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20 / 09 / 2004
Eduardo Suplicy, brazilian labor senator: Establishing a basic income will be possible if everybody believes in it

The Forum's "141 Questions" (134): "What does Porto Alegre need to make another world possible?" The Portuguese Sociologist, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Professor at the University of Coimbra, and the Brazilian Senator Eduardo Suplicy, have agreed that Porto Alegre is a place of encounter for the emancipation movements of every continent. Both have stated that Porto Alegre is a proposal to combine efforts and to change the world. "It's neither about revolution nor reform. It is a slow and modest movement", affirmed the Portuguese Sociologist, De Sousa. Rounding off the session, Senator Suplicy, a member of the Labor Party, invited all the visitors who had taken part in the event to sing Bob Dylan's symbolic song Blowin' In The Wind, concluding today's session

More information about 141 questions - What is missing from Porto Alegre so that another world can be possible?

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Sociologist Boaventura de Sousa, one of the main driving forces behind the World Social Forum, defended that Porto Alegre "has an idea - the alternative to neo-liberal globalization - but it lacks the means of articulating it and turning it into a reality". According to De Sousa, a few decades ago it wasn't even possible to have the idea of an alternative. "At the present time a new political phenomenon is taking place, but it is still lacking a certain organizational form. Historically, the fight has been national and local; but it has never taken place on an international scale". In addition, De Sousa reminded the audience that: "The Charter of Principles of Porto Alegre says that the struggle must be pacific".

Both De Sousa as well as Suplicy explained that Porto Alegre is a plural and diverse social movement, and that one of the challenges facing it lies in how to articulate it without falling into a hierarchical structure. "It is a demonstration that there is an alternative globalization and that this can be brought about from the grassroots level", affirmed the Portuguese sociologist.

In De Sousa's opinion, the World Social Forum contributes towards creating "an ampler post-capitalist horizon. Porto Alegre sets out to unite efforts to change the world. Now it's difficult because we don't have a theory or a precursor. Porto Alegre is neither a revolutionary nor a European type reformist movement: it is a slow and modest movement that facilitates the intercommunication of social groups from every continent that are struggling for the same thing".

One of the initiatives closely linked to the Porto Alegre movement is the establishment of a basic income for citizens. Senator Suplicy has been one of its maximum defenders in Brazil, where he has succeeded in getting the government of Lula to include it in his government's program and in getting Congress to approve it. Brazil will see this innovation implemented as of 2005 and it will affect 181 million Brazilians. Suplicy also expressed his satisfaction because the Forum Barcelona 2004 will be the venue over the next few days of the Basic Income European Network congress in which the irreversible internationalization of this organization will be agreed upon as well as its change in scale from a European-wide level to a planetary level.

The Brazilian Labor Party Senator emphasized that establishing a basic income is not a utopia, as a member of the audience had suggested. The idea has been in practice for decades in the North American state of Alaska, where the national residents, and outsiders who have been residing in the State for more than five years, receive an income that comes from the economic profits produced by the numerous oil operations in the Alaskan peninsula. Suplicy explained that the initiative was the brainchild of a Republican politician, Governor Jay S. Hammond. "If they have managed to do it in Alaska, it can be done anywhere. Establishing a basic income will be possible if everybody believes in it", said Suplicy.

The Brazilian Senator regretted that the oil-producing countries do not encourage initiatives of this type. Supliciy went on to say that he himself had proposed to his compatriot, Sérgio Vieria De Mello, UN mission leader in Iraq, the idea of establishing a basic income of these characteristics for Iraqi citizens, and which would come from oil revenue, as in the system existing in Alaska. De Mello was assassinated, along with dozens of other people, in an attack against the headquarters of the United Nations in August 2003. "I do not believe that my proposal has prospered, on the television we only see death and destruction", regretted Suplicy.

By way of answering a question from the audience on the actions taken by the government of Lula da Silva to make one of his first promises as the country's president into reality, Suplicy quoted the words of Lula: "If at the end of my mandate each Brazilian can eat three times a day, I will have accomplished the my life's mission". Suplicy went on to explain some of the details of the ambitious Hunger Zero project led by Lula, which sets out to eradicate the poverty of 44 million people and includes numerous agrarian reforms, the construction of reservoirs in arid regions of the country and support for farmers, etc.

Today's session ended with Senator Suplicy's invitation for the entire audience taking part in the 141 Questions, who filled the Haima Stage and its surrounding areas, to sing Blowin' In The Wind by Bob Dylan. Suplicy, De Sousa and the Forum visitors launched the question, amid a tremendous final applause, "How many roads must a man walk down, before you can call him a man? Hoy many seas must a white dove sail, before she sleeps in the sand? How many times must the cannon balls fly, before they are ever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind".

Boaventura de Sousa Santos
Born in Coimbra, on November 15th, 1940. Doctorate in Sociology of Law from the University of Yale (1973). Professor and Chair of the Economy Faculty at the University of Coimbra and Visiting Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the London School of Economics, the University of São Paulo and the University of Los Andes. Director of the Centro de Estudos Sociais da Faculdade de Economia at the University of Coimbra, since 1978. Director of the Centro de Documentação 25 de Abril at the University of Coimbra, since 1984. Director of the Revista Crítica de Ciência Sociais, since 1978. He participated as keynote speaker in the first, second and third World Social Forum, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001, 2002 and 2003. He was awarded the 1994 Portuguese PEN Club Essay Award; the 1996 Gulbenkian Science Award; the 1997 Bordalo da Imprensa – Sciences Award; the JABUTI Award (Brazil) - Area of Human Sciences and Education, 2001.

Eduardo Matarazzo Suplicy
The first elected senator in the history of the Brazilian Labor Party (PT), Eduardo Matarazzo Suplicy, was born in São Paulo, Brazil, on June 21st, 1941. His political performance is the result of a public life built up over almost 20 years, when he was elected for his first mandate as State Deputy (1979/1983). He is one of the founders of PT and member of the Executive and the National Directory of the Party. Eduardo Suplicy is the author of "The Effect of Mini Devaluations on the Brazilian Economy" (Published by Fundação Getúlio Vargas - 1975); "International and Brazilian Economic Policies" (Published by Vozes ed. - 1977); "Commitment" (Published by Editora Brasiliense - 1978); "Investigating the Coroa-Brastel Case" (edited by the House of Representatives - 1985); "From the Distribution of Income to the Rights of Citizenship" (published by Editora Brasiliense - 1988) and "The Program of Guaranteed Minimum Income" (edited by the Federal Senate - 1992).