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Encyclopedia > Luís Inácio Lula da Silva

Luiz Incio Lula da Silva
President of Brazil
Became President: January 1, 2003
Predecessor: Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Date of Birth: October 6, 1945
Place of Birth: Vargem Grande (now Caets), Garanhuns,
Pernambuco State
Party: Workers' Party

Luiz Incio Lula da Silva (born October 6, 1945) is a left-wing Brazilian politician. Lula gained election as the President of Brazil in 2002 and took office on January 1, 2003.

Politics of Brazil
Contents

Biography

Lula was born as Luiz Incio da Silva in a small city in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, from a family of poor farmers. He has been registered as born on the 6th of October, but he claims, believing his mother's memory, to have been born on the 27th of October.


His father moved shortly after his birth to the coastal city of Santos, So Paulo state, where he worked as a cargo lifter in the city's harbor. Lula's mother, his 7 siblings and himself joined his father in 1952, facing a voyage of 13 days in an open truck's cargo area. Even though they had better living conditions than in Pernambuco, life was still difficult.


In 1956 his family relocates to So Paulo, then a land of greater opportunities. Lula, his mother and the 7 siblings lived in a small room in the back area of a pub. He had little formal education, quitting school when he completed the 4th grade. His proffessional life begins at age 12, as a shoeshine boy. By the age of 14 he gets his first formal job in a steel processing factory.


At the age of 19, he lost a finger in a work accident while working as a press operator in an automobile parts factory. Around the same time, he became involved in union activities and held several important union posts. The right-wing dictatorship of Brazil in this era strongly suppressed trade unions, and Lula's views moved further to the political left in reaction.


In 1966 he marries Maria de Lourdes, his first wife, who died together with his first son at birth. He marries again, Marisa, in 1974, who gave him three sons.


In 1972 he is elected president of the Steel Workers' Union of So Bernardo do Campo and Diadema, the cities that were home to virtually all the automobile manufacturing facilities (like Ford, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and others) and among the most idustrialized in the country.


In the 1970s, Lula helped organize major union activities including several huge strikes. He was arrested and jailed for a month, but was released following protests. The strikes ended with both pro-union and pro-government forces dissatisfied with the outcome. On 10 February 1980 a group of academics, union leaders and intellectuals, Lula included, founded the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) or Workers' Party, a left-wing party with radical ideas and born right in the middle of the military dictorship.


In 1982 he added the nickname "Lula" to his legal name. In 1983 he helped in the founding of the Central nica dos Trabalhadores (CUT), an union association. In 1984 PT and Lula himself joined the popular campaign called Diretas J, demanding popular vote for the nation's presidential elections. By this time, presidents were elected by the members of the Congress, but in a clear military dictorship, and since the Military Coup only high level military personnel (mainly Generals) were appointed.


As a direct result of the 1984 campaign and following years of popular struggle, the 1989 elections were the first to elect a president by direct popular vote in more than 30 years. In 1992 he joined the campaign for the impeachment of the popular elected president Fernando Collor de Mello after a series of scandals involving public funds.


Elections

In 1986, Lula won the election to a seat in Brazil's Congress with a medium percentage of the votes. The Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) helped to write the country's post-dictatorship constitution, ensuring strong constitutional guarantees for workers' rights, but failing to gain redistribution of rural agricultural land.


In 1989, Lula stood as the PT presidential candidate. He proved to be popular with a wide spectrum of Brazilian society, but was feared as an opponent by business owners and financial interests, and lost the election. His party was formed by left-center wing social-democrats as well as Trotskyite socialists, which also earned him the distrust of better-off sectors in Brazilian society.

Enlarge
State visit to Mozambique, Nov. 2003. Lula aims to build Brazil's relationships with other Portuguese-speaking countries.

Lula continued to run for the office of President in subsequent elections. In his 2002 campaign he abandoned his style of informal clothing, as well as his platform plank of refusing to pay the Brazilian foreign debt. This last point had very much worried economists, businessmen and banks, who feared that a Brazilian default along with the already ongoing Argentine default would have a massive ripple effect through the world economy.


In the second round of the 2002 election, held on October 27, Lula defeated Jos Serra of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party or PSDB) to become the president-elect of Brazil.


The Government

Political Orientation

The once-feared Lula (even called the "son of Moscow" in 1989) accepted many changes to his original ideals. His party progressively changed to a centrist-left political position. Instead of deep social changes (as proposed in the past) the new government chose a reformist line, passing new Retirement, Tributary, Labour, and Judicial laws, as well as a controversial University Reform.


These relative changes in the political orientation of his party (PT), the Government and Lula himself were well received by the majority of the population, but as a historically more radical party, PT has been suffering from internal struggles with members that followed the old standards. These struggles are often demonstrated publicly and had their climax in December 2003, when several members of the party were expelled for not following political decisions. Among these members were congressman Joo Batista Oliveira de Araujo, known as Bab and senator Helosa Helena.


In a recent move by the radical wing of the Party, sometimes called the rebels by the media, 112 members announced they are abandoning PT in the World Social Forum, in Porto Alegre, on January 30, 2005. [1] (http://www.estadao.com.br/nacional/noticias/2005/jan/30/120.htm) They also published a manifest entitled Manifest of the Rupture that states that PT is no longer an instrument of social transformation, but only an instrument of the status quo, continuing with references to the IMF and other economic and social issues.


