Highlights – VII

Carlos Zilio, ESTUDO, 1970, felt-tip pen on paper, 47x32,5
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By BENÍCIO VIERO SCHMIDT*

Comments on recent events

The government's environmental policy has been a huge failure, which practically caused the removal of the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, from the National Council for the Amazon, a body headed by the vice-president, general Mourão. This Council has a majority of military members, mainly from the Army, and the absence of representatives from the communities and technical bodies that have habitually worked on Brazilian environmental policy.

At the same time that the government finally gets involved in the international pressure game against the current environment policy, it dismisses Lubia Vinhas, general coordinator of Earth Observation at the National Research Institute (INPE). This means a step backwards, because she is the second official from this Institute dismissed after the publication of data on deforestation in the Amazon. The resignation of Lubia Vinhas from INPE goes against the grain of the appeals for the search for a better environmental policy made by national and international businessmen, by Minister Paulo Guedes recently and by Vice President Mourão. These are contradictions arising from the lack of governance in relation to the environmental issue.

The position of head of the Ministry of Education was finally filled. The new minister, Mr. Milton Ribeiro, first of all, is defined by his religious confession. But also due to the fact that he is a reactionary individual both in educational terms – he defends that literacy be conducted through the suffering of the child – and in terms of customs – he accuses Brazilian universities of being a territory for the expansion of sex at all costs. This fundamentally configures a delay in the identity issue that will generate conflicts in the National Congress when it comes to consider its bills and so on.

The main task of the Minister of Education, immediately, is the resolution of the FUNDEB problem, as the legislation regarding this public fund has to be renewed by December of this year. Discussions have already begun in the House and Senate, generating many controversies. The Constitution says that FUNDEB resources must be directed only to public schools. There are, however, opinions and pressure from the community and private educational sectors so that resources are also applied in non-profit community institutions, and in private schools through vouchers.

These are the main topics of discussion around the renewal of FUNDEB. There is also another forwarding proposal that suggests that the current legislation simply be extended, with minor modifications. It should be remembered that FUNDEB is equivalent to 60% of the resources allocated to national education, which means 6% of GDP, of the Gross Domestic Product. It therefore involves a considerable sum of resources.

We also have on the agenda of the last few days – and probably also the next ones – the controversy between Minister Gilmar Mendes, of the STF and the command of the National Army regarding the conduct of health policy by the government. Gilmar accurately accuses the occupation of the Ministry of Health by soldiers still in active service and the neglect of the constitutional obligations of the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces, through the Minister of Defense and the commanders of the three weapons, released a note repudiating the accusations and then asked the Union Attorney General for measures to frame Gilmar Mendes in the much-maligned National Security Law.

Foreign policy, in turn, remains very complicated. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the Alexandre de Gusmão Foundation (FUNAG), is organizing seminars on communism in the world, an unprecedented attitude in the current international situation, in view of the existence of burning issues of greater importance. The tension between Trump's Republicans and Democrats in the United States also brings some apprehension to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since the current minister and his governing body are fiercely fighting for subalternity with the Trump administration.

With that, and with the pressures from the environment, as Luis Pedroso and Pérsio Arida have said in recent days, Brazil runs the risk of having its voice withdrawn in debates in international forums and of seeing its assessment as a recipient of foreign investment downgraded. without a doubt, of not very positive events for the country.

It should also be noted that the MERCOSUR issue is being handled with great carelessness. An example of this: recently the wheat quota normally exported to Brazil by Argentina was replaced by grain imports in the United States. As a result, Argentine producers were left to fend for themselves, but this also worsens the situation in Brazil, as the country needs to import around 70% of its consumption. Yet another indication that MERCOSUR is not a priority and that the priority is subordination to US policy.

*Benicio Viero Schmidt is a retired professor of sociology at UnB. Author, among other books, of The State and urban policy in Brazil (LP&M).

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