Cablegate: Sao Paulo Perspectives On Political Parties and Afro-Brazilians
DE RUEHSO #0976/01 3481038
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P 141038Z DEC 07
FM AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
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UNCLASSIFIED SECTION 01 OF 03 SAO PAULO 000976
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TAGS: PHUM SOCI SCUL KDEM BR
SUBJECT: SAO PAULO PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL PARTIES AND AFRO-BRAZILIANS
REF: SAO PAULO 895
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY
1. (SBU) According to Sao Paulo-based contacts, Brazil's political parties are slowly beginning to see the value in pursuing initiatives to ameliorate racial inequality in the country especially through programs that directly support the Afro-Brazilian community. Local civil society leaders often complain that none of the parties are doing enough to help black Brazilians, but generally agree that President Lula's Workers' Party (PT) has done more to improve the lives of Afro-Brazilians than any other party. Current legislation that has recently passed the Senate and awaits consideration in the House (septel), would introduce quotas based on race at federal and state universities and may pave the path for more laws seeking to improve access to education and jobs for minorities. However, quotas remain controversial, with some interlocutors claiming instituting such initiatives will only further separate black and white Brazilians. End Summary.
Political Parties Generally Ignore Demands... ---------------------------------------------
2. (SBU) Maria Aparecida de Laia, General Coordinator of Sao Paulo's Special Secretariat for Issues of the Black Population (CONE) said that none of Brazil's political parties devotes sufficient attention to Afro-Brazilian issues. Although the administration of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC - 1995-2002) of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil (PSDB) began discussions on affirmative action programs, hired some government officials to study diversity issues, and encouraged Afro-Brazilians to enter Brazil's diplomatic corps, Laia characterized these as mere "baby steps". President Lula's Workers' Party (PT) government has continued to develop some pro-diversity policies such as the creation of the Cabinet-level position of Special Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality, but this is still not enough, she said. Father Jose Enes de Jesus, director of the Institute of the Black Father Baptista, a Catholic Church-run organization that tries to get Afro-Brazilian youth off the streets and provides legal assistance to black Brazilians, went even further, calling the secretariat "nothing more than pure marketing." SIPDIS
...But PT Better than Other Parties -----------------------------------
3. (SBU) Acknowledging that she is a PT member, Elisa Lucas Rodrigues, President of the Sao Paulo State Council on the Participation and Development of the Black Community (CPDCNGSP) claimed the PT has done significantly more for Afro-Brazilians on the national level than any other political party. She noted that President Lula appointed more Afro-Brazilian members to his Cabinet (Ministers of Culture, Sports and Environment) than any previous president, and also named the first black justice to the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF). Part of the reason that Lula did so was because Afro-Brazilian PT members pushed specifically for government positions with high visibility, she claimed. Afro-Brazilians would achieve more politically if black activists from opposing parties worked together, regardless of partisan views, she said.
4. (SBU) Denise Aparecida Tobias, a family attorney involved in initiatives supporting the Afro-Brazilian community in Sao Paulo, also claimed that the PT seems to be more focused on racism, but that credit is due to FHC's Administration for bringing the issue into the public spotlight. The PT has always claimed to be a "party of the people" and derives its support from excluded peoples and their struggles; the party is therefore a natural match for Afro-Brazilians, she said. Another non-political scholar on Afro-Brazilian issues such as minority representation in the workplace, Moises de Freitas, stated that the PT deserves credit for helping the black Brazilian community because the party has actively pursued equity policies for all disenfranchised groups, whether indigenous peoples, disadvantaged racial groups, or low-income
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individuals. De Freitas added that President Lula himself has pursued the issue because of a personal interest in working towards the inclusion of all Brazilians. De Freitas credits FHC with laying the foundation for anti-discrimination efforts because of his initial pursuit of health and education programs that targeted all excluded peoples. He also said that Cardoso's success in achieving economic stability indirectly improved the lives of many Afro-Brazilians.
