Lula steered Brazil to new heights
BRAZIL: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva steps
down today, handing power to an elected top aide after eight years
steering his country into enviable stability and prosperity.
The legacy he leaves would be remarkable for any leader, but for the
former factory metalworker and trade union leader he was, it resembles
more a made-for-Hollywood story tracing a rise from poverty to power.
“The majority of the population have given me the opportunity to
prove that a mechanic shift worker can do for this country what the
elite never managed to do,” Lula said when he was first elected to
Brazil’s highest office in October 2002.
The gruff, bearded head of state is leaving reluctantly. Brazil’s
constitution blocked him from seeking a third consecutive mandate
despite a spectacular popularity rating of over 80 percent.
But he did manage to secure his successes by making sure his former
cabinet chief, Dilma Rousseff, was elected to take over as Brazil’s
first female president.
Unlike when Lula took power — to market panic at the idea of a
leftist former union leader at the controls — economists are complacent
at seeing Rousseff continuing what turned out to be fiscally responsible
policies by the outgoing president.
Rather than implementing radical left-wing reform, as feared, Lula
adopted dark suits and a calm, pragmatic approach that allowed him to
become a star of global diplomacy while reinforcing cooperation between
the world’s developing nations.
The review Foreign Policy even went as far as to call him a “rock
star” on the international stage who projected impressive charisma. US
President Barack Obama called him “the man.”
A gifted negotiator, Lula knew how to build unlikely alliances or
cast off friends who had suddenly become liabilities through political
“I know how many slurs and prejudices I’ve had to overcome to get
where I am. Now, my only goal is to show that I am more competent than
many people who have run this country,” Lula said in 2006, as he was
about to be re-elected.
The general feeling in Brazil is he achieved that aim, by maintaining
an economic plan drafted by his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Social programs he championed have lifted 29 million people out of
poverty and into a middle class that is developing a reputation for avid
Lula’s common touch, with a vocabulary of the street, was a comfort
to a population sick of bureaucrats.
Brasilia, Thursday, AFP