Brazil’s president seeks major reforms to placate protesters

Dilma Rousseff calls for constitutional assembly to implement reforms

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff  laid out a series of proposals that  include the promise of €17 billion in investments on transport and greater efforts to control inflation. Photograph: AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff laid out a series of proposals that include the promise of €17 billion in investments on transport and greater efforts to control inflation. Photograph: AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 01:00

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, has called for a constitutional assembly to be held to implement major political reforms in her latest attempt to placate the protest movement that has seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to demand change.

The proposal was the boldest in a series of measures she laid out Monday night in a meeting with the country’s 27 governors which also included the promise of €17 billion in investments on transport and greater efforts to control inflation.

In her speech she called for the holding of a plebiscite to authorise the constitutional assembly which would then draw up changes to the country’s constitution.

The plan is in response to growing demands of protesters across the country that more be done to tackle systematic corruption in Brazilian politics.

Earlier in the day the president met with organisers of the rallies against the bus fare increases that sparked the country’s biggest protest movement in decades.

Afterwards members of the Free Pass Movement said she had failed to put forward any concrete proposals to deal with problems of the chronically overcrowded buses in most Brazilian cities.


Criticism
The proposal to hold a constitutional assembly met with criticism with the former head of the country’s supreme court describing it as “a way of distracting the people out in the streets” especially as several reform proposals have languished in congress without a vote for years.

“The competence to convoke a plebiscite belongs to congress. If it is capable of attending the request of the president to convoke a plebiscite, it is also capable of voting the amendments to the laws necessary to realise a political reform,” said Carlos Velloso, in an interview on Brazilian television Monday.

Reform campaigners also criticised the proposal to hold a constitutional assembly. “It would be a way for Brazil’s political elite to dominate the debate. It would be a backward step,” says Márlon Reis, director of Brazil’s Movement to Combat Electoral Corruption.

After a meeting with campaigners yesterday in Brasília the government said it would consider ways of implementing political reforms without calling a constitutional assembly.