When the cashier Agnes Marques Ferreira misplaced her grocery store job in January, the federal government of her hometown of Maricá saved her from plunging into distress by offering her with a month-to-month fundamental revenue price round 900 reals, the equal of 140 euros ($171).
In principle, the sum would hardly be sufficient for the only mom of two boys to make ends meet. However Marques Ferreira now pays 20 % much less for electrical energy and water. Moreover, town’s public transportation system is freed from cost, and if she does must make bigger expenditures, comparable to renovating her lavatory, she will be able to apply for a no-interest mortgage from town.
She lives collectively along with her household in a easy home in a Maricá suburb. “In Rio, I’d be begging on the streets,” says Marques Ferreira. “Right here, I’ve a top quality of life that almost all poor Brazilians can solely dream of.”
The article you might be studying initially appeared in German in problem 20/2021 (Might 15, 2021) of DER SPIEGEL.
The city accountable for this beneficence is positioned round 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Rio de Janeiro, on the Atlantic coast. At first sight, Maricá is sort of indistinguishable from different Brazilian cities. Gasoline stations, workshops, low cost eating places and protestant church buildings line the four-lane artery that connects it with Rio.
However in case you flip off the principle street into the city middle, the picture modifications. Biking paths run alongside the roads and bikes may be borrowed for free of charge. Uniformed site visitors guards assist youngsters and the aged throughout the road. Simply off town’s fundamental sq., which is present process renovations, there’s a model new, vibrant pink cinema, constructed by town’s tradition company. The buses are additionally pink, as are the loaner bikes and town corridor. The selection of colour is not any accident: Right here, it proclaims, the leftists are in energy.
Om a Brazil run by the intense right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, Maricá is like an island. With a inhabitants of 160,000, the group has been led by the Labour Occasion of ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for the final 12 years, and it’s house to an experiment in new social insurance policies aimed toward equal alternative and integration.
In Maricá, insurance policies which are being mentioned as a mannequin in lots of components of the world – notably for the post-corona period – have change into actuality: unconditional fundamental revenue, a free public transportation system and complete, free well being care. Social scientists, economists and politicians from all over the world are paying shut consideration.
“We’re a laboratory for all of Brazil,” says former Mayor Washington Quaquá. The 49-year-old ruled town from 2009 to 2017 and laid the groundwork for right this moment’s actuality. The jovial social scientist is a senior determine within the Labour Occasion and is a rising star among the many proteges of the highly effective Lula.
After two phrases in workplace, Quaquá was now not allowed to run for re-election in 2016. So, he pushed his college good friend Fabiano Horta to run. Horta has been so profitable that he was re-elected in November with a spectacular 88 % of the votes.
“We Have the Finest Mayor”
Two years earlier, Bolsonaro had received 62 % of the vote in Maricá in presidential elections. It doesn’t take lengthy to seek out Bolsonaro followers within the metropolis. In entrance of a juice stand within the metropolis middle sits Wilson Gomes de Anrade, a 78-year-old pensioner. He is filled with reward for the president. “He doesn’t steal, and he doesn’t permit others to steal!” For him, Labour Occasion supporters are “all communists.”
However he avoids criticizing Quaquá and Horta, his successor. “They do job. They’re simply within the improper social gathering,” grumbles the previous clockmaker. With regards to “well being, schooling, fundamental revenue and urbanization,” he offers them a score of 10 out of 10. “We have now one of the best mayor within the state of Rio de Janeiro.”
This verdict isn’t simply shocking as a result of it comes from a staunch Bolsonaro supporter. Former Mayor Quaquá was barred from searching for public workplace for eight years in 2014 by a regional election court docket. The decide argued that the ex-mayor had abused his energy to ensure re-election by elevating the salaries of metropolis workers shortly earlier than the vote.
However his opponents have been unable to leverage the decision for their very own political functions. And even with out holding public workplace, Quaquá stays probably the most highly effective politician in Maricá. He receives his guests in a dilapidated nation house within the inexperienced hills outdoors town. The odor of barbecue is within the air, the water within the swimming pool seems as if it’s been there for awhile and light posters from the Landless Employees’ Motion (MST) and the Labour Occasion dangle on the partitions of the veranda.
Metropolis officers, union representatives and a minister from the previous leftist authorities of Dilma Rousseff are ready for an viewers. A number of former cupboard members from the Lula and Rousseff period have discovered a haven in Maricá.
Quaquá sits beneath a big oil portray of Che Guevara, the revolutionary, sipping a cup of espresso. Quaquá admires the guerrillero: “For us, Cuba is a supply of romantic inspiration,” he says.
He has taken his financial concepts, although, from China, a rustic he admires for its long-term strategic method. “The state there works as an incubator for corporations,” he says – a mannequin he copied in Maricá, the place town administration offers assist to tech startups.
The social welfare security web, although, echoes that northern Europe, whose international locations additionally impressed his concepts about the way to finance that system if the group’s most necessary supply of funding – the oil reserves off the coast of Maricá – ought to finally dry up.
Quaquá calls the huge oil subject a “reward of nature.” It was found throughout Lula’s time period in workplace, and the license charges that Petrobras, the partially state-owned oil firm, pays to coastal communities are Maricá’s most necessary income supply. The mayor forecasts that town will obtain extra revenues of a billion reals (157 million euros) from these charges within the subsequent three years.
Business Versus the Surroundings
Following the instance set by Norway, town has established a fund designed to proceed pumping revenues into the group as fossil fuels are phased out. “We have now a most of 20 years,” says Quaquá.
