President of Brazil's Address to FISL 2009

This is an unofficial translation of the speech given by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil to FISL 10, the 2009 International Forum for Free Software, 24-27 June 2009, in which he states his opposition to the Brazilian Cyber-crime bill.

Well, Dilma has really already spoken for the Brazilian government. I didn't need to say anything at all here today, because I think that passing through that gauntlet that I went through to get here was already worth at least four speeches. But I would like to say hello to my colleagues from the Ministry who are here with us.

I would like to say hello to the national deputies, our senators, our former governor Olívio Dutra, mayor Fogaça. I would like to say hello to a special guest who got here late today, who is our colleague Lourdes Muñoz, from Spain, representative for Barcelona and who advises President Zapatero on free software issues. I haven't seen her face yet because she didn't introduce herself here. Stand up, please.

I want to say hello to our beloved university president Joaquim Clotet. I want to say hello to our dear colleague Marcelo Branco, the general coordinator of the 10th International Free Software Forum. I want to say hello to the various colleagues from Brazilian public entities who are here. I'm seeing right in front of me the Bank of Brazil and also Serpro. I want to say hello also to our guests from abroad. I want to say hello to that little girl who is on someone's lap over there, who must be wondering what we're doing here and why her parents brought her here. One day, she's going to understand. And I want to say hello to a special person who is here, who is Sérgio Amadeu, because once the dish is cooked... Oh, I also want to say hello to Tigre, our president of the Industrial Federation of Rio Grande do Sul.

Once the dish is cooked, it's easy for us to eat it. But cooking this dish was no joke. I remember the first meeting that we had, in Granja do Torto, where I understood absolutely none of the language that these people were using and there was an enormous tension between those who were defending Brazil's adoption of free software and those who thought that we should keep on doing just the same as always, keep on going the same way, buying, paying for other people's intelligence, and, thank God, in Brazil the issue and the choice for free software prevailed. We had to choose: either we could go to the kitchen to prepare the dish that we wanted to eat with the flavors that we wanted to add and we could put a little Brazilian flavor into the food, or we could go eat what Microsoft wanted to sell us. Simply speaking, the idea of freedom won.

I would like to mention one thing, because the free software issue has won, in my mind. You know that I was never a Communist. When they asked me if I was a Communist, I said that I was a machinist. But I have remarkable colleagues who participated in the armed struggle in this country, colleagues who belonged to the very different parties and ideological currents in this world, all remarkable colleagues. I had an older brother who tried his whole life to convert me to the Party, and my brother would bring me, worn-out, all the documents that they had written 200 or 150 years ago. My brother wanted me to memorize the Manifesto, he wanted me to read and reread Das Kapital, and wanted me to discuss all of this, and I would say to my brother: Brother Chico, all this was produced so long ago. Can't we start to create something new now?

When the Berlin Wall fell, I was happy because it was going to allow the young people to reconsider things and write new things and build new theories, because it had seemed that everything had been built and that nothing could be different.

Free software is a little bit like that: in other words, it means giving people the opportunity to do new things, to create new things, to value people's individuality. Because there isn't anything that guarantees freedom more than if you guarantee individual freedom, than if people let their creativity flourish, if they let their intelligence flourish, above all in a new country like Brazil, in which our people's creativity may possibly make them, without any disrespect to other peoples, the most creative people of the 21st century.

But all right, I think that our government has already done a lot, but our government could have done more. We are a very democratic government. I don't believe that there is anywhere in the world a government that practices democracy as our government does. I don't believe that there is. I don't believe that there anyone in the world who debates as much, who discusses as much as our government does. And sometimes that makes things complicated, doesn't it, Tarso?

Sometimes we have to hear things once, twice, three times, because since I'm illiterate in this Internet thing -- my children are all experts compared to me. Since the Internet has an amazing property, Olívio: it's the first time that grandchildren are cleverer than their grandparents. It's the first time. In the old days, just because you were older, you wanted to impose yourself on everything, right? Your child couldn't talk when you were talking, you couldn't give your opinion in the grown-ups' conversation. No more. Now there are two geniuses standing talking in the garage and there's a little kid and they say: "How do you change the TV channel?" You only have to have two remote controls and people don't know how to work it. But the eight-year-old kid goes and he mixes, remixes, turns it back and forth, rents a house, pays the rent, pays the electric bill, pays the water bill.

