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Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva
Term of office: January 1, 2003present
Preceded by: Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Succeeded by: incumbent
Date of birth: October 6, 1945
Place of birth: Vargem Grande (now Caetés), Garanhuns, Pernambuco
First Lady: Marisa Letícia Lula da Silva
Political party: Workers' Party

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (born October 6, 1945) is a left-wing Brazilian politician. Lula was elected President of Brazil in 2002 and took office on January 1, 2003.



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

His father moved shortly after his birth to the coastal city of Santos, São 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 journey of 13 days in an open truck's cargo area. Even though they had better living conditions than in Pernambuco, life was still very difficult.

In 1956 his family relocated to São 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 professional life began at age 12, as a shoeshine boy. By the age of 14 he got 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 married Maria de Lourdes, his first wife, who died together with his first son at birth. He married again, to Marisa, in 1974, with whom he had three sons.

In 1978 he was elected president of the Steel Workers' Union of São Bernardo do Campo and Diadema, the cities that were home to virtually all the 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 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 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 in the founding of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), a union association. In 1984 PT and Lula himself joined the popular campaign called Diretas Já, 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 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.


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

Lula took part in his first election in 1982, for the government of the state of São Paulo. He lost, but helped his party to gain enough votes to remain in existance.

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 ran 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 social democrats as well as Trotskyite socialists, which also earned him the distrust of better-off sectors in Brazilian society.

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 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.

In the second round of the 2002 election, held on October 27, Lula defeated José 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 center-left political position. Instead of deep social changes (as proposed in the past) the new government chose a reformist line, passing new Retirement, Tributary, Labor, and Judicial laws, as well as a University Reform. A wing of the Worker's Party have not agreed with this changes. See more at theWorker's Party article

Significant Laws

Missing image
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva with Condoleezza Rice

Here are listed some significant laws that have been passed during the Lula adminstration, with his support.

  • Social Security Reform of the Civil Service (in Brazil, civil servants and private sector employees are subject to different Retirement and Social Security legislations) - Passed in 2003. One of the first laws passed during his administration. Its goal is to guarantee retirement payments for twenty years. The critics (like critics of other similar reforms around the world) say the law has decreased the rights of civil servants; the main argument of critics is that Lula and his party, for several years, were against any initiative regarding this matter.
  • Tributary Reform - Partially passed in 2003.
  • Judiciary Reform - Passed in 2004.
  • Bio-security Law - which has regulated 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 - in order to decrease violence, prohibit citizens from having weapons for personal use, except for certain categories of law enforcement agents (police, judges, etc.).

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 São Paulo, he has stated that he made the fight against hunger a personal one. Some critics say that hunger is not a real problem in Brazil; in 2005, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, IBGE, one of the most well regarded Brazilian public institutions, released a survey showing that the number of hungry people in Brazil is far below the figures assumed by Lula's government.

One of his government's most known social programs is "Fome Zero" (Zero Hunger). This program distributes money to selected regions and cities whose inhabitants suffer from severe difficulties. The money can then be exchanged for food in local stores. 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 important social program is "Bolsa Família" (Family Aid), which unified many 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. This program demands that the families send their children to school and keep their vaccines up to date. There is some criticism about the effectiveness of this project.


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 physician by profession, is a member of Lula's party (PT) and was previously mayor of Ribeirão Preto; during his term as mayor, Palocci privatized the phone company which was owned by Ribeirão Preto, and was much criticized by his own party. Brazilian businesses and the international economic community considered Palloci the best choice.

PT and Lula decided to choose a prominent figure from the market for 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, 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 he had to resign that position before taking office in order to become 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 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 (actually, Lula increased the surplus target without asking by the IMF).

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 Chávez's actions in Venezuela) led to an increase in internal market speculations by the time Lula was considered the favorite in the 2002 elections. These speculations resulted in low demand for sovereign bonds, a rising inflation rate, 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, criticized in public by a number of important members of the Government.

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

Foreign policy

 President  meeting with Hu Jintao in 's  on ,
Brazilian President Lula da Silva meeting with Hu Jintao in Beijing's Great Hall of the People on May 24, 2004

Lula has an assertive foreign policy: this involves unifying opposition to the Washington Consensus among poor and undeveloped countries 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. In addition, Brazil has assumed a important role in international politics and has becoming a regional leader able to build a fertile dialogue between South America and developed coutries, especially with the U.S. It has played an important role in negotiations in internal conflicts of Venezuela and Colombia, and has concentrated efforts on strengthening MERCOSUR.

During the Lula administration, Brazilian foreign trade has increased dramatically, changing from a position budget deficits to a position of 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 has also sent troops to Haiti to show its resolve as a global player.

External links




Lula's election and foreign policy

de:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva et:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva es:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva fr:Luís Inácio da Silva gl:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva it:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva zh-min-nan:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva nl:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva no:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva pl:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva pt:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ru:Луис Инасиу Лула да Силва sv:Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva zh:卢拉·达·席尔瓦


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