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Who is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva?

Luis Inácio Lula da Silva
Photo: Manuel Ortiz. Peninsula 360 Press - Global Exchange.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was born in 1945, in the semi-arid area of the state of Pernambuco, in northeastern Brazil, and was the seventh child of a farming couple. Without basic services such as electricity, water or bathrooms, his family moved to the south in search of better luck, to escape drought and poverty.

In São Paulo, Lula began to work as a child, after finishing elementary school he was employed in a metallurgical plant and was admitted to the technical course of mechanical lathe operator. In those years, São Paulo became the most industrialized area of the country, with some of the world's leading metallurgic factories. 

Thus, da Silva was one of the many Northeastern migrants who settled in the production line and made metallurgy their profession. It is worth mentioning that at the age of 17 he lost the little finger of his left hand in a work accident and at 18 he lived through the military coup of 1964.

Convinced by a brother, a militant of the then clandestine Brazilian Communist Party, he began to attend union meetings, where he came into contact with the needs of the working class and came into contact with expressions such as wage devaluation, shortages and strike funds. 

Due to his qualities as a negotiator, he was invited to occupy an alternate position in the union leadership, elected at the beginning of 1969, inaugurating his career as a union leader. 

After marrying at the age of 23, and after losing his wife and child in childbirth, he immersed himself in work and was called to assume a position in the leadership of the union, changing for the first time the shift in the factory for a room in the headquarters of the entity.

In 1975, before his 30th birthday, Lula assumed the presidency of the union. This second half of the 1970s was characterized by the radicalization of working class movements, attracting the enthusiasm and solidarity of left-wing militants who could not find space to act in their areas of origin.

Between 1978 and 1980, Lula commanded several general strikes, which assumed unthinkable proportions, establishing himself as the biggest name of the opposition in the country's political scenario; however, on April 19, 1980, he was imprisoned and spent 31 days in jail.

Political trajectory

When the Workers' Party emerged, it was promptly supported and influenced by intellectuals, religious, artists, students and militants who had graduated from the armed struggle, and Lula was its first president. Thus, for two decades he was the workers' spokesman and main opposition leader, leaving his mark on the model of democracy installed in the country.

In 1990 he headed the Citizenship Institute, which formulated public policies implemented in the following decade, such as Zero Hunger; he also chaired the PT in the campaign for Collor's Impeachment and some of the most important Parliamentary Commissions of Inquiry of the period, such as the one that denounced the violation of the Senate panel, in 1991, and the scandal of the Budget dwarfs, in 1993. 

Luis Inácio Lula da Silva
Photo: Manuel Ortiz. Peninsula 360 Press - Global Exchange.

During the eight years of Fernando Henrique Cardoso's administration, he opposed the recessionary economic policy, the manipulation of the exchange rate in order to keep the currency artificially strong and the buying of votes in exchange for the approval of the bill that ensured the right to reelection in 1997, among others.

After three unsuccessful electoral campaigns, Lula was finally elected president of the Republic on November 27, 2002, and was the first worker to be installed as a tenant in the Alvorada Palace. 

Re-elected for a second term, Lula chose his successor, Dilma Rousseff, and reached the end of the government with record popularity, as his administration was approved by 87% of the population in December 2010, according to Ibope. 

His two administrations were marked by the implementation of income distribution programs, such as Bolsa Familia, and access to credit lines for the poorest, as well as higher salaries, job creation, and various education initiatives.

With information from Lula Institute.

This article was produced with the support of the organization Global Exchange in collaboration with Peninsula 360 Press.

You may be interested in: It's official, Lula and Bolsonaro go to a runoff election in Brazil

Pamela Cruz
Pamela Cruz
Editor-in-Chief of Peninsula 360 Press. A communicologist by profession, but a journalist and writer by conviction, with more than 10 years of media experience. Specialized in medical and scientific journalism at Harvard and winner of the International Visitors Leadership Program scholarship from the U.S. government.

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