The lesson from Lula

December 29, 2005 · 0 comments

Remarkably, when Lula walked up the ramp to the presidential palace in January 2003, he had no clear programme for tackling the serious social problems or the anti-democratic nature of the Brazilian state. Even the flagship programme for ending hunger (which has benefited more than 8 million families in extreme poverty) was thought up on the hoof without a strategy for real redistribution. The government has been most successful in international affairs, where a coherent strategy had been prepared. As a result, Brazil has successfully challenged the EU and the US at the World Trade Organisation over their huge agricultural subsidies.

Shortly before taking office, Lula said: “I cannot fail. The poor in Brazil have waited 500 years for someone like me.” But real change demands confrontation, tough bargaining – and risk taking. In his inaugural address in 1933, Franklin Roosevelt recognised this in his much-quoted comment: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It is a lesson Lula appears not to have learned.