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This paper examines the negative impact the Brazilian Bolsa Família Program (BFP) may have on autonomous political participation and tries to present a discussion about how to minimize this impact, without damaging the rights conditional cash transfer programs, as the BFP, seek to promote. The paper is organized in three main parts. The first part is devoted to presenting an overview of the basic structure of BFP, the most relevant evidence on the results of the program in general and, in particular, its negative impact on the political autonomy of its beneficiaries, due to its potential to induce some form of clientelism. In the second part, the study offers a discussion about the relationship between, on the one hand, political rights and democracy and, on other, the fundamental rights to subsistence and food security, especially given Latin America’s reality. Finally, in the third part, the study seeks to suggest, for discussion, some proposals in order to minimize the side effects observed.


Paper presented in Mexico City at SELA 2012 as part of the panel on “Poverty and Law.”