A crisis can be either a point of collapse or an opportunity for rebirth. It can mean risking the death of what exists or it can be the opportunity for the birth of something new. The crisis that we, the people of Brasília, are experiencing on the eve of our 50th anniversary is no different.
We can remain paralyzed, becoming Brazilians who do not know how to vote or how to be elected, thus losing the autonomy to govern ourselves. Or we can reorient our form of practicing politics and serve as an example for the rest of Brazil. After all, while today it is the Federal District (DF) experiencing this crisis, in varying degrees it is present in all the unities of the Federation.
We have arrived at a point in which Brazil is considering the necessity of federal intervention in the Federal District, as has happened throughout our first 30 years, when we were seen as an immature city lacking the conditions for self-government.
Our last intervenor was Joaquim Roriz, appointed by President José Sarney. In 1990, Roriz himself was elected governor by direct vote and later reelected twice. Two other governors were also elected. Six elections later, in 2010, we are conveying the impression that we lack the capacity to govern ourselves.
The intervention decision marks the DF’s political failure by demanding that the Judiciary system ask the federal branch to assume management of the city. Since this is done according to the Constitution, it does not mark the failure of democracy, but, rather, the failure of politics.
It will be a return to the past. Brasília is facing two alternatives: either we recognize our incapacity to govern; or we fight to find a new form of practicing politics seriously and competently, of electing and of being elected.
The first step for this reorientation consists in bringing together DF opinion makers to formalize the commitment “Corrupção Nunca Mais” (Corruption, Never Again). Celebrities, political leaders, political party officials, union members, intellectuals, religious leaders joining together, admitting that we have responsibilities to our city and to our children, who are today perplexed and confused by the activities of those who vote and those who have been elected.
We can define a collection of objectives and instruments so that the administration of Brasília will set an example of ethics in political priorities and in the politicians’ behavior. Based upon this collection, we shall seek some mutual commitments.
1. Repudiating candidates who arouse suspicion; choosing instead candidates whose past is clean and proposals are innovative. Giving preference to new names. Moreover, each candidate should forgo parliamentary immunity, bank and fiscal secrecy, and also commit to sending his or her children to public schools and to using the public health service.
2. Forming an unpaid DF Social Management Council representing the organized civil society to monitor and inspect the actions of future administrations. That council must undertake a rigorous revision of the criteria and proceedings of bidding, the establishment of new criteria for maximum prices in public bidding, the imposition of a discount in the works now in progress – considering the recent evidence of overbilling.
3. Creating a transparency portal that gives unrestricted access to anyone wanting to follow the accounts of the Government of the Federal District (GDF) administration entities, the public businesses, autonomous agencies and foundations.
4. Demanding that each candidate present ethical information about his or her past, divulging his or her profile, especially juridical and police records.
5. Undertaking external, independent auditing in all the government-administered and public-private administration accounts in the last 20 years and rescinding all the contracts of the businesses involved in the present corruption scandal.
6. Drastically limiting the number of employees in positions of confidence who are nominated through free appointment by the governor.
7. Resuming the Participatory Budget in all the investments to be made by the GDF.
8. Completely revising the Master Plan for Land Use (PDOT) to discourage real estate speculation and the unbridled sale of public lands, conserving environmental protection areas, springs, ecological parks and areas of native vegetation and combating the invasion of public lands by squatters.
9. Revising the granting of fiscal benefits presently in use.
10. Constructing a series of goals so that Brasília will become a national example of ethical political priorities: education; science and technology; defense; and environmental conservation.
Thus will we prepare the greatest inheritance for future generations. Above all, we will transform the shame engulfing our compatriots into an example for the rest of Brazil. Let us transform our crisis into our chance.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome LinJerome@cs.com.