A commitment to change
Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva was elected President of Brazil on 27 October. These were his words when he heard of his victory
Brazil has voted for change. Hope vanquished fear and the electorate decided to set a new path for the country. We treated the world to a beautiful show of democracy, deciding peacefully and calmly to chart a new direction for ourselves.
The elections that have just taken place were, above all, a victory for Brazilian society and its democratic institutions, given that they brought with them rotation in power, without which democracy loses its very essence.
We have been through an excellent election process, in which citizens demanded and obtained a clean, frank and high-level debate about the immediate and historic challenges our country faces. The attitude of the electoral authorities and President Fernando Henrique Cardoso contributed to this, as they played their constitutional role in an even-handed way.
The great virtue of democracy is that it allows a people to change its horizon as it deems necessary. Our victory means the choice of an alternative project and the beginning of a new historical cycle for Brazil.
Our arrival to the Presidency of the Republic is the fruit of a vast collective effort, made over decades, by countless people engaged in democratic social struggle. Unfortunately, many of them were not able to witness Brazilian society, especially the oppressed, reaping the fruits of their hard work, dedication and militant sacrifice.
Wherever you are, brothers and sisters whom death has harvested before this hour, know that we are the heirs and carriers of your legacy of human dignity, personal integrity, love for Brazil and passion for justice. Know too that your work is still with us, as if you were alive, and that we are inspired by it to continue to fight the good fight, the fight in favour of the excluded and those who suffer discrimination, the fight for the dispossessed, humiliated and affronted.
I want here to pay homage to the anonymous activists, to those who gave their labour and dedication over years for us to arrive at this place. In the most far-away regions of the country, they never lost heart. They learned, as I did, with defeat. They became more competent and effective in the defence of a sovereign and just country.
I celebrate those who, at difficult times in the past when the cause of a country of justice and solidarity seemed impossible, did not become indifferent, did not give way to selfishness and acute individualism. I celebrate all those who kept hold of their capacity to become indignant in the face of others’ suffering. They resisted and kept the flame of social solidarity burning. I celebrate all of those who did not desert our dream, who were sometimes alone in the squares of this immense Brazil, hoisting high the Brazilian flag of hope with its stars.
But the victory is, above all, that of thousands, millions of people who have no party affiliation and became engaged in this cause. It is the victory of working-class people, of the middle classes, of substantial parts of business, of social movements and union organisations that understood the need to combat poverty and defend the national interest.
In order to achieve yesterday’s result, it was essential for the Workers’ Party, PT, a party of the Left, to build a broad alliance with other parties. Some of them gave a priceless contribution from the first round of the elections of October 6. Others joined in the second round three weeks later. Moreover, during the campaign, we received the support of important sectors of other parties that identified with our programme of change for Brazil. I would like especially to single out the support of former Presidents José Sarney and Itamar Franco and, during the second round, the support I received from Anthony Garotinho and Ciro Gomes who had been presidential candidate in the first round.
There is no question that the majority of society voted to adopt another ideal for the country, in which everyone’s basic rights are guaranteed. The majority of Brazilian society voted to adopt a different economic and social model, able to ensure renewed growth, economic development with job creation and income distribution.
The Brazilian people know, however, that what was undone or not done over the last decade cannot be solved by magic tricks. Historic privations of the working population cannot be overcome overnight. There is no miraculous solution to a social debt of these dimensions, which have worsened in recent years. But it is possible and necessary to make a start, from the very first day in government.
We will face resolutely the current external vulnerability of the Brazilian economy - a crucial factor in the financial turbulence of recent months. As we said during the campaign, our administration will honour the contracts signed by the government, it will not overlook the control of inflation and will maintain - as has always been the case of PT administrations - a position of fiscal responsibility. That is why all Brazilians must be told clearly: the testing times that Brazil faces requires austerity in the use of public money and an implacable fight against corruption.
But even with budgetary restrictions imposed by the difficult financial situation we will inherit, we are convinced that it will be possible to act with creativity and determination on social questions, from the first day of our administration. We will appease hunger, create jobs, attack crime, combat corruption and create better education conditions for the low-income population, from the very start of my administration.
My first year in office will have the seal of the combat against hunger and an appeal for solidarity with those who have nothing to eat. To that end, I have announced the creation of a Secretariat for Social Emergencies, with a budget and a mandate to begin to fight the scourge of hunger, starting in January. I am certain that this is the greatest demand of society as a whole. If, at the end of my term of office, every Brazilian can eat three times a day, I will have fulfilled my life’s mission.
