In June, right-wing Brazilian President Michel Temer proposed to amend the country’s constitution seeking what he called a “cap on spending.” With his Constitutional Amendment 241/2016 (or PEC, Proposta de Enmenda Constitucional, in Portuguese) Temer asked Brazil’s Congress for nothing less than a total overhaul of the country’s fiscal regime. PEC 241, finalized by the Senate in a vote on Dec. 13, mandates a freezing of investments in health, education, and social assistance at current levels for the next 20 years. Social movements and a broad majority of the Brazilian people have come out strongly against the plan and are calling it the “constitutional amendment of death.”
Since it was first proposed, students all over the country mobilized and occupied their schools and universities with the goal of blocking the PEC in Congress. The slogans adopted by the movement included: “#OcupaTudo” (Occupy Everything) and “#ContraaPECdoMorte” (Against the PEC of Death).
Ana Julia, a 16-year-old student who participated in the occupations made an emotional 10-minute speech to the Legislative Assembly of the State of Paraná recently. She defended the occupations against PEC 214 and also spoke in opposition to another new right-wing education proposal, Provisional Measure 746/2016. The latter is an authoritarian and unconstitutional reform of secondary education, introduced without consulting the National Council of Education or the broader society.
The measure tramples on the National Curricular Parameters for Secondary Education (PCN) and the law governing the basis of education. It excludes the disciplines of physical education, sociology, and philosophy from the required curriculum in secondary education. In the view of teachers, the law will negatively impact the intellectual and physical development of students. They also criticize the authoritarian way it was imposed.
In spite of the mobilization against PEC 241, its basic text was approved in the Plenary of the Chamber of Deputies by a vote of 359 to 116 (with two abstentions) on Oct. 25. That vote only intensified the efforts of those opposed to it. More than 200 universities and 600 schools, as well as local and ministerial government offices, were occupied by students throughout the country.
Teachers also supported the movement and went on strike against the amendment, which was presented to the Senate under the legislative designation of PEC 55. On Nov. 11, workers all over the country carried out a work stoppage against PEC 55, in what was called a National Strike Against the PEC. On Nov. 25, there was another strike, this time against what was called the “PEC of Death.” The Temer regime continued to respond to the mobilizations with repression.
Despite the intense protests, the Senate gave the amendment final approval on Dec. 13, by a vote of 53 to 16. The vote endorses freezing public expenditures on health care, education, and social welfare for the next two decades. It could amount to a shutting down and scrapping of schools, universities, and hospitals, as well as possibly end other policies of the welfare state.
Lucivânia Nascimento dos Santos writes from Brazil and is a graduate student in political science.