Scholars from different countries and research fields declare support for the candidacy of Ms. Dilma Rousseff to the Presidency of Brazil

We, the undersigned scholars from different countries and research fields, declare our support for the candidacy of Ms. Dilma Rousseff to the Presidency of Brazil.

These are our reasons:  

Commitment to social inclusion

The eight years of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government were marked by a formidable move towards promoting freedom, justice and solidarity through the decrease of social and regional inequalities and the struggle to eradicate poverty, all of which are major aims expressed in the Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil. In those eight years, poverty has been reduced by 40%; over 30 million Brazilians rose from extreme poverty to middle class standards of living; income inequality fell significantly. Such policies show the current government's commitment to achieving the goals that ground the constitution of our Republic. As Lula's chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff played a major role in securing such achievements. It is our belief that Ms. Rousseff's presidency will continue, enhance and deepen the fight against poverty and inequality that has so exemplarily been carried on for the past eight years. There are no reasons to expect that any government led by her opponent José Serra, a moderate politician held hostage to an aggressively conservative coalition, would have the same prospects. The current government’s social programs were until quite recently met with utter contempt by the most salient heads of the coalition which supports the oppositionist candidate. This is especially manifest with respect to “Bolsa Familia”, a very effective wealth distribution program aimed at keeping poor children in school, which was described as “alms to the poor” by Serra and his acolytes. Unable to deny the success of such programs, José Serra is now paying lip service to them, to the point of arrogating to himself their inception. Having so far failed, past the first electoral round, to present a coherent government program, Serra now resorts to all sorts of irresponsible promises – some of which are in sharp contrast to his tenure as governor of the State of Sao Paulo – systematically evading the issue of how to honor them. The erratic nature of his campaign justifies skepticism about the consistency of his commitments. His discourse, marked by electoral conveniences, is unserious: it is quite the opposite of what one should expect from a head of state. 

Citizenship requires what Kant characterized as independence: the citizen must be “his own master” with access to “some property (and any skill, craft, art or science may count as property) that allows him to support himself”. The wealth distribution programs implemented by Lula protected the country against the global economic crisis by strengthening internal market’s growth. They also enhanced democracy by creating a solid basis for citizenship for millions of Brazilians. It is clear that such programs empower people so they can achieve greater autonomy, rather than keeping them in permanent need.

Commitment to the expansion and upgrading of universities 

During the eight years of the previous government, on the hands of Mr. Serra's party and with his participation, not a single new public university was created by the Federal Government, regardless of the desperate need for the expanding of a public and free higher education system – which, in Brazil, has its backbone in the Federal network of public universities. Existing universities found themselves in shameful shortage of the resources necessary to provide decent education and to carry out research projects. Research funds were constantly at the mercy of changing governmental priorities. Wages did not keep pace with inflation and were kept virtually unchanged for eight years. University personnel was faced with lack of prospects and recognition, leading to the early retirement of thousands of faculty, which were replaced by underqualified junior faculty on temporary contracts. The party coalition supporting Serra's candidacy, which is the same that supported the previous government, has failed to provide any evidence that they will not revert to those practices. 

The current government has promoted recovery of higher education and research, reversing the shameful practices of its predecessor. It has also launched policies to expand and improve the higher education public system and qualify its staff, with results already recognized by the international scientific community. The PROUNI program - fiercely attacked by the coalition supporting José Serra - opened the doors of public universities to over 700,000 new students. Through affirmative action policies, low-income students now have access to free, good quality higher education. Through another federal program, the REUNI, public universities have the means to expand their infrastructure and hire new faculty. Research programs, managed by CNPq and CAPES (the country´s two largest research sponsoring agencies), significantly increased funding for science and technology research, a critical requirement for the country’s development. Lula's government has created 14 new public universities and dozens of technical schools strategically located throughout the country, thereby bringing access to knowledge to the poorest, least developed regions.

In defense of the secular state, respecting religious diversity 

The Brazillian Constitution unequivocally affirms the secular nature of the State. Brazilian citizens are guaranteed freedom of belief and conscience; religious affiliation cannot be a requisite to the exercise of any right or to achieve full citizenship. The appeal to a religious rhetoric in the ongoing presidential race is for that reason a matter of serious concern. Dilma Rousseff, in particular, has been the target of a defamatory campaign fueled by speculations about her religious beliefs or lack thereof, and on deliberate distortion of the current administration's stand on abortion and freedom of religious expression. We urge both candidates not to yield to bigotry’s intimidation. We are confident that a Rousseff administration will preserve the secular nature of the Brazilian state. 

For such reasons, we support the candidacy of Dilma Rousseff to the presidency of Brazil. May the country keep flourishing!

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