Brasilia (Brazil), Jan. 1 (Reuters): Former metalworker Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn in as Brazil’s first working-class President today as thousands celebrated the start of a new era in Latin America’s largest country.
Flanked by white-uniformed cavalry, Lula and his vice-president, Jose Alencar, travelled atop a convertible Rolls Royce through cheering supporters from across the continent-sized country, who pushed past security guards to hug and touch their new leader.
At the sleek, modernist Congress in the capital, Brasilia, Lula, dressed in a dark suit and tie, his gray beard neatly trimmed, took the oath of office amid cheers of “Lula, Lula.” Senate President Ramez Tebet then declared him President.
With the humble classes that gave him a record-breaking 52 million votes in his fourth attempt at the presidency in mind, Lula, Brazil’s first leftist elected President, organised a party for the people rather than for dignitaries.
Festivities kicked off in the capital with country music as more than 150,000 people converged on the city’s central lawn for celebrations.
The 57-year-old Lula walked up the ramp of the presidential palace to receive the sash from Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who was stepping down after two consecutive four-year terms. It was the first time in 40 years an elected President passed the sash to another elected President.
Revellers celebrated as they would for Brazil’s world-famous soccer victories, driving along the sweeping avenues of the capital, honking horns, and dancing in a sea of green and yellow, the colours of the Brazilian flag, and deep red, the colour of Lula’s Leftist Workers' Party.
“Our time has come. This is a huge historic moment for Brazil,” said Odete Marques, 62, from Sao Paulo.
Many of those present spent days travelling on Brazil’s bumpy highways, including Lula’s 21 relatives from his poor hometown of Caetes, whose caravan drew cheers along the 2,400-km journey.