Brazil's new democratic constitution not only wipes away the last vestiges of military rule but also enhances civil rights and protects domestic industries from foreign competition.
The gold-embossed, green leather-bound charter was signed Wednesday by President Jose Sarney, Congress President Ulysses Guimaraes and Supreme Court President Rafael Mayer in the flag-draped chamber of Congress in the capital of Brasilia."I declare promulgated the document of liberty, of dignity, of democracy and social justice of Brazil, and may God help us uphold it," Guimaraes told an audience that included representatives from most legislatures in Latin America and 559 Brazilian members of Congress who spent 18 months writing the charter.
It is Brazil's eighth constitution since the country declared independence from Portugal 166 years ago and replaced a charter written by the military that ruled from 1964 to 1985.
The constitution gives less power to the president and more to Congress, enhances civil rights including the abolition of censorship, allows more protection for Brazilian business people facing foreign competition, and outlines improvements in labor and welfare benefits.
All elections will be by secret ballot with universal franchise.