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Brazil: Workers' Hopes Raised By Lula's Victory
BRAZILIANS TOOK to the streets to celebrate the overwhelming election victory of the Workers Party presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, better known as Lula.
The former trade union leader is the first working-class leader of South America's most populous country, (52 million backed him in last Sunday's second round run-off) and seen by many as the most left-wing elected leader since Salvador Allende in Chile in 1970.
Lula defeated the governing party's candidate, Jose Serra, winning 61.35% of the vote. Under incumbent president Fernando Cordoso, neo-liberal policies including widespread privatisations have been viciously carried out to satisfy the profit lust of international finance capital.
During this decade-long capitalist feeding frenzy the economy has sunk into recession and accumulated a massive $260 billion foreign debt. Brazil's ruling class accepted a $30 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but this comes with a hefty price tag.
The IMF demands a budget surplus up to and including 2005. This can only be achieved by slashing public spending and more privatisations, driving Brazil's impoverished masses further into poverty.
Capitalists in Brazil and internationally hope Lula can deliver by holding back any movement against neo-liberalism by the working class. Right-wing US treasury secretary Paul O'Neill said he'd examine Lula's speeches "to assure the markets he is not a crazy person" i.e. would threaten to reverse the globalisation process.
While Lula has wooed big business and US capitalism with his non-threatening "peace and love" electoral programme and few policies to benefit the poor masses, Brazil's working class has big hopes of Lula redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor, creating jobs, improving health and education and implementing land reform.
These contradictory pressures were reflected in Lula's first TV interview when he said he'd honour Brazil's commitment to repaying its foreign debt but added that "the markets must know that we cannot have people suffering from hunger every day." But unless capitalism is replaced with a socialist planned economy then poverty and suffering will continue in this deeply divided society.
In The Socialist 1 November 2002: