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President-Elect Calls on Brazilians to Help Build Just, United Country - 2002-10-28

Brazil's president-elect, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has called on all Brazilians to help build what he describes as a just and united country. Mr. da Silva a former union leader, universally known as Lula, made the appeal after a resounding election victory, Sunday, that has made him Brazil's first working-class president.

Dressed in a black suit with the red star of his leftwing Workers' Party pinned on his lapel, Mr. da Silva thanked the millions of Brazilians who had cast their ballots for him and for his adversary, Jose Serra. He described Sunday's runoff election as an extraordinary example of democracy. He went on to say he is well aware of the responsibility voters have given him.

He said a president and his team are not enough to govern Brazil, with all its problems. He called on all Brazilian society the workers, the business executives, the farmers, everyone - to build a more just, fraternal, and united country.

Mr. da Silva spoke in Sao Paulo to party workers and reporters, shortly after presidential rival Serra, conceded defeat. Mr. da Silva won with 61 percent of the vote. Mr. da Silva will be the first left-wing politician to assume the presidency since the early 1960's.

The former metalworker and union leader had run for president three times before, beginning in 1989. He lost then, in large part, because his fiery socialist rhetoric scared many people. This time, he moderated his leftist views and moved himself and his Workers' Party toward the political center.

He campaigned on promises to revive economic growth, find alternatives to the current government's free market-free trade economic model and spend more money on social programs.

The victorious candidate's message appealed to voters like Marcia Britto, a doctor who told VOA Brazil needs major changes in health, education and other areas. She said the country is in bad shape and needs change in a number of areas.

Mr. da Silva, who will take office January 1, faces numerous problems, including making payments on Brazil's massive $260 billion debt; reviving a stagnant economy; and alleviating widespread poverty. He also has to calm financial markets, which have driven down the value of Brazil's currency by some 40 percent this year, because of fears of a Lula da Silva presidency.

Analyst Alexandre Barros said, although most businesses may have opposed Mr. da Silva, they are now having to take a second look. Mr. Barros, who runs the risk analysis firm Early Warning, said this is especially true of the multinational companies with investments in Brazil. "It's not that these people were dying to have Lula as President, but they said 'okay, let's take it as it comes,' and what I've been told is that the local managers, especially in the case of the traditional multinationals, have been called by headquarters to somehow explain to management at headquarters, who are new, how Brazil works and that there's not really that much to fear, and so on," he said.

Mr. da Silva's victory prompted massive celebrations by supporters waving red Workers' Party flags in different parts of the country, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, the president-elect's home.