Leftist wins Brazil's presidency by a landslide

Reply Mon 28 Oct, 2002 08:20 pm

Former shoeshine boy Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, center, won Brazil's presidential election runoff by a landslide Sunday

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Former union boss Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won Brazil's presidential election runoff by a landslide Sunday, marking a historic shift to the left for Latin America's largest country.

Ruling party candidate Jose Serra conceded defeat, hours after Silva's Workers Party had declared their candidate the winner.

"The voters have decided that Brazil during the next four years will be governed by my rival," Serra told supporters at his campaign headquarters in a statement broadcast live on national TV.

"I wish the winner good luck in leading the destiny of Brazil," a somber-looking Serra said.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Silva -- a former shoeshine boy who rose to become the head of a labor union -- had 61.5 percent to Serra's 38.5 percent, the government Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced.

Thousands of Silva supporters gathered in the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, waving his party's red flag in celebration.

"This is our opportunity to consolidate our hopes for a Brazil which should be more just, and care more about the needs of the people," said Marcos Xavier, a university professor who stood amid some 1,000 Silva supporters on Sao Paulo's main avenue.

While the votes were still being counted, the White House offered its congratulations to the winner.

"The president congratulates the winner of the election and looks forward to working productively with Brazil," said press secretary Ari Fleischer, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, while returning from an economic summit in Mexico.

Silva's criticism of free-market policies is at odds with Washington. His election could complicate President Bush's goal of creating a hemispheric free-trade zone by 2005. But the administration has been careful not to criticize Silva during the campaign, aware that any comment could be seen as interference.

Silva, popularly known as "Lula," just missed a victory in the first-round election on Oct. 6, forcing a runoff against Serra, a former health minister with the ruling party.

Silva's election marks a historic shift to the left for Brazil, which has never elected a leftist president. Its last leftist leader was Joao Goulart, a vice president who assumed power in 1961 when the centrist president resigned. Goulart served 21/2 years before being deposed by a right-wing military coup.

Brazilians are caught between hopes that Silva will reverse rising unemployment and economic stagnation and fears that the former radical union leader could worsen the country's economic woes.

"Lula is the only who can bring about the changes that the country needs to reduce unemployment and improve the standard of living of the people," said Eloisa Marques, 38, laid off earlier this year from a drug store.

But standing next to Marques in a voting line in an industrial suburb of Sao Paulo, Waldir Conde said he preferred Serra.

"Lula doesn't have experience to govern," Conde said. "To rule a country like ours, which is dominated by the United States, it is necessary to have a lot of experience and a firm hand. Serra showed he has that."

Brazil's next president will have to pull the world's ninth-biggest economy from the brink of recession, create more jobs and try to lift nearly 50 million Brazilians from poverty.

As he voted in a school in a working class neighborhood of Sao Paulo, Silva spoke of those Brazilians, and the millions of others who live a hand-to-mouth existence.

"I want to dedicate this election to the suffering poor of our beloved Brazil," Silva said as some 200 supporters outside waved Brazilian flags and small plastic banners with the slogan "Now it is Lula."

Despite a 36 percent showing in the most recent pre-election poll, Serra appeared upbeat as he voted in a fashionable neighborhood of Sao Paulo, a city of 16 million.

"I am confident," Serra said. "We believe that today, we are going to surge ahead at the moment of voting. ... The result comes not from the polls but from the voting machines."

But Silva hoped to celebrate his 57th birthday, which fell on election day, with a victory, capping his rise from the son of a poor farmer to leader of Latin America's biggest and most populous nation.

He left school after the fifth grade to sell peanuts and shine shoes on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. At 14, he began working in a factory, where he lost his left pinkie finger in a machine press.

In a Sao Paulo slum, or favela, pro-Silva sentiment was prevalent.

"He was the only one -- as a metalworker union leader -- who helped the poor," said Nelson Luiz da Silva Pelotti, a 56-year-old retired metalworker.

But even in an area that is a base of support for Silva, his radical past haunted him.

"I don't like communists in my country," said Silvio Alvano, a taxi driver who lives in the slum, adding that he was voting for Serra.

Silva first ran for president in 1989 as the candidate of the Workers Party, urging landless farm workers to invade private property and calling for a default on Brazil's foreign debt, which now stands at $230 billion.

However, in the three subsequent presidential campaigns, Silva moderated his radical tone.

Silva has criticized current President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's unbridled free-market policies but is believed to be considering several fiscal conservatives as members of his economic team.

Cardoso -- who privatized many of Brazil's giant monopolies and lowered import taxes, but failed to help millions of poor Brazilians -- has led Brazil for two four-year terms. He was barred from seeking a third.

