Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Template:Infobox President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (born October 6, 1945) is the President of Brazil. Lula was elected to the post in 2002 and took office on January 1, 2003. His politics are left-wing.
Lula was born Luiz Inácio da Silva in Caetés district of Garanhuns city in Pernambuco state, Brazil, to a poor, illiterate farming family. His date of birth was registered as 6 October but he claims to have been born, according to his mother's memory, on 27 October.
Soon after Lula's birth, his father moved to the coastal city of Santos (in the Brazilian state of São Paulo), to work as a cargo lifter in the city's harbor. Lula's mother and her 8 children joined his father in 1952, facing a journey of 13 days in an truck's open cargo area. Although their living conditions were better than in Pernambuco, life was still very difficult.
Lula had little formal education, quitting school after 4th grade. His professional life began at age 12 as a shoeshine boy. By age 14 he got his first formal job in a steel processing factory. Lula did complete elementary school.
At age 19, he lost a finger in a accident while working as a press operator in an automobile parts factory. Around that time he became involved in union activities and held several important union posts. Brazil's right-wing dictatorship strongly suppressed trade unions, and in reaction Lula's views moved further to the political left.
In 1978 he was elected president of the Steel Workers' Union of São Bernardo do Campo and Diadema, the cities home to virtually all of Brazil's automobile manufacturing facilities (such as Ford, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and others) and among the most industrialized in the country.
In the 1970s, Lula helped organize major union activities including several huge strikes. He was 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, including Lula, founded the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) or Workers' Party, a left-wing party with radical ideas created right in the middle of the military dictatorship.
In 1982 he added the nickname Lula (which means "squid" in Portuguese and is also a hypocoristic for Luiz) to his legal name. In 1983 he helped found the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) union association.
In 1984 PT and Lula joined the popular Diretas Já campaign, demanding a direct popular vote for the next Brazilian presidential election. Presidents were then elected by members of Congress, but since the military coup only high-level military personnel (mainly generals) had been appointed. As a direct result of the campaign and after years of popular struggle, the 1989 elections were the first to elect a president by direct popular vote in more than 30 years.
In the 1986 elections, Lula won a seat in Brazil's Congress with a medium percentage of the votes. The Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) helped write the country's post-dictatorship constitution, ensuring strong constitutional guarantees for workers' rights, but failing to achieve redistribution of rural agricultural land.
In 1989, Lula ran as the PT presidential candidate. Although he was popular with a wide spectrum of Brazilian society, he was feared as an opponent by business owners and financial interests, and lost the election. His party was formed by left-center social democrats and Trotskyist socialists, which also earned him the distrust of better-off Brazilians, his party is the biggest and most important party of Left spectre(A socialist democratic party).
Lula continued to run for President. In his 2002 campaign he abandoned his informal clothing style and his platform plank of refusing to pay Brazil's foreign debt. This last point had 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.
Lula became President after winning the second round of the 2002 election, held on October 27, defeating the Center-left candidate Jose Serra of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (Brazilian Social Democracy Party, PSDB)
After winning the presidency, Lula changed many of his original ideals. His party moved progressively to center-left political position. Instead of deep social changes (as proposed in the past) his government chose a reformist line, passing new retirement, tributary, labor, and judicial laws, and discussing a university reform. Some members of the Worker's Party disagreed with these changes in focus.
Here are some significant laws passed by Lula's administration, with his support.
- Social Security Reform of the Civil Service - Passed in 2003, one of the first laws passed by Lula's administration. It aimed to guarantee retirement payments for civil servants for twenty years. In Brazil, civil servants and private sector employees are subject to different retirement and social security legislations. Critics say the law decreased the rights of civil servants; the main argument of critics is that Lula and his party were for years against any initiative about this matter.
- Tributary Reform - Partially passed in 2003.
- Judiciary Reform - Passed in 2004.
- Bio-security Law - Regulates activities related to the use of genetically modified materials and other related matters, such as embryonic stem cell research;
- University Reform - Being discussed in 2005.
- Disarmament Law - A gun control law. Voted in the end of 2003, it restricted gun access for the citzens. Prohibition of gun selling was disapproved by the population during the October 23rd, 2005 referendum. (See Estatuto do Desarmamento (in Portuguese) for further details).
