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Brazilian Referenda and Plebiscites Are Quite Undemocratic

Maria Victoria Benevides, professor of sociology and political science at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, is calling for revisions in the Brazilian laws regulating referenda and plebiscites.

In her view, the current legislation is "extremely restrictive" and it is therefore necessary to expand popular participation in national decisions.

"The bills that were approved to regulate referenda, plebiscites, and popular initiatives are very bad from the democratic standpoint, because they leave total control of the process in the hands of the Legislative and the Executive," she says.

"This means that, if the Executive and the Legislative are not interested in a certain issue or are afraid of losing, they will never call for one. That’s the game of politics," she comments.

Benevides believes that a change in this situation would democratize popular access to the processes of decision-making involving matters of public interest.

She says that the act of voting in a democratic regime represents the only moment in which all citizens are equal, "especially in a democracy with so many socioeconomic and cultural inequalities."

"The vote of a homeless person and the vote of Antônio Ermí­rio de Moraes, the richest man in Brazil, count for exactly the same thing in the ballot box," she points out.

In her assessment, popular consultations are held less frequently in South America, due to the continent’s "experience of extreme personalism in politics," among other factors.

"The voter pays attention to individuals, not to issues and programs. But, even so, we have examples of popular consultations in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela, mainly referenda dealing with important issues, such as the question of amnesty for torturers from the military regime, which was placed on a referendum in Uruguay," the sociologist observes.

Agência Brasil

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    Democracy can sometimes be tyranny of th
    Democracy itself is fine, but always guard against “Tyranny of the Majority.” The democratic citizens of a country, once they find out they can vote themselves the wealth of another man, then inevitably proceed to plunder “the rich.” The result is catastrophic for a country. A strict Constitution guaranteeing the rights of every individual, guaranteeing liberty to one and all, but protecting the rights of those who earn their wealth through the FREE MARKET (not government subsidies!) is the quickest, best way to prosperity for all – including the very poorest in society. The poorest person in the United States is often far wealthier than even the middle class in other countries, but the USA is sliding into “aggressive socialism” domestically and fascism overseas. Don’t let Brazil make the same mistake! Vote, yes, by all means – but vote for those who will guarantee your rights and never promise “something for nothing.” We have a slogan: “There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch” (TANSTAAFL). Populism, and relying upon the personality of a single individual, never works well. Look at Argentina under Peron, or for that matter the USA under George W. Bush.

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