"I am the son of illiterate father and mother"
That is how the President of Brazil describes himself...a forthright statement.
Brazil is South America's largest, most influential, economic giant. It had high inflation and massive foreign debt. It was bailed out many times. Only to get back into another mess through bad and dishonest governance. It is said the reforms of the 1990s helped Brazil pay off World Bank loans in full well ahead of scheduled time.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, won a landslide election victory in October 2006. He promised economic growth and narrow the present day vast gap between rich and poor. But in congress his left-wing "workers' party" has to adopt political alliances to see progress being made towards keeping election promises. The President is lovingly called 'Lula' by the common people.
Lula implemented tough fiscal policies in his first term. Economy stabilized, inflation halted and most foreign debts paid off. He brought a change in the old pension scheme. And an increase in the minimum wage. His pet welfare programmes targeted millions of poor families.
de Lima Melo, an agriculturalist, says, "Lula created the Bolsa Familia and has provided jobs and homes for the poor people."
Antonio de Andrade, taxi driver, says, "The opposition tries hard to convince us that Lula is a thief, but I do not believe any of that."
Joao Batista Lima, pensioner, says, "Every previous government was corrupt. But Lula's PT party seems corrupt only because there is more investigation into it and people are paying more attention to it now."
Of course there are opposing views. Some are very uncomplimentary indeed. But such opinions are insignificant and don't make a dent in the firm and popular bodywork of Lula. In the past revenue of Brazil's natural resources were stolen by past dishonest governments and passed poverty to poor people. Its natural resource iron ore, is highly prized by major manufacturing nations, including China. For years Brazil was importing Oil. By developing offshore oil fields it is now self sufficient.
The greatest problematic hinderance to progress is that a few wealthy families control most of the arable land. The Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) is powerless and frustrated with land policy. It has had its own confrontations with government and has decided to sit back and watch the second spell of Lula now in the offing. The military rule of the 1970s drove settlers in cities to Amazon rain forest region. This inhumane, stupid thinking in the lines of Lenin of Russia, Pol Pot of Cambodia and today's Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe created havoc among the forcibly displaced people.
As in every economically poor and improperly managed country, HIV Aids was a major problem, among the poor, that was generally ignored by the ruling class. Brazil's Aids programme is now a model for other developing countries. HIV infection is stabilized and death rate has fallen considerably. Unlike the ever present example: Zimbabwe where life expectancy has come done to 46 years in these modern times.
Brazil boldly bypassed the major drugs firms to produce cheaper, generic Aids medicines. It is amazing when Thabo Mbeki of South Africa denies HIV Aids. And the erudite Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe ignores HIV Aids.
Lula had to have his share of corruption scandals like any other leader of modern day nation. Instead, Lula straightaway apologised and said he had known nothing about the alleged corruption. And the nation believed him. That's the criteria. He has credibility unlike most leaders of Nations.
Lula was born in an abjectly poor family, in 1945. He left school at 14 to become a metal worker. In the 1970s, he sharpened his political skills as a fiery union leader. He went on to help found the Workers' Party. The former shoe-shine boy: Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - affectionately known as Lula - became president in 2002 - the first left-wing leader of Brazil.
It is hoped he would be successful in giving the nation what he promised. He has the heart and the will, but would his coalition partners support him, is the question.