BRASILIA – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff spoke out decisively on Monday against the amendment being debated in Congress with the support of several of her allies that reduces the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16.
“That would be a great setback for our country. A few days ago, I reiterated my position against that type of initiative and I stand by what I said,” said the president on Twitter.
Reducing the age of criminal responsibility “does not resolve the problem of juvenile crime,” according to Rousseff, who said that the better option would be to more rigorously punish the adults who recruit minors to commit crimes.
The president two weeks ago commented on the issue after the Constitution and Justice Committee of the lower house gave the green light to the constitutional amendment reducing the age of criminal responsibility to 16, meaning that that is the age at which prison sentences may begin to be imposed after convictions.
The committee’s decision, by a vote of 42-17, was the first step in the long process of approving a constitutional amendment that was made years ago by Congress but which some lawmakers decided to refloat in light of recent crimes committed by minors that caused public outcry.
Despite the fact the Rousseff’s Workers Party opposes the initiative, the bill moved forward with the votes of a majority of legislators affiliated with the parties of the center and the right making up the political alliance with the government.
Rousseff said that her opposition to the amendment does not mean that she favors impunity for underage criminals.
“Minors who have committed some kind of crime have to be subjected to socio-educational measures that, in the most serious cases, already include deprivation of freedom. Brazil has an advanced law, the Childhood Statute, that can always be made better,” she said.
“But I insist that we cannot allow the reduction of the age of criminal responsibility. The place for boys and girls is in school. Enough with impunity for those who recruit children and teenagers for crime,” Rousseff said.