SAO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil's congress on Tuesday rejected a controversial amendment which would have limited the power of federal prosecutors to investigate crimes; it also passed a bill that designated all royalties from newly discovered oil fields to education and health care.
Demonstrators had argued that the amendment, called PEC 37, could lead to more corruption in the country. It would have given the police exclusive power to conduct criminal investigations, removing the role of federal prosecutors in evaluating criminal charges.
The measure was defeated by 430 votes to nine after President of the House Eduardo Alves announced that the original vote date of July 3 had been moved up as a result of the "clamor in the streets" over corruption in Brazil.
“The PEC 37 only served to protect the corrupt,” said protester Aline Campos, a 29-year-old publicist from Brasilia. “Society wants more effort to combat corruption, not less.”
Congress also voted to designate 75 percent of royalties from newly found oil fields to education and 25 percent to healthcare. It has not yet been made clear when those royalties would start being allocated.
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Brazil is home to some of the largest oil fields discovered in recent years, and the country is expected to be able to produce tens of billions of barrels of crude oil over the next few decades.
Since protests erupted across the country earlier this month, the Brazilian government has also been discussing possible political reforms. President Dilma Rousseff said the country would simplify a referendum to establish a constituent assembly, which would allow a vote to occur as early as September 7.
Rousseff also pledged $23 billion to solve the transportation issues which sparked the demonstrations, and promised to tackle the government's fiscal responsibility and inflation, political reform, health care, public transport and education — the five major issues that protesters outlined in meetings with the president.
Ministers said the referendum would address "concrete questions" about issues like campaign financing and political representation.
Education Minister Aloisio Mercadante said the government wanted the political reform to have "wide public participation."