- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2003

BRASILIA, Brazil Latin America's biggest nation marked a dramatic change in leadership yesterday with the inauguration of a former shoeshine boy as Brazil's first elected leftist president.
A beaming Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took the oath of office in Brazil's Congress as tens of thousands of working-class Brazilians cheered the elementary school dropout who went on to become a union leader and the head of Brazil's Workers Party.
Mr. Lula da Silva choked back tears as he began his speech to lawmakers, saying his mission was to ease the misery of the estimated 50 million Brazilians living 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," Mr. Lula da Silva said.
He also struck a cautionary note, saying it would take time to fulfill his campaign promises of ending hunger in Brazil and improving the economic lot of the country's poor.
"No one can reap the fruit before planting the trees," Mr. Lula da Silva said.
As he traveled to Congress in the back of a convertible Rolls-Royce, a sea of people chanted, "Lula, Lula," and raised red flags bearing the color of his party.
Mr. Lula da Silva, dressed in a dark suit and blue tie, stood in the back of a car, smiling and waving to the crowd.
Leaders and representatives of 119 countries including Cuban leader Fidel Castro and presidents of six other Latin American nations were attending the inauguration.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrived yesterday morning in Brasilia, the capital, leaving behind a crippling strike in his country that had virtually paralyzed oil production for the world's fifth-largest exporter.
The most prominent guest was Mr. Castro, 76, who looked healthy and in good spirits after recovering from a serious leg infection that had kept him out of sight in Cuba for two weeks last month.
As he entered a Brasilia hotel, Mr. Castro waved to photographers and said he was happy that Cuba no longer held the "monopoly of January 1," the Cuban day of celebration for the revolution that brought Mr. Castro to power.
Mr. Lula da Silva counts Mr. Castro and Mr. Chavez among his friends. Today, he plans to have breakfast with Mr. Chavez and lunch with Mr. Castro.
Mr. Lula da Silva, 57, takes over from Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brazil's first transition between two democratically elected presidents in more than 40 years. He will be Brazil's 36th president.
A former radical who once espoused socialism, Mr. Lula da Silva has promised to end hunger and economic misery in a country where an estimated 50 million of the 175 million citizens live in poverty.


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