Photo: Brazil President Dilma Rouseff
President Dilma Rousseff proposed Monday that a referendum on broad political reforms be held in response to the wave of protests that has shaken Brazil over the past two weeks.
The president said the proposal embraces four national pacts addressing the political, healthcare, education and transport systems, which are at the root of demands made by crowds that have occupied the streets of Brazil’s major cities.
The referendum should lead to “a specific constitutional process for political reform,” Rousseff said at a meeting in the presidential palace with 27 state governors and the mayors of 26 cities.
On the issue of healthcare, the president reaffirmed her intention to hire foreign doctors to work in cities and regions “where there is the greatest need to improve medical attention,” while admitting the program will face opposition from the Brazilian medical profession.
With regard to public transport, whose hike in Sao Paulo fares ignited the protests, she acknowledged that despite the sizeable investments made in recent years, it still lacks the quality that citizens demand.
For that reason, the “great national pact” proposes “making speedier progress” in the construction of subways, trains and other means of public transport.
As she did last week on the two other occasions when she spoke about the nationwide demonstrations, Rousseff slammed the episodes of violence that have left four people dead.
She stressed her commitment to “law and order” and offered to help mayors and governors keep the peace, but noted that the government must pay attention to “the democratic voice that comes from the streets.”
The protests, according to Rousseff, make it clear that Brazilians want quality public services, more efficient mechanisms against corruption and “a political representation more open” to their demands.