The Brazilian referendum on banning firearms and ammunition sales revived the debate on how to enlarge popular participation in political decision-making in Brazil.
Many lawmakers promise to work to make popular consultations a frequent phenomenon. There are 300 proposals before the National Congress for referenda and plebiscites.
The themes calling for popular consultation include the conversion of the regime into a parliamentary form of government, the São Francisco River basin integration project, the legalization of abortion, the cancellation of agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), foreign debt payment, the process of privatizing state enterprises, and the creation of new states.
In the Chamber alone there are four bills calling for a plebiscite to reduce from 18 to 16 the age for treating criminal offenders as adults.
The author of one of these bills is deputy Luiz Antônio Fleury (PTB-SP), vice-president of the Parliamentary Front for the Right of Legitimate Self-Defense, the group that defended the "no" vote on ending firearms and ammunition sales.
The opinion issued by the rapporteur of the bill, deputy Luiz Eduardo Greenhalgh (PT-SP), opposed reducing the age for treating criminal offenders as adults. Greenhalgh considers the bill unconstitutional.
"Moreover, I am thoroughly convinced that the reduction for purposes of penal accountability will in no way improve the country’s crime index, nor will it contribute to the preservation of youth and adolescents and the socio-educational recovery of juvenile delinquents," the PT deputy affirms in his opinion.
"In Spain, recently, the government was obliged to revise this question, restoring the penal age, which had previously been lowered to 14, to 18."
In his bill in favor of lowering the age of penal adulthood, deputy Fleury says that "there exists a global trend to lower the age, recognizing that 16 or 17 year old minors already understand the facts of life [sufficiently] to be held responsible for their behavior."
No matter what questions are submitted to popular consultation, various specialists are in favor of expanding the number of plebiscites and referenda in Brazil.
Prior to last Sunday’s (23) referendum, only two plebiscites had been held in the country in all of Brazil’s 500-year history. One of them in 1963, to choose the political system (parliamentary or presidential), and the other in 1993, to choose the political system and regime (republican or monarchical).
In referenda, citizens express their views on laws that are already in force, while. in plebiscites, they vote on rules to be applied in the future.