"The Crisis will not effect the poor the most," says Ruth Cardoso.  Excerpts from an Interview published by the Folha de Sao Paulo, 14 March 1999.

First Lady Ruth Cardoso:      "The financial and fiscal crisis will not necessarily create more social problems for the poorest members of society," said first lady Ruth Cardoso in an exclusive interview with the Folha.  She said that, "for the first time in the history of Brazil, it is not the most poor who are paying the most."  Ruth Cardoso directs Comunidade Solidaria, an organization which seeks to solve social problems through partnerships between government and non-governmental organizations (described in the book Fernando Henrique Cardoso:  Reinventing Democracy in Brazil).  With 61 state workers, and 10 employees in "positions of confidence," Comunidade Solidaria has a budget of only 1.3 million reais, but it coordinates the spending of 3.2 billion reais in 1,369 municipalities throughout the nation.

When asked how the first four years of CS had gone, Dona Ruth said, " I believe these four years were extremely important because we had the chance to put into practice ideas which, until then, were quite abstract.  Ideas such as the partnership between government and civil society.  We had a group of people who believe in these ideas and wanted to try them and see what would result....  At the beginning we were completely lost.  It is difficult for people to change from one thing, which was governmental programs, to an entirely new form of action.  I think we took a certain amount of time to digest this.  I think that we had difficulty to work out how to put the ideas into practice.  We resolved this at the moment when we began to do concrete programs which made the ideas viable."

    "I think there was confusion because people had doubts.  I believe that now there is less confusion.  People had a great deal of resistance to the idea that one could have a partnership between government and society and that this could be articulated by an organization which is not governmental.  It is evident that I exist because the government gives me this room, gives me people to work with me.  Therefore, when I reply that I am  not the government, some people have a certain difficulty in understanding this.  But I think this is changing."

Folha:  Then, were the first four years a kind of test to see if the ideas would work, and now are they going to grow?

Ruth Cardoso:  "No.  The ideas have already proved themselves, and they have already expanded.  During these four years, we put our programs in practice.  All of them began small and grew enormously...  It was not four years of tests, no."

Folha:  Is the economic crisis altering your plans and projects?

Ruth Cardoso:  "No.  I believe that the conjuncture is the conjuncture.  It is not worth the trouble to change the planning, and I hope that this will be as short as possible.  The relationship between the financial crisis and the fiscal crisis will not necessarily create the most social problems for the poorest people.  The management of these programs is being done to guarantee their stability.  For the first time in the history of Brazil, it is not the poorest people who are going to pay for the crisis."

Translated by Ted Goertzel