Luis Inacio da Silva was born to the poor family of Aritides Inacio da Silva and Euridece Ferreira de Melo in Caetes, Fernambuco on October 24, 1945. They were eight in the family, Lula being the seventh child. His parents separated when he was just 2 weeks old because his father moved to Santos City to look for better job. When he was seven years old, his mother decided to join Lula’s father in Sao Paolo, bringing all her children with her, only to find that her husband has formed a second family with her own cousin, Valdomira. But in spite of this, they still live with the second family for four years. After which his mother decided to separate and move out due to differences. Since then, Lula has seldom seen his father, who died an alcoholic in the year 1978.
Due to poverty, Lula had little formal education. In fact, he only learned to read when he was ten years old and dropped out of school after the fourth grade to work as a shoe shiner and street vendor to help his family. Lula got his formal job as lathe operator in a copper processing factory at the age of 14 and as a press operator in an automobile parts factory when he was 19. There, he met an accident and lost the little finger in his left hand. The hardship he experienced because of this accident, where he had to go to several hospitals just to have his hand attended to, had opened his eyes on the flight of almost laborers. This inspired him to join the Workers’ Union and began his involvement in union activities. In those days, Brazil was lead by a dictator who strongly restrained trade union activities. This prompted Lula’s reaction of going further to the political left.
When he was 24 years old, he fell in love with Maria de Lourdes, whom he married in 1969. Unfortunately, Maria died of hepatitis later on that same year. Around 1973, he had a daughter out of wedlock with Miriam Cordeiro. Lula got married again in 1974 to a widow named Marisa. He had three sons with her and even adopted Marisa’s son from her first marriage.
His career as a union member consists of getting elected as president of the Steel Workers’ Union in 1978, in Sao Bernardo do Campo and Diadema. His role as a union president involves organizing union activities such as major huge strikes which led to his imprisonment for a month, only to be released due to massive protests.
By 1982, he added his nickname Lula to his legal name. From then on, he started founding union associations, one of which is the Central Unica dos Trabalhadores in 1983. The following year, he joined the popular campaign Diretas Jo, which called for direct voting for the next Brazilian presidential election. This move was triggered by the fact that their 1984 Constitution stated that their presidents must be elected by both the House of Congress and representatives of all State Legislatures. However, this was not followed because since their March 1964 coup de’etat, all their presidents were chosen by closed military caucus. On February 10, 1986, Lula together with a group of academic intellectuals and union leaders founded a left-wing group which they named Partido Dos Trabalhadores (PT). After years of struggle, a president was elected by direct popular votes in 1989 election, the first official election after 29 years. In 1992, Lula joined the impeachment proceeding of President Fernando Collor de Mello, who got involved in a series of scandal concerning public funds
In the course of his political career, twice he ran for the office of the state government but lost. But he was able to gain enough vote for his party list to stay in existence during the first time. The 1986 election won him a seat in Congress. The second time he ran for president, he lost again because most Brazilian affluent citizens do not trust him since his party was founded from the grass root of union workers associations. However, on October 27, Lula won the presidential election, and again on October 29, 2006 as his second, winning by a small margin.
His accomplishments as President of Brazil brought about by following the ideas from the previous president are: 1) His campaign to eradicate hunger in Brazil, a project started by previous President Fernando Enrique. To make this project successful, Lula also include measures which aim to create water reservoir for the semi-arid region of Sertao, counteract juvenile pregnancy, intensify family agriculture, distribute minimum amount of money to the poor, and many others; 2) Lula’s biggest project is the Bolsa Familia, another adaptation of project started by the administration of the previous president. This program gives cash to very poor families in exchange for sending their children to school, and at the same time undergoing regular vaccinations to prevent sickness. Despite earning criticisms, the Bolsa Familia program has earned international praises for its achievements: 3) He renew all agreements with International Monetary Fund which earned him a reasonable primary budget surplus in the first two years of his term as president; and 4) By following the macroeconomic agenda of the previous government, Lula had gained the confidence of the business sectors and markets that made their economy stable.
His achievements that showed his exemplary leadership consist of the following: 1) Lula’s social project such as Fome Zero and Bolsa Familia – although these programs were developed based on the ideas of the previous government, Lula was able to put additional measures that include creating water reservoir to ease the water problem of those living in arid regions, counteract juvenile pregnancy, and build up agriculture. However, these programs failed to eradicate poverty due to shortage of funds. His educational programs have been misguided due to diversion of funds from primary and secondary programs to large, selected universities. On the other hand, Bolsa Familia suffered from constant lack of fund because he tightened the budget that restricted the social rehabilitation Brazil badly needed. 2) The Flagship program of the Lula’s administration is the PAC or Program of the Acceleration of Development. With a total budget of 281 billion dollars by 2010, this program intends to develop and intensify Brazil’s infrastructure, boost private business sectors, and create more job to the people of Brazil. 3) Growth Acceleration Program, through this Lula was able to solve the problems of their country’s economy since included in this program are repair and development of road and railways, tax reduction and simplification, and modernization of the country’s energy production to prevent further petroleum shortages. From being one of the largest market debtors for decades, Brazil has now emerges as net foreign creditor. 4) With regards to Lula’s foreign policy, he prioritized Brazil’s export market by legalizing genetically modified crops, privatized state-owned industries, and increased the number of low-wage factory zones. He also frequently traveled abroad to campaign for the idea of using Brazilian ethanol as a possible alternative for petroleum; 5) Lula has maintained diplomatic ties with other leaders, initiating dialogues to solve conflicts among nations where other negotiations failed. He even sent troops and lead peace keeping mission in Haiti. Aside from this, Brazil has also been successful in their negotiations regarding the internal conflicts of Venezuela and Columbia.
In spite of all his achievements, Lula was found to be lacking in leadership. His government has been ineffective in dealing with police and gang violence, discrimination, abuse, prostitution and slavery, and rampant corruption. Even if his administration is aware of these issues, it seems that they have done nothing to address them. President Lula has even blamed the action of the previous administration of not investing in education to correct these issues. Although the initial plans and intention of the Lula administration are excellent, they failed to produce various significant returns making Lula lost the support of most of his people.
Bourne, R. (2008). Lula of Brazil: The Story So Far. California: University of California Press.
Kouzes, J. and Posner, B. (2003). The Leadership Challenge 3rd Ed. USA: Jossey-Bass.