Friday, October 07, 2005


A river and a bishop: a new Constitutional Amendment is on its way

People often ask why the Brazilian Constitution is amended so often (48 amendments since October 5th 1988).

The Federal government decided to invest a massive amount of cash to divert the course of River São Francisco. This river is the most important in the Brazilian northeast; in a semi-arid zone, where most rivers dry out during the drought season, the São Francisco is a blessed source of water, for human drinking, farms and power generation.
The project is controversial. Among several parties who disagree with the project (mostly from States which would loose part of the water flow), there was a bishop from Cabrobó, in the interior lands of Pernambuco.
The bishop started a hunger strike which lasted for about eleven days. He wanted the President of the Republic to halt the entire project, for "further discussions".
On October 6th, the President sent a Minister to talk to the bishop. The bishop was persuaded by the Minister, and finished his hunger strike. Read a BBC report on the case.
What did the Minister promise to the bishop? (see report by O Globo) : 1) Further discussions (before the project is started). 2) A personal meeting with the President. 3) A Constitutional Amendment, by which the government commits to invest R$ 300 million (about US$ 140 million) per year over the next twenty years to revitalize the river.

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