Note from BW of Brazil: As noted in a recent post, Afro-Brazilians and women continue to be vastly under-represented on the Brazilian political scene as political parties continue to privilege white, male candidates. This continues to be true of mayors in major cities and on city councils as it is among governors and senators. But in the country’s third largest metropolitan area, there was one pleasant surprise as a breath of fresh air blew in in the form of city councilwoman Áurea Carolina, who comes in with the promise of popular participation of the people. Learn a little about this promising, new political star on the rise in story below.
Earning the most votes in Belo Horizonte, Áurea Carolina will propose salary reduction of city councilors
Black, feminist and representing the PSOL party, political scientist Áurea Carolina won a city council seat with the promise of working with popular participation.
By Juliana Cipriani
Elected with a historic support of 17,420 voters, that gave a black and feminist woman, of a leftist party that had never come to the legislature in the city, the highest vote in Belo Horizonte’s city council, the political scientist Áurea Carolina (PSOL) promises to come in producing. The representative of social and street movements told Estado de Minas (newspaper) that one of the first projects she plans to present will be for the reduction of the salaries of councilors, which today is R$15,066.59.
“It is an abuse, such a high salary when most of the population gets by with very low wages. It’s necessary for the exercise of politics as a profession to be a work of citizenship and not a thing to make a career and remain so distant from the population,” said the elected councilor. Áurea Carolina said she will technically study an amount to be proposed, but thinks that it can be reduced “quite a bit.”
For herself, the elected city councilwoman signed a notarized promise to donate part of the subsidy to serve social movements. The collective that she founded and helped elect, besides her, Cida Falabela, of “Many for the city that we want,” made official the proposal to give 40% to 70% of the salary, according to the needs of each. “I will donate at least half,” she says.
The young Áurea Carolina, 32, lives with her partner, lawyer Saulo Veríssimo, and the cats Margô and Baobá in the neighborhood of João Pinheiro, in the northwest region of Belo Horizonte. She doesn’t have children and still hasn’t thought about this.
“I am that fighter, I gave my life in the name of the construction with social movements. I am a feminist and a trained political scientist,” she says.
Many for the city
Still thrilled by the surprising results of the vote, she has the popular support to try to put her ideas into practice in City Hall. She knows that, as in her battles so far, she will be a minority together with just one councilor of the PSOL.
“I strongly believe in dialogue, coexistence and think it will be possible to create a field of proposition from inside. The movements will support me, just like the city council that has support in the struggle of the city. There are re-elected councilors Gilson Reis (PCdoB), Pedro Patrud and Arnaldo Godoy, of the PT (Workers’ Party), which I think are going to be partners. It’s an expectation, because we have common agendas,” she said.
Áurea Carolina was surprised by the votes she received. She said it was a demonstration of the strength of the field of resistance in the city. “It’s that we are really many. It was by conviction and I won an extraordinary victory for women, black people, youth, generally in search other possible politics,” she said.
Áurea’s partner, lawyer Saulo Veríssimo believes that her significant votes were because of a society that calls for representation. “She managed to channel this fight. The Áurea has already been a politician since always, she’s on the streets in the battle, what happened was a space in the câmara (chamber/house of city councilors). This significant vote is a resonance of a lack of representation within the câmara, I think it’s precisely this representation,” he affirmed.
With the slogans “mulheres no poder” (women in power) and “no fewer rights”, Áurea Carolina, won one of 41 seats in the Municipality of Belo Horizonte with promises to fight for the adoption of a municipal plan for youth, for the occupation of public spaces, for racial equality and the “empowerment of women.”
“É mulher preta”(“It’s a black woman”)
Once confirmed her election, Áurea was celebrating with the people at the entrance of the PSOL. Hailed with cries of “é mulher preta” (it’s a black woman), she returned with a discourse of popular participation.
“We will build a popular mandate for women, for the black population, the youth, the LGBT population, ambulants, street people, those who grind every day in this city, for no fewer rights, for no more eviction. It’s for dignity for diversity, a policy of love, radically democratic. Let’s do it together! Fora Temer (down with President Tener),” she said.
Within the city group that we want, Áurea and all the other 11 candidates committed to the political platforms of each other. They also registered that they will have popular assemblies to make decisions of the mandate.
Well known in hip hop circles, she fights for the rights of blacks and LGBT, having massive support from the artistic community and social movements. Artists like the musician Maurício Tizumba publicly declared support for her. Aurea Carolina has expertise in gender from the Universidade Autônoma de Barcelona (university).
She was sub-secretary of Policies for Women of Minas Gerais, from where she resigned, giving up a position with salary of R$9,000 for not agreeing with course of the Fernando Pimentel (PT) government. “I saw that I didn’t have the conditions to develop a work there and chose to return to self-employment to strengthen the field of social struggles.”
From there, she returned to the coordination of the Secretaria Executiva do Fórum da Juventude da Grande BH (Executive Secretariat of the Forum of Youth of Greater Belo Horizonte), an organization of civil society, and remained until March of this year, when she left to devote herself fully to the campaign. Not only hers, but the group that she helped to create the “Muitas pela cidade que queremos” (many for the city we want). She also participates in the collective Pretas em Movimento (Black Women in the Move).
The movement, which has its roots in the movement for occupation of public spaces driven by the street Carnival and Praia da Estação, 12 candidates were released, with, beyond her, actress Cida Falabela being elected.
Lately, Áurea Carolina’s life is almost entirely focused on the campaign, but she also does workshops for youth and lectures. “I work a lot bringing this debate in different formats. I also work at home and on social networks,” she says.
A historic vote gave Áurea Carolina de Freitas e Silva, a woman, black, feminist and from a left-wing party, the highest vote of the City Council of BH. Áurea Carolina comes to the câmara promising a different mandate, targeted at minorities.
With R$15,225.72 in contracted costs about one-third of R$50,000 spent by the second biggest vote getter, Professor Wendel Mesquita (PSB), Áurea Carolina had 4,000 more than votes than him (17,420 to 13,277) according to data by the Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE). Her campaign gained strength in social networks.
To the newspaper O Tempo, Áurea said she believes in the renovation of the Belo Horizonte Legislature. “Being a black woman, from the periphery, with representation in hip-hop, there’s very heavy weight and also the agendas that I defend, a politic of ideas that defends the improvement of democracy in the midst of an institutional coup,” she said, in reference to the recent assumption of the presidency by Michel Temer, who replaced former President Dilma Rousseff in what many label a coup d’etat.
Belo Horizonte’s seat of government has 41 vacancies. Sunday, 8.47% were counted as blank votes, 12.46% null and 21.66% of abstention.