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IN THE NEWS - November 2, 2002: Brazilians Elect Lula - 2002-11-01

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Brazilians elected a new president this week. Luis Inacio Lula da Silva won sixty-one percent of the vote to defeat Jose Serra, the ruling party candidate. The man popularly known as Lula will be sworn-in on January first. He replaces two-term President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Mister da Silva was born fifty-seven years ago in Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco. He came from a very poor family. His father was a farm worker. Luis left school while still a child. He earned money by shining shoes and selling food on the streets of Sao Paulo. By the age of fourteen, he became a metal-worker in a factory.

In nineteen-seventy-five, Mister da Silva became head of the one-hundred-thousand-member Metalworkers Union. He came to represent opposition to Brazil’s military government. As a labor leader, he was jailed for organizing a series of strikes. After his release in nineteen-eighty, he helped to establish the Workers’ Party. It was the first major Socialist Party in the country’s history.

Mister da Silva was a candidate for president in three earlier elections before his win on Sunday. At first, he urged landless farm workers to invade private property. He also said Brazil should stop making payments on its debt. In recent years, however, he has expressed moderate positions on some issues. An increase in his popularity followed.

Brazil is the largest country in South America. About one-hundred-seventy-five-million live there. However, about thirty percent of the population is considered needy. Many of them do not get enough to eat.

Mister da Silva says a top goal of his administration will be to end hunger in Brazil. He hopes to have all Brazilians eating three meals a day by the end of his four-year term in office. The president-elect also says he will create ten-million new jobs and work to keep inflation low. He says the majority of Brazilians voted for such a new economic and social model.

Mister da Silva says he will honor Brazil’s agreements with lending organizations like the International Monetary Fund. And, he says Brazil will continue to make payments on its debt of two-hundred-sixty-thousand-million dollars.

Some investors are concerned about Mister da Silva’s politics and his earlier criticism of lending organizations. In recent months, individuals and foreign banks have withdrawn thousands of millions of dollars from Brazil. The value of Brazil’s money has dropped sharply.

Mister da Silva has made several moves to ease investors’ worries. He chose a wealthy businessman as his vice-president. Mister da Silva has offered to move forward on talks to establish a free trade area in the Americas. He also plans to name a traditional economist to head Brazil’s central bank.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.