|from London Guardian
Lula era comes to an end in Brazil
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ends his presidency tomorrow with 90%
approval ratings, having lifted 20 million out of poverty
He was Brazil's first working-class president; a football-obsessed
former factory worker who swapped rural poverty for the highest office
in his country and helped propel 20 million people out of poverty.
Tomorrow afternoon, the curtain will finally go down on Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva's eight-year reign when his successor, the former
Marxist rebel Dilma Rousseff, steps out from a 1953 Rolls-Royce Silver
Wraith and into the presidential hot seat.
Attended by 11 women with whom she was imprisoned during Brazil's
dictatorship, Rousseff's inauguration will mark the official end of
"I don't think we managed to achieve everything that we wanted to, but
I think we have done more than at any other moment in the history of
this country," Lula, 65, said this month during a rare meeting with
foreign journalists. "We didn't solve all of Brazil's problems but we
made extraordinary steps."
Lula, the former union leader whose meteoric rise smashed the
traditional mould for Brazilian political leaders, leaves behind a
radically transformed nation: business is booming and the
long-excluded poor are on the rise.
The past eight years have seen at least 20 million Brazilians lifted
from poverty, thanks to Lula's anti-hunger and income-transfer
Direct foreign investment has tripled to about $30bn (£19bn) a year
since Lula took office in 2003 and many believe that by the time Rio
de Janeiro hosts the 2016 Olympics, Brazil will be the world's
In September, Brazil's state-controlled oil giant Petrobras was
involved in a $70bn share offer – reputedly the largest in world
history and another reminder of the country's growing economic muscle.
"Never before in the history of man have we had a capitalisation of
this size," Lula boasted, deploying one of his most frequently used
Since Lula's 2002 election, "never before in history" has become the
president's favourite – and in some quarters most ridiculed –
catchphrase. But few question the major changes Lula has overseen.
Tomorrow, he will leave power with astonishing approval ratings of
close to 90%.
Fernando Barros e Silva, a political columnist from the Folha de São
Paulo journal, said the popularity of Lula's government was "above all
down to an objective improvement in the lives of the poorest. In spite
of numerous problems in his government, including corruption, this is
what Lula will be remembered for and rightly so."
Lula's biographer and friend, the writer Denise Paraná, said: "Lula's
silent revolution has increased the national wealth and distributed
the excess to the poorest classes. Lula has shown that a worker can be
the boss, that an outsider can be president. He has symbolically
redefined Brazil's class boundaries."
Gripes over how much personal credit Lula deserves for Brazil's
current boom persist. Some describe the outgoing leader as the
country's luckiest ever president, pointing to how his time in power
has coincided with a lucrative commodities boom and the discovery of
massive offshore reserves of oil that could turn Brazil into a major
crude oil producer.
"Lula has gone down in Brazilian political history. But he did not
invent the wheel, nor did he start from zero," Marco Aurélio Nogueira,
a politics professor from São Paulo's state university, Unesp, wrote
in a recent Lula retrospective. "He will not be missed as much as he
or anyone else thinks."
In fact, with persistent speculation that Lula could seek re-election
in 2014 or 2018, he may hardly be missed at all.
"For me, stopping doing politics would be the same as stopping to eat
or to breathe," Lula wrote in his final weekly newspaper column as
president this week. "The hypothesis of me abandoning politics doesn't
Paraná said she expected Lula to set up an NGO to fight hunger in the
developing world and described the chance of a return to the
presidency as "very remote".
"His plans go far beyond simply being president," she said. "Today
Lula is a man of the world, a political personality with great
international clout who is looking to wider projects to combat hunger