Lula's Legacy in Brazil

According to an old Brazilian joke, “Brazil is the country of the future—and always will be.” But the future may have finally arrived with the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003–10). Under Lula, Brazil seemed to have reached one of those moments in history when a society enters a new epoch. Brazil’s new epoch may be identified with an individual, perhaps fairly, perhaps not. An individual can be a catalyst for major changes but can also benefit from timing, getting credit for changes that come to a head just in time to cast up a hero. How much credit can Lula and his administration take? In this Report we consider that question.


Taking Note

Alexis Stoumbelis, Lisa Fuller, and Michael Fox


Rima Brusi-Gil de Lamadrid
The police violence unleashed against the Puerto Rican student movement, which emerged in spring 2010 to oppose the island government’s “austerity measures,” has turned the University of Puerto Rico into a testing ground for the neoliberal state.


Sílvia Leindecker and Michael Fox
The Workers’ Party promised a new style of politics rooted in ethics and activism. But in order to win elections, the party had to make concessions. It embraced a coalition with rival parties, took kickbacks, and paid for votes. Now after Lula’s highly successful second term, the party appears to be back on track—but to where?
Aaron Ansell
Under Lula, 20 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty. Much of the credit for this achievement has gone to three key social policies: cash-transfer programs to the poor, aid to small farmers, and labor and pension reforms. But these programs all function within the neoliberal framework established before Lula came to power.
Emir Sader
For the first time Brazil has a president who was elected not as an opposition candidate, but as a successor, continuing a government of unprecedented achievement, and following Brazil’s most popular leader since Getúlio Vargas.
Cliff Welch
Until Lula’s victorious 2002 campaign for president, the Workers’ Party had consistently supported a radical definition of agrarian reform. By 2002, however, its position had changed: Agrarian reform was no longer part and parcel of the fight for socialism, but rather an essential economic development policy.
João Feres Júnior, Verônica Toste Daflon, and Luiz Augusto Campos
For decades, racial issues in Brazil were largely absent from public debate. But all that changed with the introduction of affirmative action policies in higher education under the Lula government. Lula was a pragmatic but effective supporter of affirmative action, promoting a debate about the purpose of universities and their social function.
Paulo Kliass
For most of his two terms in office, Lula followed the economic policies of his neoliberal predecessors. But the global financial crisis of 2007–9 forced a last-minute change in direction. Lula broke from the mold—he invested locally, raised the minimum wage yet again, and quickly lifted Brazil out of the meltdown as no one had expected.


Joseph Nevins
Like the Jewish-only settlements and the Israeli “security fence” in Palestine, the barriers that increasingly scar the U.S.-Mexico borderlands are intended to inhibit mobility. In both settings, mere walking—and other forms of everyday mobility—can be threatening to the authorities who seek to control the land and to keep out those deemed permanent outsiders.


Dan Beeton
Most English-language news media reported on the serious problems that plagued Haiti’s recent elections, including long lines, record low voter turnout, and violence. But they barely mentioned the election’s biggest flaw: the arbitrary banning of more than a dozen political parties from the ballot—most notably Fanmi Lavalas, the country’s most popular party, which has won every election in which it has been allowed to participate.