Brazil's President-Elect Vows to Fight Hunger

President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva addressed the nation as president-elect for the first time Monday and said his main focus would be reducing hunger among millions of destitute Brazilians.

Silva, Brazil's first elected leftist leader, also said he would create a Cabinet-level Social Emergency Secretariat to deal with hunger, housing, health and other critical issues facing more than 50 million of his countrymen who live in poverty.

But Silva, who won the presidency by a landslide on Sunday, warned that years of government neglect could not be solved overnight.

"The Brazilian people know that all that what was not done in 10 years cannot be solved with a stroke of magic," he said in an address at a Sao Paulo hotel that was broadcast live on TV and radio.

From shoeshine boy to union firebrand to the next president of Latin America's largest nation, the silver-bearded man known to his fellow Brazilians as simply "Lula" has a world of problems to confront in Brazil.

Silva became the first leftist elected president of Brazil, beating ruling party candidate Jose Serra with 61 percent of the vote in a runoff.

Thousands of people thronged the streets of Sao Paulo on Sunday night, waving the red flags of Silva's Workers Party to the boom of fireworks and the throbbing of live music. Some revelers also hoisted the hammer-and-sickle flag of the Communist Party, which backed Silva.

But the rightist party of Silva's running mate, Jose Alencar, also backed Silva, and the country's bankers and industrialists associations welcomed his victory.

How to satisfy sectors across Brazil's political spectrum will be one of many challenges facing Silva, who dropped out of school after the fifth grade.

He must try to pull millions of Brazilians from poverty, save the world's ninth-largest economy from recession, create new jobs and increase housing. At the same time, he must maintain fiscal responsibility and the confidence of Brazil's creditors and investors.

For many, Silva's win represents a chance for leftist politics to make a comeback on a continent where, except for Venezuela, it seemed in danger of fading away.

"This is our opportunity to consolidate our hopes for a Brazil which should be more just, and needs to care more about the needs of the people," shouted Marcos Xavier, a university professor standing among the throng of Silva supporters on Sao Paulo's main avenue.

President Bush said through his spokesman that he "looks forward to working productively with Brazil."

But relations with Washington may become testy. Silva already has expressed opposition to President Bush's ambitions to have a 34-nation Free Trade Area of the Americas in place by 2005. Silva wants U.S. markets more open to Brazilian orange juice, steel and sugar.

Silva also opposes the U.S. military presence in neighboring Colombia and the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

The son of a poor farmer, Silva is a role model for the impoverished millions of this country, which is almost the size of the United States. Silva easily beat Serra in the first round of voting, but since he failed to get 50 percent of the vote, the two top candidates met in Sunday's runoff.

In a Sao Paulo slum, or favela, pro-Silva sentiment went deep as people lined up to vote.

"He was the only one -- as a metalworker union leader -- who helped the poor," said Nelson Luiz da Silva Pelotti, a 56-year-old retired metalworker.

Silva, who turned 57 on election day, will appoint a team this week to ensure a smooth transition from the government of current President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who served two four-year terms and was barred from seeking a third. Cardoso privatized many of Brazil's giant monopolies and lowered import taxes, but failed to help millions of poor Brazilians.

Silva left school after the fifth grade to sell peanuts and shine shoes on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. At 14, he began working in a factory, where he lost his left little finger in a machine press.

Silva first ran for president in 1989 as the candidate of the Workers Party, urging landless farm workers to invade private property and calling for a default on Brazil's foreign debt.

However, in three subsequent presidential campaigns, Silva moderated his radical tone.

Brazil's last leftist president was Joao Goulart, a vice president who assumed power in 1961 when the centrist president resigned. Goulart served 2 years and was deposed by a right-wing military coup.