Lula da Silva

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, commonly known as "Lula", was born to a poor family in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. With little formal schooling, he worked his way through a series of hardscrabble jobs, until he landed a decent job in an automobile factory.
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Lula Speech
At the age of 19, however, he lost a finger in an accident
, and became inspired to join the labor movement. He rapidly rose through the ranks, and was twice elected president of a steelworkers' union.
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Lula became involved in the Brazilian Workers' Party, and subsequently ran for various political offices, was elected to Congress, and mounted three unsuccessful candidacies for the presidency. Finally, in 2002, on his fourth attempt, he won a resounding victory over center-right candidate Jose Serra.

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Political Legacy
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Lula's election was regarded with alarm by the Brazilian business community, and greatly concerned international economic institutions. However, Lula surprised Brazil and the world by charting a decidedly moderate course marked by fiscal prudence, while maintaining a commitment to social justice and government anti-poverty programs. Fome Zero, an anti-hunger campaign, and the Bolsa Familia, which provides small stipends to poor families based on school attendance, were two hallmarks of his presidency.

While Lula began his political journey with something of a revolutionary ideology, his two terms in office were marked by roaring economic growth grounded in sound and sober economic ideology. He famously declared in the run up to the 2002 election that Brazil would honor all foreign debt, and Brazil did, indeed, repay its $15 billion debt to the International Monetary Fund ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, Lula added 14 million jobs to the economy, and increased the minimum wage by 25%, lifting many Brazilians out of extreme poverty.

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Towards the Future
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Lula with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Lula has often been called "Brazil's most popular politician".  With an everyman image and an extremely likable personality, he once reached 90% approval, an impressive feat in any democracy. Critics of Lula, however, often suggest that he receives a disproportionate amount of credit for building on the policies of his predecessor Fernando Cardoso.
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Although a "cash for votes" scandal rocked the Brazilian Workers' Party, Lula was never personally implicated, and it failed to significantly diminish his reputation. While Brazil is roaring through an economic miracle, and jubilant over the prospect of hosting the World Cup in 2014, it still remains a nation with great income inequality and abject poverty. However, what is certain, by nearly all accounts, is that Lula improved the lives of many Brazilians, and put the nation on a firm foundation for the future.
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