- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 1, 2003

BRASILIA, Brazil, Jan. 1 (UPI) — Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office Wednesday as the president of Brazil, Latin America's largest country. Known as Lula, the 57-year-old was sworn in at Congress amid cheers from his countrymen.

"I am the No. 1 public servant of my country," Lula said in his speech, according to O Globo newspaper in its Wednesday edition on its Web site.

He said he doesn't believe in sudden changes although the hallmark of his government will be change, according to O Globo, quoting him as saying, "We must walk with thought and solid steps." During his campaign, Lula pledged to reduce hunger in Brazil, a nation of some 170 million, with many of them living in poverty.

Some have doubts regarding Lula's ability to govern, particularly when it comes to dealing with Brazil's $230 billion in foreign debt, and there is speculation as to whether he might default on it.

Lula captured the presidency by winning the runoff election Oct. 27. He is Brazil's first leftist president, and succeeds Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

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