- Title: BRAZIL: FIRST WORKING CLASS PRESIDENT LEFTIST LUIZ INACIO DA SILVA TAKES OFFICE
- Date: 2nd January 2003
- Summary: (U7) BRASILIA, BRAZIL (JANUARY 1, 2003) (REUTERS) TRACKING SHOT WORKERS PARTY MEMBERS HOLDING BANNER OUTSIDE HOTEL WHERE CUBAN PRESIDENT FIDEL CASTRO IS STAYING MV CASTRO LEAVING HOTEL TO GO TO CEREMONY AND CROWD SURROUNDING HIM
- Embargoed: 17th January 2003 12:00
- Location: BRASILIA, BRAZIL
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: International Relations,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA4C1OZXTW3RU5Y769D8VMDT9WL
- Story Text: It's not just a new year in Brazil, it's a new era as the country's first working-class president, leftist Luiz Inacio da Silva, has taken office to a crowd of revellers and top Latin American leaders.
Former metalworker Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva became Brazil's first working-class president on Wednesday (January 1, 2003), as tens of thousands celebrated the historic changeover in Latin America's largest country.
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 folkloric performances and samba dancers.
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 majority.
Lula and his vice president took the oath of office at the Congress where Senate President Ramez Tebet declared him president shortly after 3 p.m. local time amid cheers of "Lula, Lula."
He recalls his own struggle against poverty to fuel his message to Brazilians.
"If, at the end of my mandate, all Brazilians have the opportunity to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, I will have fulfilled my life's mission," said Lula.
As Air Force planes swooped in formation over the city, revellers 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 colour of Lula's leftist Workers' Party.
As he left the Congress, the newly-elected president was given a 21-gun salute. During his ride through the crowd on the convertible Rolls Royce that took him to receive the presidential sash from outgoing President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula was mobbed by cheering fans.
Some broke through police guards simply to touch their new leader, while one ardent supporter had to be removed from the gray bearded 57-year-old by security guards.
At the stark, white Planalto presidential palace, Cardoso capped off his second four-year term by handing Lula the sash decorated with the yellow and green of the Brazilian flag and the two men hugged and stood side by side as the national anthem played.
It was the first time in 40 years an elected president passed the sash to another elected president.
Although the New Year's holiday kept some heads of state from attending, most presidents from neighbouring 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 started the leftist Workers' Party more than two decades ago during the 1964-1985 military dictatorship. In a country with one of the worst wealth distributions in the world, only surpassed by three African nations, the arrival of a man who never made it past elementary school to the highest office heralded a new beginning for the nation's 170 million people, 53 million of whom live in poverty.
"I have the certainty and conviction that no difficult moment during this 4 year trajectory will impede that I make the reform that the Brazilian people need made," said Lula.
The world will watch Lula's management of a nation now seen as a model of democracy in a region troubled by political upheaval, particularly in neighbouring Argentina and Venezuela.
He has had a good start and even Cardoso, whose centrist candidate was defeated by Lula, praised him during a smooth transition.
On Wednesday (January 01) Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, greeted heads of state from around the world who attended his New Year's Day inauguration.
Cuba's President Fidel Castro greeted Lula after a full day of activities for the new president. As Castro left his hotel to attend the inaugural ceremony, scores of supporters gathered outside to greet the Cuban leader whose Revolution turned 44 on Wednesday (January 01).
Since winning the runoff on Oct. 27 with 61 percent of the vote, Lula has firmed up support from the economic and political elite. After shedding his radical past, Lula assured Brazilians and investors he would stick to austere policies to stabilize the debt-laden economy, rising unemployment and high rates of crime and poverty.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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