Brazil leader seeks support for broad political reform

President Dilma Rousseff met with senior lawyers and lawmakers to enlist support for a plan to defuse a wave of mass popular protests by launching sweeping political reform.

Rousseff has proposed a referendum to set up a constituent assembly that could oversee reform and placate the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators who took to the streets in recent weeks to demand a better quality of life. She also offered to earmark USD 25 billion for public transport to appease anger over high fares and creaking, overcrowded bus and rail systems.

The president underscored the need for increased investment in health and education and urged tougher penalties for those found guilty of corruption -- key demands of the protesters -- but her proposals got mixed reactions. Rousseff Tuesday met Marcus Vinicius Furtado, the president of the country’s Bar Association, to discuss the body’s call for a ban on corporate financing of election campaigns. Furtado said afterwards that a political reform was possible without establishing a constituent assembly.   

‘It would mean expending a great deal of energy for something which can be resolved without having to amend the constitution. All that needs to be changed is the legislation on elections and on parties,’ he added. Justice Minister Eduardo Cardozo said the government was looking at alternatives to the constituent assembly but would insist on holding a referendum.
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