- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

SAO PAULO, Brazil Former union boss Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won Brazil's presidential election runoff by a landslide yesterday, marking a historic shift to the left for Latin America's largest country.
Ruling party candidate Jose Serra conceded defeat, hours after Mr. Lula da Silva's Workers Party had declared its candidate the winner.
"The voters have decided that Brazil during the next four years will be governed by my rival," Mr. Serra told supporters at his campaign headquarters in a statement broadcast live on national TV.
"I wish the winner good luck in leading the destiny of Brazil," Mr. Serra said.
With 95 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Lula da Silva a former shoeshine boy who rose to become the head of a labor union had 61.5 percent to Mr. Serra's 38.5 percent, the government's Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced.
Thousands of Lula da Silva supporters gathered in the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, waving his party's red flag in celebration.
While the votes were still being counted, the White House offered its congratulations to the winner.
"The president congratulates the winner of the election and looks forward to working productively with Brazil," said press secretary Ari Fleischer, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One while returning from an economic summit in Mexico.
Minutes after the last polls closed at 5 p.m., the celebration began.
Mr. Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, just missed a victory in the first-round election on Oct. 6, forcing a runoff against Mr. Serra.
Brazil had never elected a leftist president. Its last leftist leader was Joao Goulart, a vice president who assumed power in 1961 when the centrist president resigned. Mr. Goulart served 2 years and was deposed by a right-wing military coup.
In Havana, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was among the first to offer his congratulations.
"No one doubts that Lula will win. We are friends, and I admire his perseverance," Mr. Castro told the press as Brazilians prepared to vote.
Mr. Castro has met repeatedly with Mr. Lula da Silva over the years, as he emerged from heading a union movement against 20 years of military rule to run four times for president after democracy was restored in 1985.
Brazil's next president will have to pull the world's ninth-biggest economy from the brink of recession, create more jobs and try to lift nearly 50 million Brazilians from poverty.
Mr. Lula da Silva, who turned 57 yesterday, left school after the fifth grade to sell peanuts and shine shoes on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.
He first ran for president in 1989 as the candidate of the Workers Party, urging landless farm workers to invade private property and calling for a default on Brazil's foreign debt, which now stands at $230 billion.
However, in the three subsequent presidential campaigns, Mr. Lula da Silva moderated his radical tone.
Mr. Lula da Silva has criticized current President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's unbridled free-market policies but is believed to be considering several fiscal conservatives as members of his economic team.

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