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Brazil Inaugurates Leftist President

BY Admin  January 1, 2003 at 2:04 PM EDT

Following his swearing-in, an emotional Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pledged to work to ease the suffering of the people of Brazil. During his campaign, Silva promised to create more jobs for Brazil’s nearly 175 million people, especially the 50 million who live in poverty.

“If at the end of my mandate all Brazilians have the possibility to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, I will have fulfilled the mission of my life,” Silva said.

But the new president, who has moderated his leftist platform in recent years, said that change would take time in a country where the national currency lost some 40 percent of its value in 2002.

“No one can reap the fruit before planting the trees,” Silva said.

After his election, Silva said he would continue efforts to limit inflation while focusing on programs aimed at helping create more jobs and alleviating poverty.

“We are going to confront the actual vulnerability of the Brazilian economy, a crucial factor in the financial turbulence of the last months, in a safe way,” Silva said the day after his victory. “The tough challenge that Brazil faces will need austerity in the use of public money, and also a hard fight against inflation.”

Silva arrived at the ceremony in a convertible Rolls Royce, waving to thousands who crowded the parade route. He won the presidency by garnering 67 percent in an Oct. 27 runoff. In that election he received more votes than any democratic leader in history, except President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Representatives of more than 115 nations attended the inauguration, including Cuban President Fidel Castro and embattled Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez — both longtime supporters of Silva.

In the past, Silva has expressed opposition to a free trade agreement for the entire western hemisphere pushed by the U.S. But the United States dispatched its chief trade negotiator, Robert Zoellick, to represent President Bush at the ceremony.

“This is a celebration not just for President Lula but also for democracy,” said Zoellick.

Silva was born to a poor family in Brazil’s northeast. The former shoeshine boy and factory worker with a grade school education rose to become a union firebrand, creating his worker’s party in 1979. He mounted four unsuccessful runs for president before 2002′s victory.