Lula: Today Brazil Re-Encounters Itself

As President Lula da Silva of Brazil was sworn in today in Brasilia, Brazil breathed a collective sigh of relief that the decades of inept rule which characterised the right and centre-right administrations since democracy was restored 20 years ago, are over. Finally, the Presidential palace has an occupant who has the interests of the people of Brazil as his primary objective.

Lula had worked hard behind the scenes to put together a team of ministers which represented a wide political spectrum, avoiding the temptation to bow to the party machine and place only those involved with his party, the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Labour).

In his 45-minute taking of office speech, President Lula said that “Today, Brazil re-encounters itself”, meaning that during his presidency, the Brazilian people will analyse their strengths and weaknesses and will work hard to achieve much improved social indicators by 2010, if not by 2006, the end of his first term in office.

“Hope has finally beaten fear. The people have decided that the time had arrived to tread new paths”, he declared adding that the previous model of government, which saw Brazil’s unemployment rate soar to around 20% of the working population in some areas and 20% of the country’s 180 million inhabitants living below the poverty line on less than one USD/day, was exhausted.

President Lula claimed the eradication of hunger, a fairer distribution of land and a democratisation of the country as his main social objectives in the short term, while claiming that the creation of jobs is his “obsession”. He added that his government will combat corruption implacably, finishing with the culture of impunity which shrouds the political class. His external policy will be centred, firstly, around the promotion of a stronger MERCOSUL.

President Lula speaks of a national project: “Brazil is a huge country. We cannot allow ourselves to float, borne by the winds, lacking a project. We must cultivate patience and perseverance”. It is here that the crux of the matter lies. How much help President Lula’s project will receive from the USA and the international financial community, to whom Brazil owes some 235 billion USD and must meet repayment schedules of 1 bn. USD per week in 2003, remains to be seen.

The eyes of the energy lobby which rules Washington’s external policy are for the time being firmly fixed on Venezuela’s national oil company, which has a monopoly on oil exploration and production. How much longer will it be before this lobby turns its attention to Petrobras?


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