Luis Inácio Lula da Silva was born on 27 October 1945 in the state of Pernambuco in Brazil. He was the 35th President of Brazil.
President Lula had little formal education. He did not learn to read until he was 10 years old and quit school after the fourth grade to find work to help support his family. His working life began at 12 as a shoe-shine boy and street vendor. At the age of 14, he got his first formal job in a copper processing factory as a lathe operator.
Lula joined the labour movement at a young age and rose steadily in the ranks. In the late 1970s, when Brazil was under military rule, he helped organise union activities, including major strikes. The labour courts ruled the strikes illegal, and Lula was jailed for a month.
On 10 February 1980, a group of academics, intellectuals, and union leaders, including Lula, founded the Workers’ Party (PT), a left-wing party with progressive ideas created in the midst of Brazil’s military government. From February 1980 to November 1994, Lula remained the leader of the Workers’ Party.
Lula unsuccessfully ran for president three times, first in the 1989 election. The former Minister of Finance, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazilian Social Democracy Party), defeated him in 1994 and again, by an even wider margin, in 1998.
Lula finally achieved victory in the 2002 elections and was inaugurated as President on 1 January 2003. He was re-elected as President in 2006 for a second term, which ended on 1 January 2011. He was succeeded by his former Chief of Staff, Dilma Rousseff.
During his election campaigns, and at the time he was President of Brazil, President Lula put social programmes at the top of his agenda. His leading programme had been a campaign to eradicate hunger. It brought together a series of programmes with the goal of ending hunger in Brazil, including, among other things, the creation of water cisterns in Brazil’s semi-arid region of Sertão, and to strengthen family agriculture.
Under the Lula administration, Brazil’s largest assistance programme, Bolsa FamÁlia, was established. An expansion of the previous Bolsa Escola (“School Allowance”) programme, assistance was conditional on school attendance, and additional allowances were made for food and kitchen gas. The programme was first introduced in the city of Campinas by then Mayor José Roberto Magalhães Teixeira, after the creation of a new ministry – the Ministry of Social Development and Eradication of Hunger.
The programme has been praised internationally for its achievements, despite internal criticism that it had been turned into an electoral weapon.
Along with projects such as Fome Zero and Bolsa FamÁlia, the Lula administration’s flagship programme was the Growth Acceleration Programme, which was intended to strengthen Brazil’s infrastructure and consequently to stimulate the private sector and create more jobs.
With such programmes in place, President Lula’s administration became one of the most popular in the history of Brazil. According to the Washington Post, “Under Lula, Brazil became the world’s eighth-largest economy, more than 20 million people rose out of acute poverty and Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, the first time the Games will be held in South America.”
Lula’s administration achieved a satisfactory primary budget surplus in the first two years, as required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement, exceeding the target for the third year. In late 2005, the Government paid off its debt to the IMF in full, two years ahead of schedule.
It was also under Lula that, after decades as the largest foreign debtor among emerging economies, Brazil became a net creditor for the first time in January 2008. He gained stature in the southern hemisphere, buoyed by economic growth in his country. In 2008, he was said to have become a “point man for healing regional crises”, as in the escalation of tensions between Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador.
Lula has played a prominent role in other recent international relations developments and has been described as “a man with audacious ambitions to alter the balance of power among nations”.
He has contributed enormously to the advancement of the Agenda of the South in the context of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA) and for the creation of a just and equitable system of global governance through advocating for reform of multilateral institutions, including the Bretton-Woods institutions.
Under his reign, intergovernmental relations between Brazil and South Africa were further strengthened when the two countries signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement as well as a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the field of Intergovernmental Relations. Trade between Brazil and South Africa increased to nearly $1,7-billion by 2009.
Former President Lula has attained numerous awards, such as the Brazilian Order of Merit, the Brazilian Orders of Military, Naval and Aeronautical Merit, the Brazilian Order of Scientific Merit, the Order of the Southern Cross, the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle and the Norwegian Order of Royal Merit.
He received the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in 2003 and was given the Jawaharlal Nehru Award in 2006. He was rated the most popular Brazilian President of all time, with an 80,5% approval rate in his last months as President.
He was chosen as the 2009 Man of the Year by prominent European newspapers El PaÁs and Le Monde. The Financial Times ranks Lula among the 50 faces that shaped the 2000s.
On 20 December 2008, he was named the 18th most important person in the world by Newsweek magazine, and was the only Latin American person featured in a list of 50 most influential world leaders. On 7 July 2009, he received the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (Unesco) Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize at the Unesco Headquarters in Paris, France.
On 5 November 2009, former President Lula was awarded the Chatham House Prize, awarded to the statesperson who is deemed by Chatham House members to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year.
On 29 January 2010, he was honoured as a Global Statesman by the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.
On 27 April 2011, the State President, Jacob G Zuma honoured former President Luiz InÁ¡cio Lula da Silva with the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of the agenda of the South and for the creation of a just and equitable system of global governance.