The meek damage control of Dilma Rousseff

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After two weeks of protests all over Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff had a cabinet meeting and finally spoke to the nation about the unrest. In a 10 minute speech, she vaguely alluded to the course she is taking in the future to meet the demands of the protesters. Rousseff is an ex-revolutionary and her roots are of change but her words and promises weren’t concrete. A dissection of her discourse follows below.

“[These protests] show the strength of our democracy and the desire of our youth to make Brazil go forward. If we take advantage of this new political impulse we will be able to do, better and faster, many things Brazil still hasn’t been able to because of political and economic limitations.”

Rousseff is playing it safe and condoning the peaceful protests. Later she says the violence should not overshadow the tranquil and unthreatening movement. She got one thing right: the Brazilian political system is a huge barrier to the country’s progress, not only because it gives way to corruption but also because it is lengthy and inefficient. The protests themselves are proof that the parties in power at the moment no longer represent the values and morals of the people.

Huge parts of Brazil are uneducated, don’t really understand the political system (I am not even sure I understand it fully) and have to vote obligatorily every two years (one of the problems with the Brazilian political system is that federal and state elections occur within a two year gap of municipal elections). This means two things: research and the forming of opinion is not done in most communities and corrupt politicians are often re-elected (impeached president Fernando Collor is an acting federal senator since 2007. He was impeached due to corruption charges).

The mandatory vote also encourages buying of votes in more remote and unsupervised parts of the country.

But in terms of economic limitations, there is no real evidence to support that. Brazil has been bragging of economic growth and being the country of the future for two decades. What happened to that money? The lack of transparency leads the people to believe this money has gone to the politicians’ and private companies’ bank accounts.

“My generation fought a lot so that the voices in the streets could be heard.”

It is unsurprising that Rousseff mentioned her revolutionary activist past to create a linear connection with the protesters. However, it doesn’t seem like she has been fighting for her country when she finally has incredible power to do so. And the people have noticed that.

“I will invite the mayors and governors of the main cities in the country to make a great pact for the betterment of the public services.”

This is one of the vague sentences that makes me wonder if one of the main points of the protests has been misunderstood: the people want transparency. She might be aiming for a pact but what will it encompass? The people need to know exactly what will be done, this weak promise tells them nothing. Thankfully, Rousseff gets a little more explicit in the next paragraph.

“The focus will first be on the elaboration of a Plan of National Urban Mobility that will make mass transport better. Secondly, 100% of royalties from oil profits will go to education. Thirdly, we will bring doctors from abroad to Brazil immediately.”

This is concrete, but these options will either not make a big enough impact on society or have already been struggling to be accomplished in the last few years.

The first is already an on-going project that will supposedly have its first facility opening this year in Rio de Janeiro. The project has been in motion since 2011 and will supposedly invest R$18 billion in public transport.

However one of the major problems with building facilities for transport (or of any kind) in Brazil is over-billing by private companies that carry out the projects. More often than not there are big sums of money being transferred under the table to both parties – the politicians and the businessmen.

Another issue is the lack of follow through due to bureaucracy. The São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro train project has been on paper for about ten years and its predicted launch has been changed from 2014 to 2020.

Secondly, the 100% of oil royalties going to education don’t really mean that much more money will be put into education. Senator Cristovam Buarque said the project won’t make any big changes in Brazil’s education system.

He said: “Actually 100% is a small part of the profits.”

He explains that it is 100% of the money that would go to the federal government.

“So that won’t even be 20% [of the royalties].”

And lastly, the problem with Brazilian health is not the competency of its doctors but the lack of beds, hospitals and upkeep of the ones we already have. The salaries of public health doctors are extremely low as well, so most medicine graduates go for the private line of work. Work conditions are also very poor, there is no funding for research, spots and resources in intensive care are extremely scarce and there is no career planning service. In more secluded parts of Brazil, physicians can go months without their salary.

“We need […] better ways to deal with corruption. The Lei de Acesso a Informação (Freedom of Information Act) must be amplified to all powers of the Republic and federal establishments.. It is a powerful instrument the citizen can use to watch over the correct use of public money.”

The problem is not the press exposure of corruption, but the impunity that is entrenched in the government. The press can expose as many crimes as they can, but they will not be punished, even if they are found guilty. The Supreme Federal Court has only found five people guilty of such crimes and none of them are in jail.

And so with talks of peace, democracy and the great nation Brazil is, Rousseff ended her speech with no real conclusion. Her weak attempt to charm the nation has only emphasized that she isn’t using her power as president efficiently, and throwing the ball to the Congress.

This week I will be tackling nepotism, benefit culture, short-sighted measures, excess of ministries, ways into corruption in Brazil and much more. To stay tuned like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.

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