When Movimento Viva Brasil was founded, in August 2004, it represented not only the wishes but also the hopes of a group of idealists who had always fought for their civil rights, especially the right to bear arms.
Lead by Bene Barbosa, a mid-school teacher, dedicated defender of people’s civil rights and individual freedoms for more than 10 years, Movimento Viva Brasil started a serious discussion about the lack of effective national security policies, which was being masked by some people with a Disarmament Campaign of the law abiding citizens.
Movimento Viva Brasil was founded with the objective of showing and informing the Brazilian population about what in fact was behind the Disarmament Campaign, brought forward by the Disarmament Statute, and to put an end to the fallacies suggested by the anti-gun supporters, in defense of the Referendum and the Prohibition Campaign.
The battle that took place in the National Congress was long and hard. Always present in Brasilia, Movimento Viva Brasil followed all the steps to the MP’s voting that approved the referendum. It also worked together with the few politicians that questioned the Disarmament Statute and the absurd idea of taking gun-rights from the people.
On several occasions, the national and regional coordination of Movimento Viva Brasil tried to arrange a meeting with Senator Renan Calheiros, President of the Brazilian Senate, to discuss the Disarmament Statute, the campaign and the Referendum, but was never received by the Senator.
At the House of Representatives however, Movimento Viva Brasil was received by the then President of the House, Severino Cavalcanti, together with many other entities and associations for human rights, families of victims of violence, people of the countryside, sporting shooters (of which Brazil once won a gold medal in the Olympic Games), and several others, determined not to lose their right to purchase firearms and ammunition.
It was one of the most remarkable moments in our fight. The banner “Disarming the citizen is not the solution” was printed on T-shirts of all those who were present at the Cabinet of the House of Representatives President.
It had always been part of Movimento Viva Brasiil’s policies to inform the population about the facts of the Referendum, but it had a lot of difficulty in getting the necessary ink and airtime, due to the posture of the mainstream media, practically made up by people willing to defend the more “politically correct” position. Unfortunately a large part of the Brazilian press was not interested in listening to what Movimento Viva Brasil had to say, despite all the information and statistics that were offered for journalists to analyze.
However, thanks to an excellent communication strategy, Movimento Viva Brasil conquered space in the regional communication channels and in the Internet, from where broadcasted information reached the population and opinion-makers.
Movimento Viva Brasil gradually gained visibility as a sound source of information and had a positive participation in a series of interviews and debates on television and radio.
Parallel to that, various other idealists from different regions of the country gathered together and joined the fight. Movimento Viva Brasil managed to gather some voluntary regional coordinators in different States, being then able to create a solid information web. The president of Movimento Viva Brasil himself, traveled around the country, participating in interviews and debates, public audiences, visiting trade unions and institutions.
The Parliamentary front
A lot of effort had to be directed towards the Members of Parliament during the Referendum’s approval process, unfortunately not enough to avoid the Referendum itself. A great mass of government’s allies in the Congress, together with NGO’s financed by foreign money, put all their effort into the approval of the Referendum. And it was the Brazilian population, eager for realistic and effective measures towards public security, that had to pay approximately R$ 600 million to go to the polls.
In March 2005, even before the Referendum was approved by the Congress, Movimento Viva Brasil and Alberto Fraga MP created the Non-partisan Committee for Self Defense Rights (Comitê Suprapartidário Pela Legítima Defesa), which later became the Parliamentary Front for Self Defense Rights (Frente Parlamentar pelo Direito à Legítima Defesa), supporting the “NO” Vote campaign, against prohibition.
Opinion polls started to show the voting intentions of the population. Some sectors of the media however, with the clear intention of confusing the electorate about their vote, misled the population into believing that the election was about Disarmament, and that if Prohibition was passed, the crime levels would have a considerable drop. For some time, these lies succeeded, and voting intention polls indicated that 80% of the electorate tended to vote “YES” (in favor of the prohibition).
The turning point
We would have to be very efficient in informing the electorate about the realistic information about what was really behind the Referendum, so that they knew exactly what they were voting for, or against. Our PR, Chico Santa Rita, was in charge of all campaign publicity matters and was determined that the arguments should focus on civil rights and individual freedom. From then on, the lies, fallacies, fake numbers, and manipulated statistics used by the anti-gun campaigners started to be exposed. Quickly, most citizens had realized what the Referendum was all about, and were determined not to give up their rights, particularly when their right to make choices was at stake.
It was then that we had what could be called the “turning point”. Opinion polls started to show that voting intentions were now on an equal basis, and the media could no longer continue to manipulate the facts. By then, Movimento Viva Brasil had become a sound source of information for journalists covering the event. The “NO” Vote was starting to gain strength, especially after the free TV and radio campaigns were under way.
After only twenty days of free national TV and radio campaign and two days before the voting, opinion polls indicated that 49% of the electorate already intended to vote “NO” towards prohibition, against 45% tended towards the “YES” Vote.
During the days that preceded the election, there were no end of demonstrations and protests, clearly showing what a great part of the Brazilian population intended to vote for on the 23rd of October.
Brazilians were prepared to say one big “NO” to the prohibition of the legal sales of firearms and ammunition – 64% of the population did so.