Monday, 4 October 2010

Anniversaries and Elections: War Measures in Canada, Dictatorship in Brazil 40 Years Later.

There's an excellent chance that a dissident from anti-dictatorship days in Brazil will become the country's next president. Dilma Rousseff, hand-picked by outgoing president Lula received more votes than any of her opponents in Sunday's elections, but did not get more than the 50 per cent needed to avoid a run-off at the end of the month.

Through an interesting twist of circumstance, the election coincides with the 40th anniversary of what is called here the October Crisis, a period in which a provincial cabinet minister and a British trade representative were kidnapped, and the former killed. The press here is full of stories about what happened then including the declaration of the War Measures Act, which did away with most judicial freedoms including habeas corpus. (Note to NDP: the only MP who protested it was Tommy Douglas, and the party would do well to remember that it's important to take stands on principles.)

Obviously people who are punished for protesting frequently go on to be inspirational figures in a country: Jomo Kenyatta and Vaclav Havel are two that come to mind. Dilma (which is what everyone calls her) probably is not of their stature, but it's encouraging to think that the three years in prison she suffered didn't rule her out of the game, once democracy was finally achieved.

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