Approximately 98 per cent of the 10.1 million people who responded to a survey conducted at the beginning of September in 3,894 municipalities throughout Brazil gave a resounding ‘no’ to the question: ‘Should the Brazilian Government sign the FTAA treaty?’
The treaty was proposed by the United States and is slated to be ready for ratification in 2004. Furthermore, 95 per cent of the voters indicated that Brazil should not even ‘continue participating in the FTAA negotiations,’ in response to the second question put forth in what the organizers dubbed a ‘people’s plebiscite’.
The plebiscite co-ordinators – Brazil’s National Bishops Conference (CNOB), the Movimento Sem Terra (Movement of Landless Workers), Central Union of Workers and other groups – had hoped for at least six million voters to take part in the ‘consultation’. This total was reached in a similar experience in 2000, when 96 per cent responded that Brazil should stop paying its foreign debt. In the end those hopes were vastly exceeded.
There is widespread understanding, according to Catholic priest Alfredo Gonçalves, that the FTAA could shut down a debilitated economy like Brazil’s and leave this South American giant – with its population of 170 million – defenceless to a world power while bankruptcies and unemployment multiplied.
‘And without Brazil, there is no FTAA,’ says Gonçalves. Firm opposition from Brazil ‘would change the direction’ of the negotiations under way, he said.
Between September 2002 and March 2003 civil-society groups in all countries in the Americas have pledged to carry out similar consultations of popular opinion.