As a left-wing president, Lula da Silva 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. Some critics say that hunger is not a real problem in Brazil; the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics IBGE, in 2005 released a survey showing that the number of hungry people in Brazil is far below that assumed by Lula's government. According to FAO, Brazil has 15.6 million undernourished people.
One of Lula's government's best-known social programs is "Fome Zero" (Zero Hunger). This program distributes money to selected regions and cities whose inhabitants suffer severe difficulties. Fome Zero has a governmental budget and accepts donations from the public and international community. Despite massive propaganda, the government has as yet shown few concrete results.
Another social program is "Bolsa Família" (Family Aid), which unifies many other government efforts. Its objective is to fight poverty and hunger and it consists primarily of financial aid to families with incomes less than R$100.00 (around US$40.00 at the time of this writing). It demands that the families send their children to school and keep their vaccines up to date. There is some criticism about the program's effectiveness.
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.
PT and Lula chose a prominent market figure for President of the Brazilian Central Bank, 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, and had previously occupied high level offices at BankBoston. Meirelles was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 2002 as a member of the PSDB (opposition to President Lula's party), but had to resign that position before becoming President of the Central Bank.
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 in 2001. His government achieved a satisfactory primary budget surplus in the first 2 years, as required by the IMF agreement. Actually, Lula increased the surplus target without asking the IMF.
By the time Lula was considered the favorite in the 2002 elections, fear of drastic measures (and comparisons with Hugo Chávez of Venezuela) increased internal market speculations. This led to low demand for sovereign bonds, a rise in inflation rate, currency attacks, and a rise in the sovereign risk factor attributed by Moody's to Brazil's bonds to more than 2000 base points.
Two years after the election, Palocci is still slowly but firmly gaining the market's confidence, and sovereign risk measures fell to around 500 points. The government's system of inflation target kept the economy stable, and was complimented during the World Economic Forum of Davos in 2005.
The 2005 economic agenda includes a debate for greater economic authority for the president (like in a number of other countries and in the European Union), and a debate on labor reforms.
Fortunately, Brazilian economy wasn't severely affected by the Mensalão scandal. This is mainly because of the current disassociation between the politic and the economic reality which was only possible to achieve due to Palocci's strong arm against his own party.
Lula has an assertive foreign policy to unify opposition among poor and undeveloped countries against the Washington Consensus in order to to push for better terms of trade in the Southern Hemisphere. 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. Brazil assumed an important role in international politics and is becoming a regional leader in a fertile dialogue between South America and developed countries, especially the U.S. It played an important role in negotiations in internal conflicts of Venezuela and Colombia, and concentrated efforts on strengthening MERCOSUL/MERCOSUR.
During the Lula administration, Brazilian foreign trade increased dramatically, changing from a budget deficits to several surpluses since 2003. In 2004 it achieved a US$ 29 billion surplus due to substantial changes in its commercial focus. Since then, Brazil has been looking for new exchanges with other large underdeveloped countries and regions, such as China, the Middle East and Africa. A record surplus is expected in 2005, despite the relatively low value of the local currency against the US dollar.
Another of Lula's key proposals is a small Tobin tax on international financial transactions that will go to fund developing nations. Brazil also sent troops to Haiti to show its resolve as a global player, and is currently pushing for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
- Main article: Brazilian vote-for-cash scandal
In spite of the Worker's Party reputation for clean and efficient government at the local level, a burgeoning corruption scandal in mid-2005 threatened to destroy Lula's government. After Brazilian Labour Party (PTB) leader Roberto Jefferson was implicated in a bribery case, he accused the Worker's Party in June of paying members of congress illegal monthly stipends to vote for government-backed legislation. Then in August, campaign manager Duda Mendonça admitted that he had used illegal money to finance Lula's electoral victory of 2002. Lula's previously high popularity ratings fell and his re-election in 2006 was thrown into doubt.
- Official homepage of the Workers' Party
- Lula and the Workers' Party in Brazil Review of this book by Sue Branford and Bernardo Kucinsky.
- Antonio Palocci, Ministro da Fazenda
- Henrique Meirelles, President of Banco Central do Brasil
- About the autonomy of the Banco Central do Brasil
Lula's election and foreign policy
- Lula's foreign policy of Third World unity, The Nation
- Brazil's 'Lula' Celebrates Election as President, Voice of America News
- Financial markets hold for Lula, BBC News
- Peace, love and power, Radio Netherlands
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