José Fogaça, former Mayor of Porto Alegre



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José Fogaça
Former mayor of Porto Alegre
By Andrew Stevens

27 October 2008: The 2004 election of José Fogaça as mayor of Porto Alegre was reported around the world as the demise of the city's signature participatory budgeting policy. The mayor's office however is only one staging post of the 60-year old Fogaça's political career, which saw the mayor in capital Brasilia between 1982 and 2002 as federal deputy and then senator. The mayor was a finalist for the 2008 World Mayor Prize shortly before his October 2008 re-election for a second term.

2010 update: José Fogaça resigned as mayor on 29 March 2010 to run for state governor of Rio Grande do Sul.

2011 update: José Alberto Reus Fortunati is the current mayor of Porto Alegre


Born in 1947, Fogaça graduated from the Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul, where he studied law. He then taught constitutional law at the College of Rio Grande before a media career in television and radio and as an occasional journalist.

Fogaça's political career began with a term as state deputy for the opposition Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) and was elevated to the office of federal deputy for the party in 1982. At this point Brazil was still emerging from its period of dictatorship, with the retention of the strict two party system, which Fogaça campaigned against as the city's coordinator for the Diretas Já (Direct Now!) pro-democracy current. After a single term as federal deputy he was promoted again in 1986, this time securing election as senator for the state. As a member of Congress he played a role in the drafting of the final text for the New Republic's 1988 democratic constitution.

Fogaça vied for the party's nomination for the 1990 state governor elections but only ranked third.To the surprise of many, he defected from the centrist PMDB to the post-communist Socialist People's Party (PPS) in 2001 in an attempt to secure re-election as senator, which later backfired when he lost the 2002 general election. Fogaça's political career was revived in 2004 when, as the candidate for the PPS/Brazilian Labour Party alliance (the latter being a centre-right entity), he secured election as the 35th mayor of Porto Alegre.

The "painful" electoral upset in Porto Alegre was the talking point of the 2004 Brazilian municipal elections, which saw the end of 16 years of PT governance of the city, long regarded as a party stronghold - Fogaça's victory was dismissed by former mayor and then education minister Tarso Genro thus: "The people opted for a new experience." However, following his 2004 election on behalf of the PPS, Fogaça returned to the centrist PMDB in September 2007 (having been confirmed as PPS candidate in March). It was suggested Fogaça did this to facilitate his re-election in 2008 by depriving rival Manuela D'Avila (a Communist federal deputy for the city) of the party's support.

Porto Alegre, the state capital of Rio Grande do Sul, is noted for its large communities of German and Eastern European descendents (the rest of the country was mostly settled by Portuguese colonists and then Spanish/Italian migrants). The gaucho capital, is known to many on the US-European liberal left as the first seat of the anti-globalisation World Social Forum. It is probably best known for the city's pioneering of the much-studied participatory budgeting concept, introduced by Workers' Party (PT) Mayor Olívio Dutra in 1989 (Dutra was later Cities Minister under PT President Lula's first term).

The mayor has strenuously denied that his administration intends to abandon participatory budgeting any time soon, despite it being most strongly associated with the PT. In fact, in 2006 he gave a lecture in London promoting the concept. He has also spoken at global events about the need for cities to embrace partnership with the private sector without recourse to privatisation of important city services.

Fogaça is married to wife Isabela, a recording artist. The city of Porto Alegre operates the mayor-council system of government, with 36 councillors elected alongside the mayor. The office of mayor is also subject to a term limitation of no more than two terms.

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