On August 24 and 31, Rio de Janeiro’s civil society held discussions with two candidates for governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro. The events were part of Agendas for Rio, organized by regional NGO Casa Fluminense in partnership with the Marielle Franco Institute and Ação pela Cidadania. The first discussion was with former mayor of the city of Niterói, Rodrigo Neves, while the second was with federal deputy Marcelo Freixo.
At the time of writing, polls show Marcelo Freixo in second place behind Cláudio Castro and polling 15 percentage points ahead of Rodrigo Neves. This margin was reflected in the attendance at both events: while there were empty seats for the former mayor of Niterói, the event with Freixo was standing room only.
Hunger and Food Insecurity
The first question that both candidates faced concerned rising hunger and food insecurity in the state of Rio de Janeiro. Neves and Freixo were both given the Betinho 2022 Agenda [named after sociologist and activist Herbert de Souza, Betinho, founder of Ação da Cidadania], which contained 92 proposals to fight hunger and establish public policies surrounding food and nutrition security. Both candidates were questioned as to what they would do given the urgent nature of this issue.
Rodrigo Neves promised financial assistance to the people of Rio de Janeiro, but did not give details of where funds would come from. However, Neves assured those in attendance that: “we are going to create a basic income program of R$500 (US$97) per month, just as I did in Niterói during the pandemic.”
Marcelo Freixo promised similar assistance but in the form of a lunch ticket and through the reopening of 13 community restaurants although, like Neves, he gave no clarification of where funds would come from. “First we need to have all community restaurants working. There are 13 of them and today we have five open and eight undergoing renovations and works… [We need] to have access to the federal government’s Unified Registry (Cadastro Único or CadÚnico) to map this hunger, and guarantee a ticket so that [those who need it can] eat at an accredited restaurant, at a value of R$12 (US$2.33) so they can have this minimum daily food”.
Employment and Income for Youth
On the topic of employment and income for young people, both candidates voiced their intent to create 150,000 new jobs. Freixo has requested [presidential candidate] Lula’s support to achieve this objective, while Neves predicted it would take two years to create this number of jobs. Neves also announced that he intends to “restructure the state housing company to build affordable housing. My objective is to build 100,000 affordable homes in my first two years in government. With this, we will create 150,000 jobs.”
Alternatively, Freixo explained: “I’ve spoken with Lula about reviving maritime industry here. This is a decisive action. The maritime industry shrank. We lost 150,000 direct jobs in Rio de Janeiro and over 500,000 indirectly.”
Rodrigo Neves promised to end the security policy of incumbent governor Cláudio Castro and former governor Witzel [Witzel was suspended for fraud, allowing his vice, Castro, to take on the role in 2020]: “What can no longer happen is what has happened in the Cláudio Castro and Witzel administrations. We are going to put an end to the State of Rio de Janeiro ‘shoot in the head‘ policy.”
In addition to ending the current policy, Freixo promised a state plan to fight racism: “We will have a state plan to combat racism in Rio de Janeiro with policies that are cross-sectional and inter-sectoral. This will effectively change the structure of public security.”
Women in Power
When asked about domestic and obstetric violence, Rodrigo Neves promised that his government would have women in positions of power. Without mentioning the name of any particular woman who could become a secretary in his government, Neves said: “You can write this down: I have a commitment to the women of the state of Rio de Janeiro. As of January 2023, at least 50% of the state secretariats will be occupied by women, [who] will lead the first-level positions in the state government.”
Freixo emphasized having a secretariat solely for women: “We are going [to return to] having a Women’s Secretariat, it will be reactivated in Rio de Janeiro.”
When asked how to reduce the school dropout rate in the state, Rodrigo Neves promised to reopen all Integrated Centers of Public Education (CIEP) public high schools: “Just as I did in Niterói, we are going to reopen and revive all the abandoned CIEPs in the state of Rio de Janeiro.” Throughout the meeting, Neves shared various datapoints and promised to create numerous programs based on those that were carried out in Niterói while he was mayor. He did not, however, reflect on any demographic or cultural differences between Niterói and the state of Rio.
Freixo stated he intends to bring university tutors to state schools, creating CAPES/CNPQ scholarships [through federal education and research funding administered by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation respectively] via an agreement signed with President Lula so that they can operate within schools: “Ultimately, we are guaranteeing [this] with R$32 million (US$6.2 million), much less than was diverted by Cláudio Castro’s ghost employees.”
Regarding urban mobility, Rodrigo Neves promised: “I’m going to put Metro Line 3 into action, connecting Itaboraí, São Gonçalo, Niterói and Rio de Janeiro under the Guanabara Bay.”
Freixo also mentioned Line 3 and highlighted that it is not a cheap project. According to him, it depends on investments from the federal government and he stated that he has already discussed the topic with Lula. He also wants a Single Ticket (Bilhete Único) system that allows the use of three modes of transport for R$7 (US$1.35).
With regard to housing, Rodrigo Neves’ proposal is to build 100,000 state-subsidized houses during his first two years as governor: “We have funds to do this, in the same way as we have funds to create a [universal] basic income. What is lacking is political action.”
Freixo did not answer where he will invest the existing housing budget for Rio de Janeiro: “Which Rio de Janeiro housing policy will the housing budget serve? First, you have to define what Rio de Janeiro’s housing policy will be.”
Corruption and Transparency
Rodrigo Neves made a long speech, exceeding his allotted time, but did not say what measures he intends to take to fight corruption in Rio.
Freixo on the other hand made his position clear, stating that he has faced corruption head-on for a long time, since at least the period when Sérgio Cabral was governor (2007-2014). He reminded those in attendance: “I was the first to denounce the corrupt structures of the Cabral administration to the Prosecutor’s Office.”
About the author: Eric Santos is a graduate in Administration, a grassroots communicator and YouTuber. He currently lives in Vargem Pequena, in Rio’s West Zone.