By Richard Mann
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A Federal Court in the state of Bahia determined, on Friday night, June 7th, that the Ministry of Education (MEC) must suspend its blockade of funds for federal universities. The government may appeal.
The decision was taken by Judge Renata Almeida de Moura, of the 7th Federal Court in Salvador, in response to an action filed by the Central Directory of Students of the University of Brasília (UnB).
The 30 percent block on non-compulsory spending (called “discretionary”), the only fund that can be altered throughout the year and is used to pay water, electricity, contractors and works bills, for instance, was announced in April by the Ministry of Education (MEC).
According to the government, the contingency represents 3.4 percent of the total university budget — this is because most of the resources of higher education institutions are earmarked for the payment of salaries and pensions, which are compulsory expenses and cannot be altered by the government.
Since then, actions have been brought before the courts against the measure. In addition, there were demonstrations throughout the country against the blockade last month.
The judge set a fine of R$100,000 (US$25,000) per day, should MEC not comply with the decision within 24 hours.
Earlier on Friday, President Jair Bolsonaro submitted an opinion to the Federal Supreme Court (STF) signed by officials from the Solicitor General’s Office (AGU) and the Cabinet, reaffirming that universities are not “immune” to economic measures.
“Financial management independence granted to universities does not mean financial independence in the strict sense of the term for such bodies, which may not remain immune to contingency measures and compliance with budgetary legislation, otherwise the balance of public accounts will be jeopardized,” states the opinion.