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Brazilian Dialogue

Forestalling recolonization of Brazil

In September 2002, the churches of Brazil and the numerous NGOs (non-government organizations) and popular movements of that country achieved an incredible feat: they obtained more than 10 million votes in a plebiscite (not a government plebiscite) asking for a yes or a no to a Free Market Zone of the Americas.

And not only did 10-and-a-quarter million citizens respond but they massively rejected this U.S.-led (and corporation-led) initiative.

Three questions were posed:

1. Should the Brazilian government sign ALCA (the Free Trade Americas proposal)? No: 98.3 per cent; Yes: 1.1 per cent; Spoiled ballots: six per cent

2. Should Brazil continue negotiations re ALCA (FTA)? No: 96 per cent; Yes: 3.4 per cent; Spoiled: six per cent

3. Should Brazil give the U.S. military control of the Base of Alcantara? (As in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba)? No: 98.6 per cent; Yes: .65 per cent; Spoiled: two per cent

The Brazilian bench of bishops was one of the strongest supporters of the plebiscite. It gives one hope that the leaven of justice continues to ferment in the Brazilian hierarchy though the last of the great champions that so marked Brazil's post-conciliar days, Bishop Pedro Casaldaliga, will retire next February.

The plebiscite was two years in the making, conscientizing Brazil's people as to the consequences if the maximized profit interests of transnational corporations come to supersede Brazil's national and state laws.

The current plebiscite follows one held in 2000 regarding Brazil's debt motivated by the great jubilee initiative.

The 2000 plebiscite garnered six million respondents, considered very high at the time. The current 10 million indicates that even if peace and justice are not high up on the agendas of our political and economic leaders, nonetheless there is a groundswell forming of ordinary folk, people who wish to incarnate the good news Jesus brought.

Brazilians well know that without their large economy on-side ALCA (FTA) won't happen, their sovereignty will remain intact, their rivers won't be privatized, their factories will remain in their hands, they will have some say (whatever is still left after the restrictions imposed by the IMF and the World Bank and WTO) over social policy.

If these 10 million engaged citizens can influence their neighbours, they can yet prevent this threatened recolonization of Brazil and of all Latin America.

Al Gerwing