Da Silva (left) with Fernando Henrique Cardoso (right).
|Became President:||January 1, 2003|
|Predecessor:||Fernando Henrique Cardoso|
|Date of Birth:||October 27. 1945|
|Place of Birth:||Pernambuco State|
Luis da Silva's birth name did not contain the name "Lula", which was originally just his nickname. Later, he added "Lula" to his legal name, giving the result above. Most brazilians refer to him simply as "Lula", without mentioning his surname. In the international media, though, he is called "Mr. da Silva". He has made clear he prefers to be called by any form of his name, but always including "Lula".
Mr. da Silva was born in a small village in the impoverished Brazilian state of Pernambuco, but grew up in the city of Santos, São Paulo state, where jobs were more readily available. He had little formal education, instead working in various entry-level jobs since childhood.
At the age of twenty-one, he lost a finger in a work accident while working in an auto parts factory. Around the same time, he became involved in union activities and held several important union posts. Union activities were strongly suppressed by the right-wing dictatorship of Brazil in this era, and his views moved further to the political left in reaction.
In the 1970s, da Silva helped organize major union activities including several huge strikes. He was arrested and jailed for a month, but was released following protests. The strikes ended with both pro-union and pro-government forces dissatisfied with the outcome, and in 1980 the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT), or Workers' Party, was formed to address workers' concerns.
In 1986, he was elected to a seat in Brazil's congress with a record percentage of the votes. The PT helped to write the country's post-dictatorship constitution, ensuring strong constitutional guarantees of workers' rights, but failing to gain redistribution of rural agricultural land.
In 1989, da Silva was the PT presidential candidate. He proved popular with a wide spectrum of Brazilian society, but, feared as an opponent by business owners and financial interests, was not elected.
Da Silva has continued to run for the office of President in every election. In his 2002 campaign, he abandoned his style of informal clothing, as well as his platform plank of refusing to pay the Brazilian foreign debt. This second point was extremely worrisome to American economists, businessmen, and banks, who feared that a Brazilian default along with the already occurring Argentina default would have a massive ripple effect through the world economy.
In the second round of the election, October 27, 2002, da Silva defeated José Serra of the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira (PSDB) (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) to become the president-elect of Brazil.
His policies and those of the PT are widely reported to have become more centrist. Nevertheless, in Western news reports following his 2002 election, he was still consistently described as "leftist", and his election has been billed as a victory for the left. Following eight years of relatively free-market policies, there is now some doubt about the future of those policies. In his first address after his election, he pledged to maintain Brazil's financial commitments while working to alleviate the serious poverty of the country.