So I think that we are living in a revolutionary moment for humanity, in which the press no longer has the power that it had a few years ago, in which information is no longer a selective thing where the owners of information can stage a coup d'etat, in which information is no longer a privileged thing. The evening newspaper is already old in the face of the Internet, or of the radio broadcast; if it doesn't come out live, if it comes out recorded, it's already gotten out of date compared to the Internet. The newspaper is coming to seem very old compared to the Internet, and it's getting so old that all the newspapers created a blog to report on the whole world together with the Internet users. Well, these things, these things -- none of us knows where they're going to stop, we don't know, do we?

I know that every time that I talk with you, I start to think that if my generation were as intelligent and as creative as yours, we would be much better off than we are today, because the machinery of the state is a complex thing. It's full of bad habits, norms, you know, that come from the era of the Empire. And if you try to change these things, well, a bureaucrat has a manual, and the manual just says what can happen and what can't happen. If you present a new idea, it's forbidden. It isn't able to say: "OK, I have something new here, let me try to work it out", no. It says it can happen or can't happen. And that means that it takes time for the government to start to create conditions that allow them to arrive at the level that we've arrived at.

I'm going to tell you about something: five years ago, we tried to acquire our own business -- look how silly. For us to buy our own business. It was ours, but when the electrical system in Brazil was privatized, the fiber optic network was also privatized and a company called Eletronet was created, which was the American company AES, which didn't comply with its obligations and failed. Then, by agreement, by contract, Eletronet was the government's. And so we then tried to once again get hold of Eletronet so that we could bring Internet, you see, to all Brazilian homes where the network existed, on the whole Brazilian transmission system, including the Petrobras oil and gas pipelines. We couldn't buy it. This is still in court. I mean, they want us to pay a fortune for what is already ours. It's been in court for more than five years. There is a receiver who wants to get more than what the company is worth. And we still haven't gotten Eletronet back, even though it should be a public resource of the people of Brazil.

Just to show you the difficulty that we have. And I think that there's something happening in the world, which I think is fantastic. I, when I see a 15 or 16-year-old boy, when I see my seven-year-old grandson communicating with the entire world, I start to think: what's going to happen 20, 30, or 40 years from now with the kind of availability of knowledge that's arriving in people's homes? We had the first challenge: making sure computers got to the poorest people. If you work in the government you know how much time we've spend discussing the Computer for All. What did we want? We wanted computers to arrive on the edges of the country, for the people who didn't earn much, for people who could pay, at the time, an installment of R$50. We didn't want to give it away for free; we wanted to sell it. We created a special financing program at BNDES to finance the retail market to allow it to get cheaper.

Yesterday I had a retail market meeting and the biggest purchase in the stores today is the computer. Not even the computer, now they've invented something new, it's a notebook. They've already taken a step forward. Nobody wants to sit at a table to deal with their computer anymore, they want to put this puppy on their lap. So it's a great thing that's already happening.

Now I was just unveiling the Light for All program, and it's important for the foreigners here to understand this. Light for All is a federal government program to bring electrical energy, especially in the countryside, in the indigenous communities, in the quilombos, to people who don't have electricity. In 2004, Dilma presented a proposal to me to serve 10 million people by 2008, according to IBGE's numbers. On Monday I went to unveil the connection of 2,400,000 homes. You know what happened? Pay attention, Dilma. Tell your office to take notes: of the people who got Light for All, 83% bought a television; 79% bought a refrigerator; 47% bought a sound system. And we didn't measure computers.

Sérgio, the truth is that now, that same discussion that we had about bringing computers to poor people, now we have are going to have to make the decision to finance computers for our comrades who have received electricity after 500 years in Brazil. That is, we took people out of the 18th century, we put them in 21st century, and so they have the right to have a computer so that their children can arrive in the 21st century right away.

We ... I'm going to stop ... after I talk about Azeredo's bill, which I see some people with a banner there asking me to veto even before it passes.

