Brazil's Lula considers next steps
Brazil voters elected Dilma Rousseff in hopes of extending the policies of popular outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. After handing over the sash of office Jan. 1, what will Lula do next?
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Lula put her in charge of his most important projects during his second mandate, and both supporters and rivals say they believe her government will not differ substantially from Lula's. If there is a difference it will be in style, experts say.Skip to next paragraph
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"I think she is going to be involved a lot more than Lula was involved," says David Fleischer, the author of Brazil Focus, a weekly journal of politics. "Lula had people stand in for him, and Dilma was like [his] prime minister or president adjunct. She is known as a manager."
In her victory speech, Rousseff said her main priorities are helping the less well-off and eradicating absolute poverty. She underlined that her government would be more about continuity than change, a theme that voters seem to support. But to critics, Lula ignored longstanding promises to pass much-needed fiscal, labor, union, and political reforms, and he did little to improve the nation's education system. Violent crime is falling but is still high, corruption remains a blight, and Brazilians pay high tax rates for what they say are inadequate services.
Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, and it desperately needs to add infrastructure to prepare the country for those events, as well as to develop the huge reserves of oil recently found offshore.
Rousseff's ability to make tough choices to tackle those issues, with or without Lula taking a leading role, remains to be seen.
Lula's next steps: Africa?
How she goes about it could also be crucial in deciding Lula's next step. It is hard to know what the president plans once he hands over the sash of office on Jan. 1.
He told at least one reporter he wants to work to help Africa. He told others he would like to head an international agency. He has consistently suggested his focus will be on helping fight poverty worldwide. He also said his main wish is to take time off and relax, but then he told a rally he would not hesitate to call Rousseff with suggestions if the going gets tough. He also repeatedly lambasted his predecessor for offering opinions on his own government and pointedly said ex-presidents should be seen and not heard.
No matter what kind of ex-president he becomes, many believe Lula will try his hand at another presidency in the next cycle. "I could see him coming back if the country calls him back," says Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. "He likes to be the center of attention. It is going to be tempting four years from now if conditions are right."