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After Brazil’s Timid Social Democracy Dilma Has a Chance to Start New Cycle

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff Politics, like history, occurs in cycles. Brazil is passing through a cycle of democratic consolidation with small advances in social welfare: a timid Social Democracy (tSD), one that, in terms of the demands of the future, is also looking backwards. This has occurred since the last historical turn, the turn from the dictatorship to the democracy and the turn towards monetary stability.

Since then, Presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula created two administrations with advances in growth with stability and with small advances in income distribution. Brazil moved forward but remained within the same cycle.

The economic growth did not change the product profile for high tech goods, nor did it bring about respect for the ecology; the modest income distribution did not shatter the social apartheid. It did not promote equal opportunity. The cities did not become more peaceful. Nor did the politics become less corrupt.

With the political corruption, family debt, technological inefficiency and appropriation of public higher education by only a rich parcel of the population, it is easy to imagine a future with the seduction of the voter by a candidate who defends morality, the charging of fees in the state universities, the suspension of the income transfer programs with their resources directed to investments in the infrastructure.

Twenty-five years of a single model, with advances, but with so many gaps that the time has come to see it as exhausted.

President Dilma has the chance to initiate a new cycle. If not, her administration will be the last of the present cycle. If she does not advance with reforms that signify positive inclinations, she runs the risk of seeing the exhaustion of the present-cycle proposals and the next election producing conservative governments, or falling into “leftism” or into “populism.”

The first will not respect the advances in social welfare; the other two will not respect fiscal responsibility. Not to mention the catastrophic risk of antidemocratic options.

Instead of representing the latest step in the cycle of timid Social Democracy (tSD), the Dilma administration can be the first in a new cycle that frees the country from its shackles by beginning a Transformative Social Democracy (TSD). To do this, her administration must make the necessary turns and go beyond traditional growth with monetary stability and stipends.

It is necessary to undertake a political reform: implant measures to shield the public power from corruption; create mechanisms to control the violence; reorient the production process to safeguard the ecological equilibrium; foment an economy based upon knowledge of science and technology; make the Single Health System (SUS) work in the desired way; promote surmounting the “Brazil cost” stemming from corporativist rules and from the insufficient economic infrastructure; and, above all – the mother of all these reforms – promote a revolution in elementary/secondary education. All this should be done with respect for democratic rules and with fiscal responsibility.

Of all these changes, the only one that will permit President Dilma to leave her mark on Brazilian history, as the 21st-century Juscelino Kubitschek (JK), will be the initiation of the process of radically transforming elementary/secondary education and providing each Brazilian with the same opportunity to access quality education, independently of family income or city of residence.

This can be done by elevating all 200 thousand schools in Brazil to – at least – the quality of the nearly 200 schools that are currently federally run. To do this, it will be necessary to initiate the National Teachers Profession and a federal program of scholastic quality with full-day class sessions.

These two programs are not enough, nor will they yield their complete results throughout Brazil during one or even two presidential terms. But if she undertakes the right measures to promote a break with the sad picture of the Brazilian educational tragedy, the new president will be not only the first Brazilian woman president, she will also be the first president for a new time: the Dilma Cycle.

Cristovam Buarque is a professor at the University of Brasília and a PDT senator for the Federal District. You can visit his website at www.cristovam.org.br/portal2/, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SEN_CRISTOVAM and write to him at cristovam@senado.gov.br.

New translations of his works of fiction The Subterranean Gods and Astricia are now available on Amazon.com.

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

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