Administration Takes 'Wait-and-See' Attitude Toward Brazil

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:12 PM EDT

(1st Add: Includes additional comments by the White House and President Bush.)

( - Persistence paid off for Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was elected to the Brazilian presidency by a landslide on Sunday. This was his fourth run for the presidency.

His election puts a left-wing government in power in Brazil for the first time in 40 years.

Lula, as he is commonly known, is a labor union leader and member of the Brazilian Workers Party. He garnered 61 percent of the vote while his opponent Jose Serra, a former government minister, received 38 percent.

Serra conceded the election to Lula in a congratulatory telephone call on Sunday night.

"The result of this election shows that from Jan.1, we will be responsible for 170 million Brazilians, and we will have to govern with all of Brazilian society to build a more fair, more brotherly and more united country," said Lula in a victory speech to supporters.

Lula has said in the past he opposes both U.S. military aid to Colombia and the economic embargo against Cuba. However, during the closing days of the campaign, he said he intended to put his government on what he called a more "moderate course."

Lula remains an admirer and close ally of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Radio Havana, the official voice of the Castro government, broadcast several laudatory editorials on Lula's behalf during the campaign.

Lula said he intends to name a conservative to run Brazil's Central Bank and promised to abide by terms of a recent $30 million loan by the International Monetary Fund to keep Brazil from going into an economic meltdown. The country still has a $260 billion public debt.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Sunday that the Bush administration is taking a wait-and-see attitude about Lula's election. The administration wants to see just what economic policies he will follow after he is inaugurated in January.

Fleischer was non-committal when asked if the administration was confident that Lula could spur economic recovery in Brazil.

"Well, we'll see ultimately what steps he takes. But I think today is the day...for congratulations to be offered," Fleischer said.

The White House said Monday that President Bush telephoned Lula to extend his congratulations on his election.

Fleischer said Bush told the president-elect he looked forward to working with him, especially "with regard to advancing democracy, good governance, and free trade in the hemisphere."

Fleischer did not say if Bush would have a meeting with Lula after he takes office in January.

Lula's victory was a special present on his birthday. He turned 57 years old on Sunday.

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