Excerpted from the Canadian newspaper Globe Editorial:

In Brazil, there’s life after Lula

Under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil has emerged as a beacon of prosperity and growth in the Americas, and a powerful new player on the global stage.

When Brazilians vote for his replacement in an Oct. 31 runoff election, Dilma Rousseff, his 62-year-old hand-picked successor, is widely expected to win. She will inherit his legacy, but will have to move beyond the Lula personality cult that should carry her to victory.

Brazil’s presidential election

Most significantly, Ms. Rousseff, a former chief of staff and minister who has never held elected office, must continue to reduce the income inequities that persist, increase access to education and housing, and tackle environmental issues and one of the highest crime rates in the region.

To be sure, the South America nation of 196 million is riding an unprecedented wave of optimism. The investor-friendly economic management and redistributive policies begun under former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and consolidated by Mr. Lula da Silva have helped to lift 20 million people out of poverty. Under Bolsa Familia, 12 million of the poorest people are paid to keep their children in school.

Mr. da Silva’s powerful narrative – a former union leader with a fourth-grade education – have made him beloved among the poor in Brazil’s northeast. An annual 6-per-cent growth rate has also helped cement Brazil’s new global importance, especially as developed economies stagnate. By 2014, it is expected to become a net energy exporter. It will host the 2014 soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. And yet, despite all this progress, Brazil still has one of the highest inequality rates in the world.

“Brazil is like India, a continent unto itself in terms of regional diversity, with tremendous growth, but also racial and economic disparities,” says Victor Armony, a University of Quebec at Montreal sociologist and specialist in the region.

It will be difficult to maintain the momentum of “Lula,” who finishes his two terms with an 80-per-cent approval rating and has been called “the world’s most popular politician.” Yet, by addressing the immense challenges of the world’s eighth-largest economy, the next president can be a face of continuity and continued progress.

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