Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn in for a second consecutive presidential term in Brazil, with promises to accelerate economic growth and to keep the poor at the top of his government's agenda.
'The verbs 'to accelerate,' 'to grow' and 'to include' will rule Brazil over the next four years,' Lula said before the country's Congress Monday. Leftist Lula, 61, was re-elected in late October with around 58 million votes, or more than 60 percent of the valid vote, in the country of over 180 million people. Despite a long list of scandals, the incumbent eventually beat Social Democrat Geraldo Alckmin by a large margin and obtained a mandate that is set to expire Dec 31, 2010. The Brazilian president stressed the need for 'courage and creativity' to remove the strains that have kept the country's economic growth at an annual average of under three percent a year during his first term. Last year's 2.6 percent growth rate put Brazil nearly last in the region for 2006, with only troubled Haiti showing a slower rate. 'We have to undo some decisive knots so that the country can use its force and move forward at full speed,' said the president of the tenth-largest economy in the world. However, Lula stressed that his effort to boost the economy will not include excessive public spending, and claimed that 'in order to be fast, sustainable and lasting, growth must be coupled with fiscal responsibility'. A former trade union leader and Brazil's first president of working-class origin, Lula promised to keep the welfare of the poor as his top priority. 'My path is to govern for all, but defending the interests of the poorest citizens is what guides us along that way,' he insisted.