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Reply Mon 28 Oct, 2002 08:29 pm

edit: craven - Large image removed, replaced with link

Did I make it?

Sorry for using this board for testing. I'm not the "testing in the test site" kind of person.
0 Replies
Craven de Kere
Reply Mon 28 Oct, 2002 08:33 pm

You did it right but I replaced it with a link. The image is too big to fit in the forum (with large images it's better to link to the image).

BTW is Llegó layman?
0 Replies
Reply Mon 28 Oct, 2002 08:50 pm
Llegó means: "He arrived" (He did it).
It's a very pro- Lula paper.
0 Replies
Craven de Kere
Reply Mon 28 Oct, 2002 08:59 pm
leigo (maybe a spelling error) means layman in Portuguese so I made a false cognate.

I'm disappointed in the results of the election and this is one of the reasons I'm leaving Brazil.
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Reply Mon 28 Oct, 2002 09:59 pm
His victory doesn't make me specially happy, but I guess Brazilians were fed up with their economic woes, and the big income gap.

I don't think he'll mean a big change.
He won't be Felipe González, infelizmente.
He won't be Hugo Chávez, felizmente.
He'll prove, yet again, neither left nor right can deliver good goverments when there is structural instability in a economy.
0 Replies
Craven de Kere
Reply Mon 28 Oct, 2002 10:49 pm
Brazilians have a short memory. I lived in Brazil 3 different times. Back in 91 prices changed by the hour due to hyper inflation. Cardoso's government did very much to change the underlying structure that has held back Brazil.

They changed the "poupança"(saving account) to stop correcting for inflation (which was just adding to the inflation. They opened up their markets and made Brazilian products improve through the competition and have privatized industries that need to be privatized (of course the street sees this as "selling Brazil").

Right after the last elections they even unpegged the currency and let it float. There was initial instability (because they held off on unpegging till after the elections) but then there was growth.

9/11 hit Brazil hard and the people forget all the advances the administration had made.

The price of bread goes up a bit and they say the government is bad. They forget that in the past they were crossing 0s off their bills to adapt to hyperinflation.

My only hope is that Lula doesn't do what he has always said he would do. His rhetoric in the past was worse than Hugo Chávez. I don't think he will be as radical but the fear that he might has already caused the Real to plummet. If Lula tries to reverse the course set over the last few years I'll be very sad. Brazil had promise. Now they find themselves in a situation in which everything has to go right for them to improve their economy. Their chances were bad enough without Lula but with him....

I hope he proves his detractors wrong. His party (PT) was an opposition party since its creation. Now they have the country. Maybe they will have to adapt. In fact they have already been changing.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Brazil. I want all of Latin America to advance and Brazil had promise. It's heartbreaking to see how little my country has helped Brazil when they are doing all that they can to implement the policies that America dictates to them. They made tough concessions and if Brazil collapses I think all of Latin America will suffer because then many will think that the policies that the U.S. has been selling to them (most of the economic policies I happen to agree with) don't work.
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Reply Tue 29 Oct, 2002 06:16 pm
A big problem for young democracies is that often people expect too much from government.
In authoritarian systems government is seen as a father (providing and scolding), and citizens feel as children. This rooted syndrome is difficult to take away.
That's the reason characters such as Chavez and Lula arrive in power. They promise to be giving fathers, giving big allowances to everybody.
The IMF, in the other hand, is a 4 letter 3 letter word: the foreigner who tells dad he must not be a giver, but a taker, if he doesn't want to become bankrupt.
Only a better understanding of elemental economic laws and a culture of social participation will prevent populists from coming now and then into power (and from losing it often, since they seldom can deliver their promises).
0 Replies
Craven de Kere
Reply Tue 29 Oct, 2002 06:22 pm
Great points. Populists can always campaign to the poor and fail to deliver. Easy way in, but they rarely fix anything. The street doesn't realize that it would be catastrophic for Brazil to default on their IMF debts I hope that the IMF continues to restructure the way they restructure the loans.

Hopefully as their economy grows education will as well and a better understanding of economics will result.
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Reply Tue 29 Oct, 2002 06:48 pm
The big problem with the IMF is that it sets fixed targets on numbers, regardless of the effects on real people's lives.
So the technocrats are seen as people who don't care for people, but only for variables. I know their kind and they are hideous, hiding their souless selves behind digits.
0 Replies
Craven de Kere
Reply Tue 29 Oct, 2002 06:56 pm
I don't much like them but this year I have seen them make progress (like more flexibility in the rules for debt restructuring).
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