New Hope for Brazil?

New Hope for Brazil?

On October 27, 2002, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva-lathe operator, leader of the independent Brazilian labor movement that emerged in the late 1970s to challenge the military regime, a founder of the Brazilian Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores-PT), and a former congressman from São Paulo-was elected president of Latin America’s most powerful state, the world’s fifth largest country, with more than 170 million inhabitants, and the ninth largest economy on the globe. His victory was unprecedented in Brazilian history: fifty-two million votes, 61 percent of the total.

The Lula “Era,” as it is being called in Brazil, has raised the hopes of leftists throughout the world. The Lula-PT platform calling for sustainable macroeconomic growth and the reduction of poverty and inequality offers a powerful and tangible alternative to the dominant paradigm of globalization. As Lula declared in his inaugural address of January 1, ending unemployment “will be my obsession” and ending hunger must be “a national endeavor.” He has pledged to create at least ten million new and decent jobs by the end of his four-year term, as well as guarantee three meals a day for every Brazilian.

Lula’s opposition to any version of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) that promotes “an economic annexation” of the South to the North augurs a substantial delay if not a fatal blow to any North American Free Trade Agreement expansion in the hemisphere. There can be no FTAA without Brazil. Foreign Affairs Minister Celso Amorim made it clear to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick that his country would not be rushed into any hemispheric trade agreement-a troubling admonition for Washington, as Brazil and the United States will be co-chairing the FTAA negotiations in 2003. This new relation of forces concerning trade and the world economy led Emir Sader, a well-known University of São Paulo sociologist, to announce “the beginning of the end for the neo-liberal project in Latin America.”

Lula’s PT is now the largest party in the Chamber of Deputies, moving from 58 to 91 seats (out of a total of 513), as well as the third-largest party in the Senate, with an increase from 8 to 14 (out of 81). Obviously, these numbers are well short of a majority, and the PT has been compelled to maintain and consolidate alliances with other parties of both the left and the center-right.

Nevertheless, Lula’s electoral coalition already included other significant parties, and a number of them are represented in his new cabinet, reinforcing the alliance he needs to govern effectively. The PT and the Lula administration have negotiated deftly with the Brazilian Congress. Executive Chief of Staff José Dirceu persuaded the center-right Brazilian Democratic Mobilization Party, which commands one of the largest legislative blocs, to elect leaders amenable to agreements with the...