The successful Brazilian self made man and former Vice-president Jose Alencar who assured the business community political support for the “firebrand union leader”, Lula da Silva elected in 2002 to lead Latin America’s largest economy, died in Sao Paulo on Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.
Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff and former president Lula da Silva cut short a trip to Portugal to return for ceremonies honouring Alencar. Rousseff decreed a week of mourning in Alencar's honour.
Alencar was born in 1931, the eleventh child in a poor family that had 15 children (five of them did not live to be adults). At the age of 7 he began helping his father in a modest general store that supplied farmers and was paid when the harvest came in, if it came in.
Alencar left home at age 14 to work behind a counter in a store that sold cloth. He also worked as a salesman in other stores. At the age of 18, in 1950, an older brother loaned him sufficient to help him open a store where he sold cloth, footwear, hats and umbrellas. To save money, he lived in the store.
In 1953, he sold the store and moved on into different commercial areas. He certainly had a head for business, was prudent with his money and hard working (he was named best salesman in many of the places he worked). Over the years he worked in many places and always excelled as a first class salesman.
Together with a group of business partners he founded a textile company in Montes Claros, Minas Gerais, in 1967, the Coteminas firm. Today it is Brazil's largest textile company with 16,000 employees in ten plants. Coteminas makes thread, cloth, fabric, T-shirts, socks, towels, bathrobes and sheets. The company also has five branches in the US, one in Argentina and another in Mexico.
Alencar was prominent in trade associations. He was president of the Minas Gerais Industrial Federation and vice president of the National Industrial Confederation (CNI).
In the nineties he went into politics and ran for governor of Minas Gerais but lost the 1994 election. However four years later he was elected senator (PMDB) from Minas with 3 million votes.
Four times presidential candidate Lula da Silva needed someone to calm the business community and foreign investors when his bid in 2002. Alencar at the time in the Liberal Party accepted and joined the successful ticket. He became one of Lula da Silva's most steadfast supporters.
Alencar's body was moved to Brasilia from Sao Paulo. The crowd gathered outside the Sirio-Libanes Hospital clapped respectfully when his body was taken away. In Brasilia, mourners filed past his open casket, many visibly moved by the death.
For the last 13 years, Alencar fought cancer. In 1997, he was operated on for tumours in kidney and stomach. Since then he underwent another 16 operations in Brazil and the United States. Through them he showed fortitude and optimism.
His colleague in Lula da Silva's government, former Foreign Minister Celso Amorin said during the ceremony that Alencar was an inspiration personally and as a politician. He had a career that started with a very humble childhood and he became a successful entrepreneur without losing his simplicity, his humbleness said Amorin.
Congress president Marco Maia, said Alencar represents the hope that the country can continue to advance, growing and improving the quality of life of our people.
Lula da Silva cried when he learned of Alencar's death, telling journalists in a press conference in Coimbra, Portugal, that the achievements of his eight years in office would not have been possible without him.
Few human beings have the soul Alencar had, his kindness, his loyalty, said the former president.
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R.I.P. A boss for the workers and a worker for the workers.Mar 31st, 2011 - 08:49 pm 0