Born in 1945 in the town of Guaranhuns, Pernambuco, Luís Inácio "Lula" da Silva (he officially included "Lula" in his name in 1982) was elected to the Brazilian presidency in 2002 and took office on January 1st, 2003.

Early Life

Soon after Lula's birth, his father left the northern state of Pernambuco to work in the southeast state of São Paulo, in the port city of Santos, a journey many take in search of employment. Two years later, the rest of his family followed, making the trip on the back of a truck, a 13 day journey. Lula began work early, at the age of 12, polishing shoes. Two years later he began work in metallurgy. Despite working 12 hours a day, he studied through Senai, an industrial training organization, and learned to operate specialized machinery.

Introduction to unions and founding of the Workers' Party

In 1967, Lula was introduced by his brother, José Ferreira da Silva, to the union system. Two years later, he was a leader in the Metal Workers' Union, and in five years would be president of that union. On February 10th, 1980, along with a group of like-minded union representatives, politicians, intellectuals, and representatives from several social groups, he founded the Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT).

In April of that same year, Lula led his Metal Workers' Union in a major strike that involved 140,000 workers. Tense weeks followed, culminated in the arrest of Lula and 17 other union leaders, under the "Lei de Segurança Nacional", the military's National Security Law then in effect. Though Lula was sentenced to three and a half years in prison, the sentence was overturned by the military Supreme Court.

In Politics

Brazil was undergoing major change in the 1980's, with the weakening of the military dictatorship's hold. In 1982, the PT took part in its first elections, with 8 federal representatives, 12 state representatives and 78 councilmen. Lula took fourth place in the election for Governor of São Paulo.

Though the 1986 elections were still not direct, they were important in electing the Constituent Assembly. Lula was the most-voted federal representative, with 650,134 votes. In 1989, the first direct elections were finally held in Brazil, with a two round system: if no candidate won a majority in the first round, a run-off would be held between the top two candidates. Lula obtained 11,622,673 votes in the first round, taking second place, and then 31,076,364 in the second round run off, losing by 6% to Fernando Collor de Mello. Corruption and dishonesty marked Collor's presidency, and in December, 1992, he was impeached by Congress.

In the early 1990's, Lula took several trips around the Brazilian heartland, calling them "Caravans of Citizenship". He ran for president once again in 1994, this time losing out to Fernando Henrique Cardoso, from the PSDB party. Cardoso, by implementing the Real currency, lowering the rampant inflation that plagued Brazil and stabilizing the Brazilian democratic system, was elected to a second term in 1998 by a landslide election. However, economic signs turned towards the worse by the end of the decade and in 1999, Lula took part in the "Hundred Thousand March" against FHC's government.

President Lula

As the 2002 elections neared, the Workers' Party nominated Lula as their candidate once again. The mood was definitely optimistic - "Agora é Lula", "Now it's Lula" ran the campaign slogans. Lula took an early lead in the polls, with Fernando Henrique Cardoso's sucessor, José Serra, a distant second or occasionally third, behind Ciro Gomes, another union-minded candidate. Other nations looked towards Lula as a threat, due to his union background, and the local press often spoke of the "Efeito Lula", the "Lula Effect", and how it was to blame in devaluing the Brazilian currency and increasing Brazil's risk value.

On October 1st, general elections were held. The question was not whether Lula would win, as polls had long shown a decisive lead, but whether he would achieve the 50% + one vote necessary to take the elections in the first round. In the end, he did not achieve the requisite 50%, and a second round, between Lula and José Serra, was needed. On the 29th of October, the second round elections were held, with Lula taking 61.3%. He took office on January 1st, 2003.


[1] "Perfil/Biografia". Partido dos Trabalhadores (, accessed 01/02/03

[2] "Biografia". Jovem Pan(, accessed 01/02/03

[3] "Luis Inácio Lula da Silva". Terra (, accessed 01/02/03

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