Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Following Nationwide Protests, Rousseff Calls for Constitutional Reform in Brazil



Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met with governors and mayors on Monday to discuss the Pacto Nacional (National Pact), a package of reforms to improve public services that would respond to the wave of nationwide protests in Brazil over the past three weeks.

The president called for peace and proposed a national vote to amend the Brazilian constitution, which would be Brazil’s first political reform since 1988, when the current constitution was ratified at the end of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship. “The streets are telling us that the country wants quality public services, more effective measures to combat corruption…and responsive political representation,” Rousseff said.

The National Pact’s main objective is to create a Plano Nacional de Mobilidade Urbana (National Urban Mobility Plan) to expand Brazil’s existing public transportation system. In response to the protests, public transport fares were reduced in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro last week, and Rousseff pledged to invest 50 billion reais ($25 billion) in improving the country’s transport infrastructure.

But Brazilians’ grievances go beyond public transportation. The protests reached their peak last Thursday, when more than 1 million demonstrators took to the streets to demand greater investment in health and education, and to complain against corruption and high government spending on sporting events such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games.

In addition to calling for a constitutional reform, Rousseff has laid out proposals to improve health services and impose tougher penalties for corruption. According to experts, amending the Brazilian constitution is a process that could take years, since it would require a public vote to debate the reforms.

Recent polls suggest that 75 percent of Brazilians are in favor of the protests, in which at least four people have already died. Due to rising inflation in the country, Rousseff’s approval rating fell to 55 percent in June.

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