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Brazil's freedom of information law under threat

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Brazil’s long-awaited freedom of information law is once again under threat.

Senator and disgraced ex-President Fernando Collor, who was impeached in 1992 by the very Senate he now serves, has proposed radical revisions to the freedom of information bill 41/2010.

These changes constitute a clear affront to President Dilma Rousseff, who has supported passage of the measure, to the Chamber of Deputies, which approved the bill in 2010, and to the three Senate committees that have already endorsed the measure in 2011.

As Chair of the Committee on Foreign Relations and National Defense, Mr. Collor holds a powerful position in the Senate. But the amendments proposed are so retrograde that Collor should hardly be taken seriously.

A freedom of information law is viewed to be one of the principal pillars of transparency and social accountability needed to better combat endemic corruption in Brazil.

Will the Senate cooperate with Rousseff?

Given Senator Collor’s intent, the freedom of information bill will almost certainly forfeit normal legislative procedure.

President Dilma Rousseff will have to work with Senate leader José Sarney to either a) issue an “urgency petition” in order to force the bill out of committee, for an open floor vote, or b) pursue a floor vote that will ultimately approve the bill as it stood before Collor’s amendments.

If the Senator’s amendments are approved, the bill will likely go back to the Chamber of Deputies to expire. What stands in the way of a successful urgency petition is Senate leader José Sarney, who has already indicated his opposition to the bill. Without the Senate leader’s cooperation, moving forward with the urgency petition may be impossible.

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