5. (SBU) Claudio Aparecida da Silva, who coordinates the Sao Paulo State Assembly's Promotion of Racial Equality Caucus (FEPPIR), said that 79 percent of Afro-Brazilians voted for Lula's re-election in the first round of 2006 balloting and 84 percent voted for him in the second round. He attributed this high level of support for the President and the PT to the party's efforts to help disadvantaged groups, including Afro-Brazilians. He explained that the only reason FHC began working on Afro-Brazilian issues was because he was pressured to take action when the PT organized a 30,000-strong demonstration in Brasilia in support of Afro-Brazilian rights. He said President Lula has taken concrete action to help the community through large symbolic gestures such as visiting Africa more times than all of Brazil's previous presidents put together. According to Silva, there is only one party, the Democrats (previously the Liberal Front Party, PFL), that in his opinion is truly against Afro-Brazilian advances. (Note: This comment may stem from the August 2005 statement by Senator Jorge Bornhausen, President of the Democrats, who stated that the PT scandals would ensure that Brazil would be "free from this race" for the next 30 years. While Bornhausen was talking about the PT party, many took his comments to be reflective of his views of Afro-Brazilians which constitute a large electorate within the PT. End Note.) 6. (SBU) Sao Paulo State Assemblyman and PT member Vicente Candido said that even though Lula was originally against quotas supporting Afro-Brazilian slots in universities, he eventually opted to support the idea when he saw how popular the position was within the PT. Lula preferred quotas based on social standing or family income, Candido explained. According to Candido, as a Sao Paulo City Councilmember in 1997, he won passage of Brazil's first quota-based law outlining that the city of Sao Paulo had to reserve 25 percent of all model pictures in municipal advertising and publicity for Afro-Brazilians. He explained that the mayor at the time, Celso Pitta, Sao Paulo's first and only Afro-Brazilian mayor, vetoed the bill, but that Candido won its enactment through a case in the Supreme Federal Tribunal. Candido, who is head of the FEPPIR Caucus, believes that creating legislation on the national level mandating quotas for slots in federal universities (currently awaiting a vote in the House after the Senate recently gave its approval) is the first step in setting up quotas in other areas of the public sector. (Note: Candido said that the university quota legislation, at the risk of a House defeat, will now likely pass in a much watered-down form, "recommending" instead of "mandating" quotas. End Note.) For instance, he hopes this will lead the PT to introduce legislation instituting quotas in the civil and foreign services of the government as well. After tackling public sector issues, Candido said he believes the PT will move on to introducing bills creating quotas in the private sector.
PSDB at Beginning Stage on Afro-Brazilian Agenda --------------------------------------------- ---
7. (SBU) According to Rogelio Barchetti, Sao Paulo First Secretary of the PSDB (and a 2003 IV recipient), the plight of Afro-Brazilians is an important agenda item in the party's program. He noted that the state leadership of the PSDB created a group called "Tucano-Afros" three years ago to promote Afro-Brazilian issues in the PSDB. (Note: "tucano" which translates to "toucan" in Portuguese, is the PSDB's party symbol. End Note.) Carlos Augusto do Santos, president of the Tucano-Afros, said that the PSDB is focused on realizing the goals in Sao Paulo set out during FHC's presidency, but that the party is still only beginning to work on this issue. He added that there is some resistance within the PSDB in supporting the Tucano-Afros because some party members do not understand the "purpose of the group."
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Democrats' Perspective on Racial Inequality -------------------------------------------
8. (SBU) Democratic Party State Assemblyman Jose Bruno, a member of the FEPPIR Caucus, said that racism exists in Sao Paulo but is not prevalent and occurs in isolated cases. He stated that the Democrats, both on the local and national levels, do not believe quotas are a solution to help Afro-Brazilians advance because the system would further separate black Brazilians from whites. Quotas will not resolve the State's nor the country's socio-economic problems and laws in general cannot solve social issues such as racism. Bruno attributes the rise in globalization and greater educational opportunities as leading factors contributing to the disappearance of racism in Brazil.
9. (SBU) Despite the fact that Afro-Brazilians represent half of the country's population, racism is still an issue in Sao Paulo and Brazil as a whole. Both the national- and local-level political parties have not moved significantly on the issue because discrimination was for many years - and even is today - an accepted part of every day life in Brazil. Legislation combating racial inequality is gaining more attention, but the real test to eliminate years of prejudice in the state and the country will be how willing Brazilian society is as a whole to address the issue. End Comment.
10. (U) This cable was cleared by Embassy Brasilia.