First, we have to struggle a lot. But let me tell you something. In computer science, we ... Sergio Rezende, our minister of Science and Technology, is here. In the Mathematical Olympiad ... you know that in 2004, we had a Mathematical Olympiad that had 270,000 students from private schools. When I proposed having the Mathematical Olympiad in the public schools -- Tarso was the minister -- some people told us: "No, public school children wouldn't be interested". In 2005 10,500,000 people signed up; in 2006, 14,000,000 people signed up; in 2007, 17,000,000 people; in 2008, 18,300,000; and now for 2009, 19,200,000 children from 5th to 2nd grades have signed up for the Mathematical Olympiad. Previously, the largest Olympiad was the American version, which had around 6,000,000 students registered. Now ours has 19,300,000. Of these, there are 300 who received a medal, either bronze, silver, or gold, and of these, 30 are three-time gold medal winners. There is a boy who is a genius, and how he went to school... he's quadriplegic, he's almost blind, he's almost deaf, and he can't walk. This boy went to school, his father rolled him there in a wheelbarrow, and this boy is a three-time champion at the Mathematical Olympiad.

Now we have created a Portuguese Olympiad. In the first one we had 6,000,000 children, and this year we're starting the Science Olympiad, which are the three most difficult subjects for our people here. So all these kids who won gold medals are geniuses.

So free software offers the possibility for these kids to reinvent things which need to be reinvented. What do we need? Opportunity. You can be sure of one thing, my friends, that in this government it is forbidden to forbid. In this government... what we need in this government is discussion. The businesspeople know how much we discuss, without rancor, without insults, without trying to weaken a competitor, right? We need to debate, we need to strengthen democracy and bring it to its eventual results. Because this country is still getting to know itself, since for centuries we were treated as if we were third-class citizens, we had to ask permission to do things, we could only do what the United States allowed, what Europe allowed.

And our self-esteem is good. We are learning to like ourselves. We are discovering that we can do things. We are discovering that nobody is better than we are. Maybe equal, but not better: there is no one more creative than we are. What we need is an opportunity.

This law here, this law here, it doesn't aim to fix the abuse of the Internet. It really tries to impose censorship. What we need, Tarso Genro, my friend, who knows, might be to change the Civil Code, who knows, it might be to change anything. What we need is to make the people who work with the digital issues, with the Internet, responsible. We need to create responsibility but not to forbid or punish. ... it's the police's interest in making a law which lets people go into people's homes to see what people are doing, even confiscating their computers. It's not possible, it's not possible.

So my dear Marcelo, I wanted to tell you today -- I don't know what my colleagues think. For me, this is a glorious, glorious day, because I have a special advisor who takes care of digital issues, my friend Marcelo, I have ... the government has ten ministers who talk about digital inclusion. Digital inclusion is the sexiest word in the government, you know? It's the sexiest word -- everybody's talking about it. And so I needed a coordinator who speaks a language I understand, and I put in my colleague César Alvarez, who is a southerner from here in Rio Grande do Sul, a fan of the Internacional soccer team, which out of kindness is just going to tie the Corinthians team on Wednesday. Olívio Dutra is an advisor and I've asked him to talk to the Internacional directors: a zero-to-zero tie would be good, Olívio, there's no problem.

But so I think, with this leadership, we are trying to move forward. I just wanted to say one thing to you: look, I have another year and a half left in my term. One and a half more years. It's important for you to figure out what we've already done and what still needs to be improved. And I need you to figure out what we still haven't managed to do and help us do it. Because the problem with government isn't always about money. Sometimes people have 500 projects and these pieces of news end up getting pushed into the background, and that's why we have management. And we'll see, my friends, if all these numbers that Dilma gave you, about our intention to make this an inclusive country, to make sure that children from the edge of town have the same rights as the children of the rich, to have Internet access, to be able to educate themselves, to be able to move freely around this world of the Internet -- help us make it happen.

Be sure of one thing, Marcelo: we don't know everything, we only know one part. I imagine that maybe you don't know everything either, that maybe you only know one part. But if we combine a little bit of what each one of you knows, we could produce a whole which we are definitely missing to really democratize this country, and so that everyone can be free to do good things. Good people are the majority. We don't need to get nervous because every once in a while some crazy person shows up saying stuff. There is even a site advocating killing Lula. It's not a problem, people who advocate life are infinitely more numerous. Infinitely more numerous.

So I want to say to you that entering that gauntlet and seeing that extraordinary range of boys and girls, I think all under 25 or 30 years old, means that we can go out of here and say loud and clear: "This country has finally found itself. This country is finally tasting freedom of information."

Thanks, and have a good meeting.

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