Reforms and Important Laws

Social Security Reform

Tributary Reform

Judiciary Reform

University Reform

Labour Reform

Important laws aproved under Lula's government

Social Projects

As a left-wing president, Lula has made social programs his priority during his campaign and since his election. Lula states that one of the main problems in Brazil today is hunger. Possibly remembering his early years of poverty and hunger in Pernambuco and So Paulo, he states that he made the fight against hunger a personal one.


One of his government's most notorious social programs is "Fome Zero" (Zero Hunger). This program distributes money to selected regions and cities who's people suffer from severe difficulties. The money can then be exchanged for food in local commerce. Fome Zero has a government budget and accepts donations from the public and international community.


Another important social program is "Bolsa Famlia" (Family Aid), which unified lots of other governmental efforts and whose objective is to fight poverty and hunger. It consists primarily in helping families with incomes of less than R$100.00 (around US$30.00 by the time of this writing) by supplying them with financial aid.


Economy

The single most important member of Brazil's economic cabinet is the Minister of Finance (Ministro da Fazenda), who is largely responsible for all economic decisions.


Lula has appointed Antonio Palocci as his Finance minister. Palocci, who is a Medical Doctor by profession, is a member of Lula's party (PT) and was previously mayor of Ribeiro Preto. Palocci was considered the right choice by the internal market and the international community.


PT and Lula decided to choose a prominent figure from the market as President of Banco Central do Brasil (Central Bank of Brazil), the Brazilian economic authority. This person was Henrique Meirelles, who was consequently approved by the Brazilian Senate. Meirelles was well known to the market, both at home and internationally. He previously occupied high level offices in financial institutions such as Bank Boston, and worked together with George Soros.


Lula and his cabinet followed, in part, the ideals of the previous government, by renewing all agreements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which were signed by the time Argentina declared its default of 2001. His government has achieved a satisfactory primary budget surplus in the first 2 years of his presidency, which was necessary to keep up with the IMF agreement.


Lula has strongly invested in international commerce as a way to jump-start the Brazilian economy. He has signed political and economic treaties with countries like Russia, China and South Africa.


Fear of drastic measures by Lula (and comparisons being drawn to Hugo Chvez's actions in Venezuela) led to an increase in internal market speculations by the time Lula was considered the favourite in the 2002 elections. These speculations resulted in low demand for sovereign bonds, a rise of inflation rates, currency attacks, and ultimately in the sovereign risk factor attributed by Moody's to Brazil's bonds rising to more than 2000 base points.


Two years after the election, Palocci is still slowly but firmly gaining the market's confidence, and at the same time sovereign risk measurements have to date fallen to the neighborhood of around 500 points. The system of inflation target adopted by the current government has had good results in keeping the economy stable, and was subject to compliments during the World Economic Forum of Davos in 2005. This system is, nevertheless, criticised in public by a number of important members of the Government.


The economic agenda for 2005 includes a debate for greater autonomy for the president of the economic authority (using as example what goes on in a number of other countries and in the European Union), and also a debate for labour reforms.


Foreign Policy

Lula has an assertive foreign policy: this involves unifying opposition to the Washington Consensus among third world countries so as to push for better terms of trade in the Southern Hemiphere. This was seen as one of the reasons for the walkout of developing nations and subsequent collapse of the Cancun World Trade Organization talks in 2003 over G-8 agricultural subsidies. Another of Lula's key proposals is a small Tobin tax on international financial transactions that will go to fund developing nations. Brazil has also sent troops to Haiti to show its resolve as a global player.


External links

Political Orientation

  • Senator Helosa Helena's homepage (http://www.senado.gov.br/web/senador/hehelena/default.htm)
  • Congressman Bab's homepage (http://www.babacst.org/)
  • Article about expulsion of members from the party (http://noticias.aol.com.br/brasil/fornecedores/rts/2003/12/14/0003.adp)

Social

Economy

  • Antonio Palocci, Minstro da Fazenda (http://www.fazenda.gov.br/portugues/institucional/palocci.asp)
  • Henrique Meirelles, President of Banco Central do Brasil (http://www.bcb.gov.br/pre/quemequem/port/presidentes/henriqueMeirelles.asp?idpai=diretoria)
  • About the autonomy of the Banco Central do Brasil (http://www.estadao.com.br/economia/noticias/2005/jan/29/38.htm)

Lula's election and foreign policy

  • Lula's foreign policy of Third World unity (http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20031201&c=1&s=greider), The Nation
  • Joy as Brazil swings Left (http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,5377447%255E663,00.html), Melbourne Herald Sun
  • Brazil's 'Lula' Celebrates Election as President (http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=859A04F3-00CF-4CDB-A17EC194ECC6086B), Voice of America News
  • Financial markets hold for Lula (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2368179.stm), BBC News
  • Peace, love and power (http://www.rnw.nl/hotspots/html/bra021028.html), Radio Netherlands



Preceded by:
Fernando Henrique Cardoso
President of Brazil
2003-2006
Succeeded by:
--



 
 

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