Town administration desires to make use of that point to push industrialization ahead. They need to remodel Maricá right into a provide middle for the oil platforms off the coast and construct a brand new industrial port – proper on one of many metropolis’s most stunning seashores. Environmentalists have managed to acquire a brief injunction as a result of potential of ecological harm, and the plans are presently on ice till a better court docket can deal with the problem.
The socialist governments of Lula and Dilma Rousseff have been tormented by related issues: The Labour Occasion’s focus is on financial development and it’s keen to simply accept environmental harm in alternate. “With out business, there isn’t a financial development,” says Olavo Noleto, president of Codemar, the municipal improvement firm. The aim, he says, is to make town unbiased of oil revenues within the subsequent 10 years.
Town can be constructing a know-how park, full with a college and factories. As a part of a cooperative, town is planning to provide premium sweets and different foodstuffs. A movie- and television-center is to provide movies that can then be broadcast by itself streaming service. With this “leftist Netflix,” as Quaquá calls it, Maricá hopes to hitch the battle of concepts in opposition to President Bolsonaro and his followers.
Some critics imagine that the oil wealth has gone to the heads of town directors. However Quaquá counters such criticisms by saying: “Once we got here to energy, we weren’t receiving any licensing charges. And we nonetheless achieved all the pieces we got down to do.”
Again then, Maricá, like many Brazilian cities, was dominated by a mafia of personal bus corporations. Their house owners financed election campaigns, bribed politicians, had a powerful say in who was appointed to what submit and dictated ticket costs. Quaquá and his group managed to do one thing that no one thought they may: They broke up the oligopoly. Right this moment, the buses are owned by the state, the automobiles are new and air-conditioned, and the bus schedule is out there to all on the web.
A COVID Chief
The subsequent step was Quaquá’s introduction of an unconditional fundamental revenue for these residing in poverty. Round 1 / 4 of town’s inhabitants – 42,000 individuals – obtain cash from the state. All they have to do is show that they’ve lived in Maricá for at the very least the final three years and don’t earn greater than thrice the minimal wage. To obtain the cash, they have to open an account at a financial institution owned by town and set up an app on their cellphones. Firstly of each month, cash is deposited within the account by town administration.
“We thought: What a loopy thought!”
The essential revenue isn’t paid out in Brazilian reals, although, however in Mumbuca, a digital forex which solely circulates in Maricá. It’s linked to the actual at a 1:1 alternate charge and represents an try and juice the native economic system. “Individuals used to go to Rio to buy groceries,” says Quaquá. “Now, they spend their cash right here.”
“We settle for Mumbuca,” learn indicators within the home windows of many of the outlets within the metropolis. Additionally it is accepted in eating places, physician’s places of work, magnificence salons and barber outlets. It’s named for the river which flows by town.
Native shopkeepers have been initially skeptical. “We thought: What a loopy thought!” says Delfim Moreira, president of town’s commerce affiliation. However right this moment, 9,400 companies use the digital forex – way over settle for Visa and Mastercard.
When the pandemic reached Maricá final 12 months, the municipality raised the fundamental revenue. “We erected a wall of social safety across the inhabitants,” says Mayor Horta. Maricá is the one municipality within the state of Rio de Janeiro to have created extra formal jobs final 12 months than have been misplaced on account of the pandemic.
The mayor is a reserved man who lacks the charisma of his predecessor, Quaquá. When the pink, loaner bikes have been launched – which can be found totally free all through town – he confirmed as much as the occasion in a plaid shirt and pink facemask. In December, he fell sick with COVID-19: “Fortunately, although, I acquired off frivolously,” he says.
Shopping for Vaccine
Quaquá wasn’t fairly as fortunate: He spent a number of days combating for his life in November 2020 after being delivered to the state-run hospital with COVID-19. He needed to be handled in an intensive care unit and positioned on a respirator.
Metropolis well being authorities opened their very own laboratory for check evaluation and despatched workers to individuals’s properties to check them.
Whereas within the hospital, he tried out one of the latest achievements of the state-run technological institute, one developed in cooperation with the Federal College of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a clear helmet that helps COVID-19 sufferers breathe. From his hospital mattress, he posted pictures of the invention on Fb. “We’re presently constructing a manufacturing unit and can promote the factor throughout the nation,” he says.
Maricá is a frontrunner within the combat in opposition to the coronavirus. The brand new hospital that was inaugurated final Might – and that carries the title Dr. Ernesto Che Guevara – was utterly transformed for the remedy of significant COVID-19 circumstances. In the meantime, metropolis well being authorities opened their very own laboratory for check evaluation and despatched workers to individuals’s properties to check them.
The aged, indigent and different threat teams don’t want to go away their properties to be vaccinated: Medical doctors from the well being company come to them. Like the remainder of the nation, nevertheless, town does undergo from a scarcity of vaccines.
“Municipalities weren’t allowed to purchase their very own vaccine till lately,” Quaquá complains. However in response to the worsening of the COVID-19 disaster within the nation lately, Brazil’s highest court docket dominated three months in the past that governors and mayors may additionally buy vaccine.
Someday after that verdict, the top of Maricá’s city-owned know-how institute started negotiations with an agent in Argentina to buy 400,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine.
Quickly, the tempo of vaccinations in Maricá will possible be sooner than in Rio. Certainly, the mega-city’s conservative mayor, who has spoken derogatorily about Maricá up to now, has lately sought a extra conciliatory tone. He wrote on-line that he has established contact along with his counterpart in Maricá. The Rio mayor added that he’s contemplating how greatest “to observe his instance.”