A few words on the recent Brazilian elections

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Tags:  2014 brazil elections planet-debian

The Brazilian presidential election was exceedingly intense this year. Among many inferences that we can make by following the news and investigating data from the voting results I'd like to share this one, which in my opinion reflects quite well the vote preferences in the country.

First, let me introduce you "Belágua", a small town located in the Northeast region of Brazil. It has 6,524 habitants, 3 buses and 2 hospitals. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the income per person in Belágua is $146 BRL (or U$59) per month. Believe it or not, it used to be much less. Actually, the city reported in 2013 the highest economic jump in the country, rising more than a thousand positions in the ranking of GDP per capita (from position 4,991 to 3,849). This recent growth was consequence of the social welfare program of the Brazilian government, which also boosted artisanal and manioc flour production. This federal assistance is called "Bolsa família", which benefits 1.814 families in Belágua.

"Bolsa Família currently gives families with per-capita monthly income below $140 BRL (poverty line, ~$56 USD) a monthly stipend of $32 BRL (~$13 USD) per vaccinated child (< 16 years old) attending school (up to 5), and $38 BRL (~$15 USD) per youth (16 or 17 years old) attending school (up to 2). Furthermore, to families whose per-capita monthly income below $70 BRL (extreme poverty line, ~$28 USD), the program gives the Basic Benefit $70 BRL per month."

(from Wikipedia)

Contrary to what many of my middle-class friends believe, and as you can calculate yourself, this little amount of money does not offer anybody a luxury life. It does not make anybody stopping working, nor stopping looking for paid job (but yes, it makes people to start saying NO to forced labor, which is amazing, right?).

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Belágua, where Dilma got 93.93% of votes (photo by Clarissa Carramilo / from G1)

Also, Belágua has no much physicians around because doctors in Brazil usually wouldn't live in a such city. But now Belágua population can be treated by foreign doctors imported by the recently launched program "Mais Médicos" (More Physicians for Brazil), which hosts two Cuban doctors 15km away. Finally, Belágua people have light, due to the "Luz para Todos" ("Light for All") program.

It's not surprising that Belágua has re-elected the party which has motivated these changes. For 2014 presidential election, Belágua people gave 3.558 votes (93.93%) to Dilma Rousseff (candidate of the current government, from a left-ish party), against 230 (6,07%) to Aécio Neves (from the right coalition), being the city with the largest amount of votes for Dilma, proportionally, followed by "Serrano do Maranhão" (93,75%), which is located in the same region.

On the other hand, the city which gave, proportionally, the largest amount of votes for Aécio Neves has a population of 5,564,635 habitants, where most of citizens are not Brazilians, not yet. Miami, located in US, was the city where Brazilian residents would elect Aécio by 7,225 votes (91,79%), against 646 (8,21%) for Dilma, followed by Atlanta/US (89,47%) and Houston/US (89,22%).

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Miami, where 91,79% of Brazilians voted Aécio (photo by Marc Averette / from Wikipedia)

It's so clear that we do what people call "selfish vote". In general, we don't care about which party has better proposals for the society as whole. Rich people will go against any serious social equality proposal, which will necessarily be followed by higher taxes on their fortunes. As middle class citizens, we care about dollar rates, because we want to get cheaper iStuff from Miami. We're also very upset by the fact that new apartments are being built without that small room in the back, which has been used to accommodate a subservient housemaid who, until last year was not even legally considered a worker.

Those people from Belágua, who used to live in extreme poverty for decades, serving as slaves, they mostly care about having something to eat. Now they eat, so they can think better, they can work, they can sell what they produce in their little yard. And like middle-class and rich citizens, they will give their vote in exchange of what they think is better for them. The big difference here is, if we ask Belágua people why they voted for Dilma, with no embarrassment they will make it very clear, that's because her government has provided them lots of benefits. Asking the same question for most Brazilians in Miami, Atlant, Houston or São Paulo, you'll get not only a bunch of allegedly moral/altruistic reasons, but they will also try to delegitimize in many ways the votes from those marginalized citizens. You'll never get the real reasons from them. They will even try to convince you that whoever receives federal assistance should automatically lose right to vote. Such a statement may seem ridiculous, however it has been very present recently. Actually, such hate speech is happening right now. While I'm writing this post about 2500 people are protesting in São Paulo streets, asking for an immediate military coup because they don't agree with the elections result. These people keep pushing the limits of ridiculousness.

Dilma won with 51.64% of valid votes, a very tight result. The country is clearly divided, mostly by hate, unfortunately.