Country profile: Brazil
Population: 170 million
President from 1 January 2003: Lula, a former shoeshine boy and metal worker. He became Brazil’s first left-wing president for four decades when he won the October 2002 presidential elections.
As I said when I launched my Programme of Government, creating jobs will be my obsession. To this end, we will immediately mobilise public resources available in state banks - and through partnerships with private enterprise - to activate the civil construction and sanitation sector. Besides creating jobs, this measure will contribute to a gradual return to sustained growth.
The country has been concerned about the international financial crisis and its implications for the Brazilian situation, especially the instability of the exchange rate and inflationary pressures caused by it.
However, even with all the international adversity, we have a trade surplus of more than US$10 billion this year. This can be expanded in 2003 with an aggressive export policy, by incorporating more added value in our products, making our economy more competitive and promoting a judicious policy of competitive import substitution.
Brazil will do its part to overcome the crisis, but it is essential that, besides the support of multilateral bodies like the International Monetary Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank, lines of credit for companies and international trade be re-established. It is equally important to make progress in international trade negotiations, so that rich countries effectively lift protectionist barriers and subsidies that penalise our exports, particularly of agricultural products.
Over the last three years, with the end of the exchange rate anchor, we increased our agricultural product by more than 20 million tons. We have enormous potential in this sector to launch a broad programme to combat hunger and export food products; this potential continues to run into obstacles in the form of unjust protectionism by the major economic powers, obstacles we will spare no effort to remove.
Work is the path to our development and to overcoming the historic legacy of inequality and social exclusion. We want to build a broad mass consumer market that provides security for corporate investment, attracts international investments in production, represents a new model for development and makes income distribution and economic growth compatible.
The construction of this new perspective of sustained growth and job creation will require increased and cheaper credit, development of capital markets and careful investment in science and technology. It will also demand an inversion of priorities in finance and public expenditures, to value family farming, cooperatives, micro and small businesses and the different forms of the economy of solidarity.
The National Congress has an immense responsibility in providing for the changes that will promote social inclusion and sustained growth. For that reason, I will endeavour personally to send Congress the major reforms that society is calling for: reforms of the social security system, tax reform, labour legislation and trade union structure reform, land reform and political reform.
The world is paying attention to the spectacular demonstration of democracy and popular participation in the election. It is a good time to reaffirm the commitment to a courageous defence of our national sovereignty. We will go forward in the search to build a culture of peace among nations, increasing the economic and commercial integration of countries, renewing and broadening Mercosur as an instrument of regional integration and implementing effective negotiations of the FTAA proposal. We will stimulate bilateral trade agreements and struggle for a new international economic order that diminishes injustice, closes the broadening gap between rich and poor countries, as well as reducing the international financial instability that has imposed so many losses on developing countries.
Our government will be a guardian of the Amazon and its biodiversity. Especially in that region, our development pro-gramme will be marked by environmental responsibility.
We want to stimulate all forms of integration of Latin America that strengthen our historical, social and cultural identity. It will be particularly important to seek partnerships that permit an implacable opposition to traffic in drugs, which lures away part of our youth and fosters organised crime.
Our government will respect and seek to fortify international organisations, especially the United Nations, and support important international conventions, like the Kyoto protocol and the International Criminal Court, as well as non-proliferation treaties on nuclear and chemical weapons. We will encourage the idea of a globalisation of solidarity and humanism in which the peoples of poor countries can reverse the unjust international structure of exclusion.
I will not disappoint the Brazilian people. The expression that sprang from the bottom of the souls of my compatriots will be my inspiration and my compass. I will be, starting on January 1st, the president of all Brazilians because I know that is what the voters who chose me expect.
We are living in a decisive, unique moment for the changes we all desire. They will come without surprises or shocks. My government will carry the mark of understanding and negotiation, of firmness and patience. We are fully aware that the greatness of the task goes beyond the limits of one party. This was why we have tried, since the campaign, to bring together trade unionists, NGOs and businessmen from all segments in common action for the country.
We will continue to act decidedly to unite a range of political and social forces to build a nation that benefits all of the people. We will promote a National Pact for Brazil, establish the Council on Economic and Social Development and choose among the best-qualified people in Brazil to participate in a broad-based administration that can begin to pay back historical social debts. This cannot be done without the active participation of all the social forces in Brazil, workers and entrepreneurs, men and women of good will.
My heart beats strongly. I know that it beats with the hope of millions and millions of other hearts. I am optimistic. I feel that a new Brazil is being born.
Signed articles represent the views of the authors only, not necessarily those of Socialist Affairs or the Socialist International