Constitutions of Brazil - 1988
The current Brazilian Constitution was promulgated on October 5th 1988.
Some events had influence on the Constitution.
Political and social events
From 1964 to 1985, the country was ruled by a Military government, which restrained many individual rights in the name of democracy (read comments to the Constitution of 1967).
In 1984, when it became clear that the Military would leave the government, Brazilian population engaged in a massive campaign, trying to change the old Constitution so that the new civilian President should be elected directly by voting; this campaign became known as "Diretas Já" (Direct Now). Despite the popular movement, however, the old system was maintained, and the new President, Tancredo Neves, was elected by the votes of the Representatives in the Parliament.
In 1979, an Amnesty Law was passed. Many politicians who had been persecuted (or exiled) regained their political rights (or returned to Brazil) and were elected to the Constituent Assembly. Among the list of the Constituents, there are names of Ulysses Guimarães (President of the Assembly, one of the main oppositors to the military regime), Afonso Arinos, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, José Serra, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Márcia Kubitschek (daughter of ex-President Juscelino Kubitschek), Teotônio Vilela and others who courageously voiced their opposition during the dictatorship.
These facts led the Constitution to be very liberal, politically speaking.
A chapter was dedicated to "Individual and Collective Rights and Duties"; article 5, which lists individual rights, comes with 78 clauses; moreover, another article states that this article 5 can not be changed, even by another Constitutional Amendment. This was a reaction against the former Constitution of 1967, by which the Militaries reduced the express individual rights, and made some of them relative values.
In theory, the Constitution became very libertarian. Ulysses Guimarães dubbed it as the "Constitution-Citizen". The idea seemed to be "the State mistreated their citizens in the recent past; now, it is time to repair their damages".
The constitution was approved in 1988, before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Gorbachov had just taken office, and the Soviet Union was still a super power.
In the 1970s, Brazil had been the fastest growing country in the world. This growth had been funded mostly by federal resources; the biggest Brazilian corporations were State owned. In the 1980s (after successive oil crises), the growth curve was declining sharply.
So, in line with the social preoccupations, the Constitution attempted also to put the economy in favor of the citizens.
Large monopolies were created because (this was the thought), as these large companies were State owned, they could only do well for the citizens. Petroleum and telecommunications became State monopolies. Private banks were allowed to compete with giant State banks, but, to prevent abuse, a limit of 12% p.a. was imposed to the interest rates.
Civil servants, whose lobby in Congress is much stronger than private workers', gained also many rights, while in service and also after retirement.
Over time, the real world imposed reality to the Constitution. It became more and more clear that, to fulfill the social rights granted by the very same Constitution, the economy would have to adapt to the globalization era.
A good number of the 48 amendments made until Mid-2005 were related to changes in the economic order and in the government structure (in particular, civil servants). With the amendments, Brazil is adjusting the Economy, withouth restraining political and social rights.
Back to Top