President Lula Takes Office as Brazil Celebrates
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Jan 2 01:30:24 MST 2003
Reuters (with addiitonal material by AP and AFP). 1 January 2003.
President Lula Takes Office as Brazil Celebrates.
BRASILIA -- Former metalworker Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva became Brazil's
first working-class president on Wednesday, as tens of thousands
celebrated the historic changeover in Latin America's largest country.
At the sleek, modernist Congress in the capital, Brasilia, Lula took the
oath of office as the first leftist elected to the presidency.
Supporters from across the nation cheered outside as he promised to
change the country's course to improve the lot of Brazil's working
He cited his own struggle against poverty as proof that the
continent-sized nation had the resources to overcome a long list of
problems including escalating crime, a stagnating economy and rising
"When I see my own life as an immigrant from the Northeast, a boy who
sold peanuts and oranges at the port of Santos ... who is now the
president, I am convinced we can do much more, and to do so all we need
is to believe in ourselves," Lula said.
"We are starting a new chapter in Brazil's history."
Before reaching the convertible Rolls Royce that took him to receive the
presidential sash from outgoing President Fernando Henrique Cardoso,
Lula was mobbed by cheering fans.
It was the first time in 40 years an elected president passed the sash
to another elected president.
Some broke through police guards simply to touch their new leader, while
one stubborn supporter stopped Lula long enough to snap a picture
alongside the gray bearded 57-year-old, who took the oath in a dark suit
and striped tie.
With the humble classes that gave him a record-breaking 52 million votes
in his fourth attempt at the presidency in mind, Lula organized a party
for the people rather than for dignitaries.
Despite rain, festivities kicked off early with country music. More than
150,000 people were expected to converge on the city's central lawn for
As Air Force planes swooped in formation over the city, revelers
celebrated as they would for Brazil's world-famous soccer victories,
driving along the sweeping avenues of the capital, honking horns, and
dancing in a sea of green, yellow and deep red, the color of Lula's
leftist Workers' Party.
Just before Lula walked on a red carpet into Congress, several young
people broke through police lines at the side of an artificial lake,
jumping into the water to be closer to the future president.
"Our time has come. This is a huge historic moment for Brazil," said
Odete Marques, 62, from Sao Paulo, the industrial heartland where Lula
started the Workers' Party more than two decades ago during the
1964-1985 military dictatorship.
"This is not just a victory for the Workers' Party, but also for a
society that had no voice and no chance," said Lenilson Chaves, who came
with his 77-year-old mother from Rio de Janeiro.
Many of those present spent days on Brazil's bumpy highways, including
Lula's 21 relatives from his poor hometown of Caetes, a caravan that
drew cheers along the 1,500-mile journey.
"For us this is a historic moment for our country," said Sister Maria da
"We are a rich nation debased by corruption and we hope the new
government will bring new outlook for the Brazilian people, a wonderful
people who have suffered heavily under unjust policies."
Waiting with other Indian leaders for Lula to arrive at the presidential
palace, Xavanti tribe chief Tito Mowe said he had traveled three days to
attend the government changeover.
"Lula is capable of making things better for indigenous people," he
said, dressed in body paint and feathers.
Although the New Year's holiday kept some heads of state from attending,
most presidents from neighboring countries were on hand, including Fidel
Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, two leftists who have
supported Lula in his long quest for the presidency.
Lula 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," Lula said.
Lula, in his inauguration speech, promised to battle world
"Brazil will fight protectionism, will fight for the elimination of
trade barriers and fight for more just regulations, better adapted to
the needs of our country as it developes," he said.
"We will try to eliminate developed nations' scandalous farm subsidies
which are hurting our producers," he added.
"Change is the key word," said Lula. "The time has come to transform
Brazil into that nation we have always dreamed of being, a sovereign
nation, dignified, conscious of the international arena while still
capable of taking care sheltering and treating with justice all of its
"Hope has finally conquered fear," he said as cheers erupted across the
Organizers set up huge TV screens in the park and a stage where
Brazilian pop groups started playing hours before the inauguration.
Hundreds of outdoor stalls sold everything from grilled pork and beer to
Brazilian pop music superstar Gilberto Gil, who will serve as Silva's
cultural minister, was one of the first to play.
"Viva Lula!" Gil shouted to thunderous applause from people waving red
flags and dressed in the red and white of Silva's party.
After a 14-hour bus ride from the financial capital, Sao Paulo, musician
Joao Carlos Souza stretched his legs and changed into a bright red
T-shirt reading "100 percent Lula."
Souza said he'd never been to a Brazilian inauguration before because
the previous events "were for people in suits drinking champagne."
"This time, it's going to be fun to participate in history," he said.
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