- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

RIO DE JANEIRO As massive crews cleaned up 400 tons of garbage left by New Year's revelers on Copacabana Beach late last week, the new president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, promised his country a radical change of direction.
Mr. Lula da Silva, the 57-year-old working-class hero-turned-president, warned of difficult times as he reiterated the priorities of his new administration: ending hunger and economic misery, and improving domestic security.
Although the jubilant inauguration festivities in the capital city of Brasilia on New Year's Day resembled the atmosphere of the soccer World Cup victory celebrations, the new administration of the largest Latin American country faces stiff challenges.
With 60 percent of the work force operating in the informal sector and with 7.7 percent unemployment, Brazil's tax base is severely limited.
An external debt of $260 billion leaves few resources to fund large-scale social changes.
"Ending poverty is where Lula's heart is. This can only be accomplished at the expense of further increasing Brazil's debt," said Vicki Jones, an American business professor in Sao Paulo.
One-third of Brazil's population of 170 million is estimated to live in poverty.
Crime is rampant in the huge urban centers of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where millions live in shanty towns called favelas. "Lula? The situation in Brazil is too complicated. Only the hand of God can fix it," said a street vendor in an outdoor market of Sao Paulo who identified himself only as Joao.
Brazil, a country roughly the size of the United States, is large, diverse and fractious making it difficult for anyone to govern. Porous borders with nine countries allow for a nearly uncontrollable flow of drugs and illegal activities.
The police, mistrusted by most of the population, have not been able to significantly reduce crime. But Mr. Lula da Silva has promised to change all that.
"Lula is an angel. He wants to deliver Brazil from all evils," said Piu Carlos, a political scientist in Brasilia.
Mr. Lula da Silva, a former metal worker with little formal education, won the elections in October with an unprecedented 61 percent of the vote. Experts agree that his workers party, the PT, has run clean, efficient governments on local and state levels.
However, there is concern about the fact that few members of the new administration have held federal office.
By assembling a moderate Cabinet and appointing a seasoned former foreign minister and diplomat, Celso Amorim, as foreign minister, Mr. Lula da Silva has demonstrated that his administration will be more pragmatic than many had expected when he won office.
Mr. Piu still fears that Mr. Lula da Silva will have a tough time persuading his hard-core party base to abandon its dogmatic stance and move to the center with him.
But, as one businessman in the industrial port city of Vitoria said with a smile, "Brazil is larger than Lula."


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide