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Brazilian President-Elect Outlines Goals - 2002-10-28

Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva says priorities for his government include combating hunger, honoring agreements with international lending institutions, and maintaining fiscal stability. Mr. da Silva laid out his plans for governing Brazil one day after winning a resounding election victory.

Mr. da Silva, making his first formal address to the nation as president-elect, laid out the main outlines and goals of his government, which will take office on January 1.

"My first year," he said, "will be devoted to combating hunger," adding he will create a secretariat for Social Emergency to deal with the problem. The president-elect said if by the end of his four-year term all Brazilians are eating three meals a day he will have achieved his life-long mission.

An estimated 53 million people, about 30 percent of the population, lives below the poverty line in Brazil, the world's ninth largest economy.

In his speech, Mr. da Silva, a leftist former union leader popularly known as Lula, also sought to reassure the international financial community nervous about his leftist politics.

The value of Brazil's currency has dropped by 40 percent this year due to market fears that a Brazil under a Lula da Silva government would be unable to continue payments on its $260 billion debt.

But Mr. da Silva pledged to honor Brazil's commitments, keep inflation down, and maintain fiscal stability. He also pledged to move forward on trade negotiations to establish the U.S.-backed hemisphere-wide free trade zone. But he added such negotiations would be conducted in a spirit of sovereignty.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. da Silva had questioned the proposed free-trade zone, known as the Free Trade Area of the Americas, saying it would be meaningless unless the United States drops trade barriers on goods Brazil traditionally exports.

Mr. da Silva, founder of the leftist Workers' Party, moved toward the political center during the campaign, dropping the fiery socialist rhetoric of his past three tries for the presidency. His moderation and charisma helped him win 61 percent of the vote in Sunday's runoff election.

As Brazil's first leftist president in almost 40 years, Mr. da Silva interpreted his election as a desire for change by the Brazilian electorate.

"Our victory means the choice for an alternative project," he said. "The majority of Brazilians voted for a different economic and social model capable of generating growth, jobs, and the distribution of income."

Mr. da Silva will succeed two-term President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, whose center-right government enacted free-market reforms that brought down inflation, promoted economic growth, and provided monetary stability.

But in the past few years, growth slowed and the currency was devalued factors that led to Sunday's defeat of the government's presidential candidate, Jose Serra.

Mr. da Silva has received telephone calls of congratulation from numerous world and hemispheric leaders, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. President Bush called the Brazilian president-elect to say he looks forward to working with him.

The front page of newspapers headlined the triumph of the former union leader. "President Lula", declared the O Globo newspaper while the Folha de Sao Paulo's headline read, "Lula President, Metalworker is the first leftist leader to be elected in the country".

Mr. da Silva, who turned 57 years old on Sunday, will be inaugurated January 1.