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From the December 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 12)

Latin America

Viewpoints: Lula Races to the Presidency

Views from Frankfurt, Milan, Lima, Zurich, Warsaw, São Paulo, Cairo, Oslo, Paris, Barcelona, Beijing, and Mexico City

Man reads paper in Brazil
At the newsstand in Brasilia, Oct. 28, 2002 (Photo: AFP).
Frankfurt
Frankfurter Rundschau (liberal), Sept 8:
It is no surprise, but still a sensation: The Brazilian left, even though its candidate narrowly missed getting an absolute majority [in the first round of presidential elections], has still achieved a historical victory....[Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva] and his Workers’ Party have made a powerful shift toward the center. This now makes him a viable candidate for the middle class.

Milan Corriere Della Sera (centrist), Oct. 7: [We will see if], as Lula loves to say, “The country will choose its leader in a worker.” It seems that both in Brazil and abroad, people are recovering from their fear of the possible election of a former union activist. The first signal has been given from the financial markets. The real is no longer at its lowest value....The OK given to Lula by papers such as the Financial Times and The Economist is very important....[Former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso] has already accepted his candidate’s failure and is ready to cooperate with Lula....A difficult balance for Lula, who will also need to keep friends in the most radical sectors of his own party and among those Brazilians who for decades have been waiting for change.
—Rocco Cortoneo

Lima La República (left-wing), Oct. 8: Lula’s victory marks an important date for the continent, given that it is the first time in 40 years—since the election of Salvador Allende in Chile—that a socialist has won in Latin America. However, it needs to be pointed out that the model followed by Lula is closer to socialism in Spain under Felipe González than that of Allende.

Zurich Neue Zürcher Zeitung (conservative), Oct. 8: Brazil today—its government, economy, and society as a whole—is clearly on more solid ground than it was a decade ago. As president, Lula will not thoughtlessly risk what has been achieved so far....For now, however, although they cannot read the thoughts behind his bearded visage, Brazil's voters and Washington’s financial specialists are taking Lula at his word. They do not have much choice.
—Andres Wysling

Warsaw Rzeczpospolita (centrist), Oct. 8: The fact that Lula was not elected in the first round proves that at the last moment Brazilians began to fear the consequences of his victory for the economy. The mere possibility of the victory of the former leader of São Paulo’s metal workers has caused an outflow of capital and a sudden drop in the local currency value in Brazil. Voters took their foot off the gas pedal to take time and rethink until Oct. 27.

São Paulo Carta Capital (liberal magazine), Oct. 10: [If Lula wins], one of the new government's first tasks will be to define Brazil's position regarding the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas....Whatever Brazil's next government decides, it will directly influence our progress as a nation. Either we will acquiesce to a perilous process of a dismantling of our national values...or we may be at the beginning of an era of positive political change. In the latter case, Brazil will escape from the illusion that it makes history without knowing it.
—Celso Furtado

São Paulo Veja (centrist newsmagazine), Oct. 6: Brazil will continue to face hard times. No miracles are forthcoming. For these reasons, the man who will take over the helm of government in the Planalto Palace will have to display leadership qualities far greater than those demanded of a president in times of growth and prosperity. If Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva makes it to the Planalto Palace, Brazil may have one of the most accessible presidents in its history.

Cairo Al-Ahram (semi-official), Oct. 10-16: Most analysts, regardless of ideology, think Lula will win....It is likely that Lula will be far more circumspect in his management of Brazil's fragile economy than in his handling of his country's relations with the American giant. The reason is simple: Resisting U.S. hegemony is one policy measure that would have near-universal support among Brazil's population.

London The Guardian (liberal), Sept. 20: In former times, a Lula victory would certainly have been viewed in Washington as a signal to push Brazil into outer darkness. But Brazil is Latin America’s largest economy, and its collapse, on top of Argentina's, could not be ignored. Washington may be forced to accept Lula—even to support him—for fear of something worse.
—Isabel Hilton

São Paulo Istoé (liberal newsmagazine), Oct. 12: The prevailing political discourse in this election seems to be related to a school of thought that favors a new economic order and proposes the abandonment of neo-liberalism and the prescriptions of the Washington consensus....The enormous challenge, stemming from the rejection of Washington's dogmas, is to offer viable development alternatives without falling into the trap of yet another unrealistic plan, supposedly correct and applicable to all countries at all times.

Oslo Dagbladet (liberal), Oct. 8: What Lula can do for the poor if he becomes president is quite uncertain at the moment....No matter who wins [the next phase of the election], Brazil will most definitely get a government coalition of left and middle. This is clearly a historical shift to the left. It means that the forces that fought against the military dictatorship in the ’70s and ’80s are united again. With Brazil's significance, this shift will be felt over the whole of Latin America.
—Einar Hagvaag

Paris L’Express (centrist newsmagazine), Oct. 10: Without profound reform, the world's ninth-largest economy will not succeed in becoming the giant it was meant to be....The task is enormous, on the same scale as the country, which is the largest, richest, and most populous in Latin America....Lula will not be equal to it—even if he receives two mandates in a row—but he is, by far, the best-placed man to establish the kind of social contract without which nothing else is possible.
—Bernard Guetta

Barcelona La Vanguardia (centrist), Oct. 7: It has been a long time since an election in a Latin American country aroused so much interest in the world. This is in part explained by the marginalization of the left in these times of globalization. In fact, if Lula finally wins, he will become the first president who emerges from the anti-globalization movement.

Beijing Global Times (weekly magazine of People’s Daily), Oct. 10: Lula is robust and speaks in a coarse voice. He has always been the icon of laborers, and his opinions have been criticized as overly radical. So he lost three times in the previous campaigns. Now he has changed himself. He had his whiskers trimmed, took off his T-shirt, and put on a smart suit. People think that he is changing himself and that perhaps he will change the world.
—Zhou Zhiwei

Mexico City Reforma (independent), Oct. 9: What type of president will Lula be? In his fourth presidential campaign, the perennial Brazilian leftist candidate has moderated his rhetoric, making it possible to obtain the vote of many centrists who are tired of the economic paralysis in their country. But only some years ago, Lula threatened, as Alan García did [in Peru], to impose a moratorium on Brazil's foreign debt payments and also promised major nationalizations. Will Lula be a moderate president like Ricardo Lagos [in Chile], or will he follow the radical path of Hugo Chávez [in Venezuela]? What happens to the Brazilian economy in the coming years will depend, to a large degree, on the answer to this question.
—Sergio Sarmiento

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