Translation of article “Marcelo Freixo: ‘O PSOL não vai comandar uma revolução.’” From O Dia, published April 21, 2012. Edited for brevity.
RIO – In 2008, State Representative Marcelo Freixo (PSOL, Socialism and Liberty Party) presided over the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiries (CPI) of Militias of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro (Alerj). He has received numerous death threats, and only goes out accompanied by a security detail; a precaution that will complicate his latest endeavor: campaigning for mayor of Rio de Janeiro.
O Dia – You were born in São Gonçalo and lived in Niterói until 2010. Why not run for mayor of Niterói?
Marcelo Freixo – My dedication was never confined to one district, and neither was my mandate: 65% of the votes I received in the last election–this was a very expressive election, it had the second highest voter turnout in the state–were from Rio de Janeiro. This is an important fact to recognize. I was never a representative of local causes, I was always what they call a “representative of opinion.” Representatives of opinion debate big policy ideas. I have always been militantly devoted to human rights and public security. This debate was never confined to one city, neither Rio nor Niterói; it is a broad subject. Moreover, my party considers me a strong candidate, on account of the last election. So my candidacy is a strategic move for the party, because I am a strong contender in Rio.
OD - Some people are saying that because you chose Marcelo Yuka (a former member of the musical group O Rappa) to run for deputy mayor, that you are more interested in being a pop star than being mayor. Do you really want to win this election?
MF – Of course I do. I want to win a second term. This city is worth it. The path we are on now, becoming a city-as-business, is unnatural. The current relationship between public officials and private enterprises was a political choice. I do not agree with the PMDB’s conception of power. Public office in Rio de Janeiro has become a business bureau, and the city’s future is defined by the economic interests of corporations. But we have a different conception of how politics should work. We want to build an alliance with the public. Yuka expresses that alliance perfectly. Choosing Yuka as my running mate was a key strategic move. I’ve been discussing an alliance with the PT (Worker’s Party) for a long time. The more radical members of the PT interest me more than the core.
OD - If you are elected, what will your first priorities in office be?
MF – We will have to see when we get there. Can I tell you a story? All the money being wasted on Bus Rapid Transit [Eduardo Paes's public transit program] is public money. All the profit goes to private enterprise, and the public pays the price. Why doesn’t private enterprise shoulder some of the cost? And there’s no way out of it, because the government signed a contract. I am defending the interests of the people of Rio de Janeiro. Are we going to cooperate with private enterprise? Fine, but we can’t allow the government to put the interests of private capital first. Rio’s city government has become a business, where the mayor is a trustee looking our for corporations. The Public-Private Partnership is an example of this phenomenon. There are many businesses in Rio that can’t stand it, because they don’t want to participate in a fixed bidding war, they want to invest in the city, but they’re excluded… You have to be a friend of the king…
OD - So PSOL does not accept private enterprise playing a central role in the city, on principle?
MF – Let’s get one thing straight: PSOL is running a campaign, not starting a revolution. Businesses will invest in the city, regardless of our position. What is intolerable is that despite the money being poured into Rio de Janeiro, we have the worst public health in the country, the second-worst public education system, and public transit that doesn’t work. This is chaos. I’m talking about transportation, education, and health. These three points, and public security, the fourth, are the key issues in any city. UPP Social is nonexistent, it’s just a façade–look at the budget.
OD – You were in charge of the Investigation of Militias in 2008. Is it problematic for a candidate to be linked to one issue, in your case public security?
MF – If you look at my record, I was never just focused on security. I’ve worked on cultural and educational issues as well, and I’m a professor. It’s true, I am very dedicated to public security. And in Rio de Janeiro this isn’t just any old issue. It’s not an abstract idea that doesn’t affect people’s lives. The next mayor needs to understand this.
OD - Campaign donations: are their donors you won’t accept money from?
MF – This is easy, because the donors I wouldn’t accept don’t want to give me their money anyway. I don’t want money from Delta, or Odebrecht [a construction and petrochemical corporation that frequently works with Rio's government]… I receive most of my donations from individuals on my website. I don’t want money from contractors that make deals with the government. I don’t need them, and they don’t do any good.
OD - During your campaign in 2010, people were saying, “If he’s not elected, he will die,” because of the threats received after the militia investigation. If you don’t win this election, will your life be in danger?
MF – If I am not elected, I will be forced to leave Rio de Janeiro, and possibly leave Brazil. I am still receiving death threats. Since 2008, there have been more than thirty terrible threats… After the death of Judge Patrícia Acioli–last August in Niterói–that October I got one threat after another. Seven in one month.
OD - Were these threats sent directly to you?
MF – I never received the threats myself, which, incidentally, is very telling: 90% of the threats came through Disque-Denúncia [an anonymous tip hotline]. But the information they get is extremely detailed: “This militia will meet on this day, in this place, with police officers A, b, and C, they will plan to kill this state representative in this restaurant, where he eats lunch…”
OD – Couldn’t these be empty threats to let you know they’re watching you?
MF – If they wanted to give me a warning, they would do it some other way. I’ve already done what they were afraid I would do. Some guys went to jail, public opinion changed; that’s not why they’re threatening me. Most threats fit the same pattern: “Look, I want to make you stop doing what you’re doing.” This doesn’t make sense in my case, which makes me think that some of these threats might be fake. I meet with the intelligence unit regularly, and they tell me: “You can’t consider going out without security right now, because they could do something, they still want to get you.” Anyway, I got a lot of threats on October and November, and I asked why they weren’t being fully investigated. So they started investigating them and reinforced my security. If I don’t win this election, I will lose my protected status and be vulnerable; I would not be a public figure anymore, I wouldn’t have as much protection, and I would be afraid to stay here. So, I would leave.
OD – You went to Spain after receiving death threats, and you were criticized for this. Some people said this was a publicity stunt, that you weren’t really the target of death threats. What did you do in Europe, exactly, and how would you respond to these allegations?
MF – First, claiming I wasn’t really targeted is absurd because the threats were written. But you could still say I didn’t really have to leave, like, “Yeah, there were some threats, but it wasn’t a big deal.” That’s an opinion. I respect it, and I disagree with it. It’s not anyone else’s life in danger, it’s mine. These guys killed a judge with guns and ammunition that came from the police. A month later, I got threats detailing how they were going to kill me. Saying that I wasn’t really in danger–don’t do that. That’s not a political argument, it’s cowardly, and I won’t respond respectfully. I’ve had security since the CPI. I got a threat on the day I left the country. When I started to get a lot of them the police said, “They’re telling you what they’re going to try to do.” I asked, “You have to reinforce my security detail, clearly, I’m next on the list…” Tim Cahill, from Amnesty International, told me, “Marcelo, get out of there now, it doesn’t matter if it’s last minute. If you leave, it will bring attention to what’s going on there.” I was gone for fifteen days, enough time to create a commotion, to send a message that they were going to kill me and the threats were not being investigated. Then I came back and finished the CPI. After that, the police upped my security and opened a real investigation, and the threats stopped coming. So that’s why I left the country.
OD – Can you tell me one good thing and one bad thing about Mayor Eduardo Paes?
MF – One good thing about him is he’s got a good work ethic. Not like the governor, for example. He’s a guy who wakes up early to go to work… One negative thing about him is that he represents a style of politics that makes public power nonexistent. In his style of government, the public good is subordinate to corporate interests. It’s not very democratic.