All posts by agaudet

Luiz da Silva: Populist Extraordiniare

When asking a Brazilian their opinion when they first think of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, they might say “heroic” or a “man of the people”, so it may somewhat surprise you when you here he was tried and convicted of corruption only a few months back. This begs the question, “Why is a man that was convicted of stealing money from the country and the government considered a hero?”. Luiz da Silva used his humble beginnings as a way to appeal to the people and steal power for his party.

Luiz da Silva was born into extreme poverty in Pernambuco, a state bordering the Atlantic. His father worked as a farmer, and his mother a seamstress, who always needed money. It is no wonder da Silva began working at such a young age, driven to supply his family with money. He worked at small jobs, shining shoes and helping around the house. He didn’t learn to read until the age of ten. He soon completely left the thought of attending school and worked full time as a metalworker in factories near his home town, Garanhuns. When da Silva was thirty years old he was elected president of the metal workers union, a group that Luiz da Silva was proud to represent. He then transformed this group into a more political union, turning it into a political party, trying to sway Brazilians to his leftist ideas.

In the late 1970s he led large protests against the dictatorship that ruled over Brazil, and while doing so, he gained a significant amount of followers and supporters. It is no wonder, then, that he was arrested and imprisoned for a month. Due to his massive following accrued when protesting the hated government, he was elected to Congress. As his political career grew, so did his following, as millions supported his presidential bid. He won with 61 percent of the vote, and in doing so cemented himself as one of the biggest comeback stories, from being born in the slums, to achieving the greatest dream, to become president.

With all this history in mind he also became even more likable with his main political goals, social and economic reform. His social reform brought about the “Forme Zero” or zero hunger bill which brought together many bills for the overall goal of no one suffering from hunger in Brazil. He also created a program entitled the Family Allowance Bill which allowed for more food and supplies to cook for impoverished family. By creating this program he streamlined the process of families applying to get more food, and in doing so he removed administration costs and the overall hassle families had to go through. He was also reelected for a second term,and once again won by achieving  61 percent of the vote.

Not only did Luiz da Silva aim to effect social reform, he also wanted to help grow the economy. He created a program called the Growth Acceleration Program, which  was meant to grow the amount of jobs, repair roads, reduce taxes for the poorer half of the country, and lastly modernize their electricity production. This program was a big success and it seemed like the president could do nothing wrong. Luiz da Silva resigned with the International Monetary Fund and went ahead and paid the full amount owed three years ahead of the projected year. After implementing the Growth Acceleration Program, Brazil’s economy began to thrive. He shook off the classification of emerging market, which Brazil was called for many years, and turned Brazil into a developed market. This new classification led to much investment in Brazil. All this economic success propelled Brazil to new heights, and raised the present of Brazilians in the middle class from 37 to 50 percent of the population. All this work that Luiz da Silva put into his role made him Brazil’s most popular politician of all time, and getting the bid to host the 2016 summer Olympics only added to his popularity.

Back to the question at hand, “Why is he so popular if he was convicted of corruption?”. The answer to this is found in his history and in his success in office. He represented the nation, born into poverty fighting the dictatorship, leading to his presidency, where he passed bills to feed the poor and create jobs which propelled the economy upwards. Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is a symbol of Brazil, a man that all Brazilians are proud to have represented their country, and all this is backed up with the simple fact that while he was in office, he enjoyed a 90 percent approval rating. No matter what this man does in the future, he will always be seen as the pride of Brazil.