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 Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 15:00 GMT
Brazil's new leader gets to work
Brazil's new President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (r) with his wife, Marisa (l)
Expectations are high for Lula's presidency
Brazil's new President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is spending his first day in office meeting foreign leaders.

He held a breakfast meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, discussing the current political turmoil in Venezuela.

If at the end of my mandate all Brazilians have the possibility to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, I will have fulfilled the mission of my life

Brazilian President Lula da Silva

Mr da Silva - popularly known just as Lula - is expected to meet the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, later on Thursday.

Euphoric scenes marked Lula's inauguration on Wednesday, when 200,000 people thronged the streets of the capital Brasilia. Leaders and representatives of more than 100 countries also attended.

The 57-year-old former trade union leader is Brazil's first left-wing president for 40 years.

Both Mr Chavez and Mr Castro are considered close friends of Lula, with both men seated prominently at his inaugural ceremony.

Mr Castro said that Cuba was "very happy" about Lula's presidency, the Associated Press news agency reported.

In his first day in office, the new president also has meetings scheduled with representatives from Portugal, Canada, Sweden and Germany.

Transforming Brazil

Expectations are high for Lula's term of office, for which he has promised a radical change of direction.

A shantytown on the outskirts of Brasilia
Many in Brazil are still living in poverty

In his inaugural address, Lula promised to make ending hunger his primary goal during his presidency.

"If at the end of my mandate all Brazilians have the possibility to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, I will have fulfilled the mission of my life," he said.

Swept into power by 61% of the electorate in October, on a promise to "transform Brazil", Lula has pledged to improve education, control inflation, reduce corruption and end economic misery.

He has also promised that his government would meet targets set by the International Monetary Fund, which is concerned that Brazil might default on its foreign debt.

However such pledges come amid signs that times could get even tougher for many Brazilians.

Price rises

Shoppers have recently seen price increases for basic products such as food and fuel.

Lula during the 1980s
Lula has toned down his old radical image
In the past few weeks, Lula has tried to reduce expectations of an overnight change.

In a nationally televised address last week, he warned of difficult times ahead, and suggested he might not fulfil his campaign promises in his first four-year term.

However, those Brazilians who attended Lula's inauguration seemed confident that he would fulfil his promises.

"All I want is a better Brazil for my children, and he's giving us that hope," Professor Maria Aparecida Gussi told the Associated Press.

Impoverished beginnings

Lula's presidency ends eight years of government by Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

An academic, President Cardoso had been popular for bringing a decade of unprecedented stability to a country which was a military dictatorship only 20 years ago.

But our correspondent says Lula is something quite different to previous presidents, all of whom were born into privilege.

The bearded former metalworker grew up in poverty and made his name as a fiery union leader in the 1970s before helping to found the Workers' Party.

But he has toned down his radical image and appealed for consensus in building a new Brazil.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Stephen Cviic
"Brazil's new government wanted the day to be like a party"
  Brazil expert Rachel Barnard, Univ. of Westminster
"He has to give priority to the social side of his programme"

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02 Jan 03 | Business
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