World Citizen: Brazilians Trust Lula in Tough Times

World Citizen: Brazilians Trust Lula in Tough Times

Summer has kicked into high gear in the Southern Hemisphere, but that doesn't mean the economic clouds moving ominously across global markets have only darkened skies in the North. Even in sunny Brazil, where beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema are bustling with tanned soccer players, forecasters say the economy will slow down sharply. Economic downturns almost always mean slides in approval ratings for governments. Why, then, is Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva enjoying what may just be the highest approval rating of any president on earth?

Lula -- as he is chummily known by all Brazilians -- is defying the laws of political gravity. With the number of unemployed Brazilians already rising, Lula's latest poll numbers show him gaining more fans each day. In Lula's case, the confidence cannot be dismissed as wishful-thinking or uninformed optimism about the president's abilities. By now, Brazilians know their president very well. Six years after first coming to office, the unlikely president of Brazil posts even higher marks than President-Elect Barack Obama does in the United States, whose popularity is seen by some as sign of a world in search of a Messiah.

In a poll taken by Instituto Sensus earlier this month, more than 80 percent of Brazilians expressed approval for their president. That was a new record, and a continuation of a steady rise in popularity for Lula and his government. By contrast, the President Alan Garcia of neighboring Peru, under whose leadership the economy grew by an impressive 10 percent last year, is viewed favorably by just 23 percent of Peruvians. Lula now shows even stronger numbers than the hugely popular Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. And unlike another once-wildly popular Latin American leftist, Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez (who more than two-thirds of Venezuelans say they don't want to see succeed in his efforts to remain in power beyond his current term), Lula's popularity is growing.

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