentation by the candidate and by the political party of commitment-letters during the campaign with a possible loss of the elected politician’s mandate and the party’s right of the mandate if either the elected politician or the party deviates from these commitments.

8. Establishment of ordinary sessions during the entire workweek, leaving one week per month for activities in the bases – which would put an end to the absurdity of the senator’s presence for only two and a half days per week – thus promoting the full functioning of the deputies’ and senators’ congressional activity.

9. Impediment of the Executive’s chief from taking leave to run for Congress in the elections held during the period of his or her mandate.

10. End of campaign financing with private funds.

11. Automatic inclusion in the “fine-tooth comb” review of the Federal Tax Office of each congressperson’s income declarations.

12. Limitation of the congressional income readjustment to, at the maximum, 50% of the readjustments given to the professionals in the areas of healthcare, education, and public security in the same time period.

All Brazil is interested in political reforms, but for the morals of Brasília, these reforms are a matter of honor, a necessity to clear the name of our city in the national scene. They are necessary so that Brasília will no longer be seen, unjustly, as a city of corruption imported by the elected politicians, the great majority of whom come from other states.

Perhaps because of this, a senator from Brasília has presented the above proposals and others in the Senate. A senator directly interested, as a Brazilian, but also one responsible for representing Brasília and, thus, one who desires the entire country to view the city with pride.

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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